What Oranje can expect from England

We’re playing against a top team, with absolute word class players but also against a coach who is said to wear a seat belt on the toilet, always going for security.

And for a reason. When Southgate was up for the job he asked advise from top data statisticians in football and their response: don’t concede! This nihilistic approach became his mantra.

The most criticised manager of this Euros is going to play a semi finals for the third time in a row. Before him, they only reached a top 4 position once since the 1966 World Cup debacle win. Southgate has done away with naive playing and the criticism doesn’t really affect him. The tactical plan basically results in a boring, chess match and Southgate doesn’t give a flying f***.

Due to their defensive strength, England will be a tough opponent for us. They like to look back at the 4-1 thrashing at the Euros 1996, which is the last time in a big tournament they beat us. And Southgate was on the pitch that day.

Southgate never complains about the lack of goals or attempts on goal. He can’t be bothered. But he will moan and whine about players losing possession. The term “clean sheet” can now be heard in most post-match interviews.

Jude Bellingham: “We had a tough match, but we didn’t concede. We only needed 1 goal to win and we eventually got it.”

Declan Rice: “We built this team on not conceding.”

Jordan Pickford: “Clean sheets are the foundation. If you want to win a tournament, don’t concede goals.”

The fear of conceding is easy to see in the way they attack.

Just like Oranje, Southgate uses the box concept, with two 10s (Foden and Bellingham) and two holding mids (Mainoo and Rice). Due to the fear of conceding a counter, they don’t really look for Foden or Bellingham often, with vertical passes but we will need to be alert of course.

Slovenia plays the most like Oranje, when out of possession. They fold back to a 4-4-2 and one of the strikers is constantly shielding Declan Rice. In that match, England had 72% possession but didn’t get the ball into the Slovenian box in the first 25 minutes of the game. Slovenia kept on playing towards their right side, the English left. Kieran Trippier and Guehi are not the best build up players, as Trippier is playing out of his usual position, a right footer on the left. He’s regularly clueless on the ball, to be fair. Both players had about 115 touches in that game, passing the ball to one another.

Slovakia does the same and Southgate eventually responds by putting right winger (!) Saka on the left back position. Southgate hopes Luke Shaw can take the LB role versus Oranje, but the Man United defender hasn’t played a full match since February. Put thim against Frimpong, Malen or Xavi and he’ll be punch drunk within 10 minutes.

England created the least opportunities of the semi finalists and with players like Kane, Saka, Bellingham and Foden, that does say something. Although… Southgate won’t give a crap.

A counter against England will be tough. Players like Kyle Walker, John Stones, Declan Rice and Kobbie Mainoo know what is needed to stop a counter. But it’s behind Trippier where Oranje can have fun.

England won’t play the high press. Should they score first, you can expect them to fold back. Southgate: “We don’t have the players for the high press.”

Against Switzerland, Mainoo is man marking playmaker Xhaka. In the second half, the former Arsenal midfielder decides to wander about and play more deep which results in Mainoo letting him go, allowing the Swiss player the run of the game.

It is very likely that England will play 5 at the back against Holland, as we play in the same way as Denmark, with two 10s attacking the space of the holding mids. The defenders were struggling against Denmark, with the penetrating runs by the Danes and he will also have seen that Oranje struggled versus the 5-4-1 of the Turks.

No matter what, England will allow Holland the ball and England will play compact a bit deeper than for instance Austria or Spain. England will not allow much room in the centre of the pitch.

It seems logical to play Wout as deep #9 with Memphis in the 10 role. The English central defenders – surprise! – are not as strong aerially as they used to be (Ferdinand, Terry, Adams).

England has placed one counter attack in their five matches (two incl 30 mins extra time). England doesn’t like open games. Too much chaos for Southgate and Kane is not a striker with speed. The danger men are Bellingham, Foden and Saka. These two can definitely hurt you.


England won’t have it easy against Holland. But… this is the same the other way around. The match will be tight, probably another chess match with the key area, the midfield (as per usual). Should Oranje score first, there are great attacking options from the bench for Southgate, with speed ( Toney, Palmer, Eze, Gordon) and guile (Alexander Arnold, Watkins).

I expect a narrow win for Holland: 2-0, with Memphis on the score sheet and Malen as the second goal scorer.

I would start with Brobbey, myself. He’s a tank, he’ll make war with the two CBs of England. Memphis and him do seem to have a good rapport. I’d also start with Xavi, I think he deserves to start as he too has speed and guile (like Malen).

Should we need more in the second half, use Weghorst to play against the war-weary English and Malen’s speed in case we are in front and need to counter attack.

I think Reijnders and Schouten should not be separated, and Gakpo will obviously also remain in the team.

Wout won’t be happy, but hey.. we’re not here to make him happy. We’re here to win games.


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  1. Jan,

    I like this analysis, but instead of this “box” you keep referring to, if possible, I’d prefer a diamond 😉

    Also, it hurts my heart for such attacking talent to be so reined in by the England manager. And for what purpose? To advance one further round before being eliminated? English football used to be known for its bravery and dynamism. Times have certainly changed.

    As for you Aloysius, I have no words. Probably because you have already used them all in your latest post. Ha!

  2. Hi Jan,
    As usually nice analysis. Two comments: in 1996, England won 4:1 not 6:1. In terms of Luke Shaw, he has way too big ass to run properly.

  3. Thank you, Jan for putting him in his place. Hendrik, you are a legend in your own mind. It’s amazing the credit and leeway you get from everyone for being cryptic and unintelligible. I have laid out the perfect tactical plan for defeating the English (or any other opponent for that matter). You are just frustrated because, how did you used to say it, “if you had understood it better, you might be able to explain it”?

  4. The only thing I will say about england is they attack in waves and if the only time to peg them is when they are at the trough and momentum less.

    Otherwise I have england ahead on the cutting edge in the team and penalties. Off the bench as well.

    For the dutch out muscling them in the backline could be a good tatic as pointed out.

    Further more I cant see the also winging the wing battle

  5. Aloysius, you’ve spent the bulk of your career following me and benefiting from the foundations that I’ve established. Even your most significant accomplishment — the ’95 Ajax team. Whose principles do you think that team’s success was based on? Whose development program provided you with at least 9 of those 16 players to work with in the first place? And while you have failed to replicate that same level of success any time you have gone to places where I have not preceded you, my approach is widely recognized as the foundation for most everything good in the game today.

  6. Spain, man. Watching the way they toyed with the (very talented) French Mf for a good portion of the first half was scary.

    Can’t wait for tomorrow. Seem like most of the pundits are picking England. On paper England has a pretty significant edge in the mf and attack. But games aren’t won on paper or on reputation. The Dutch should really be able to get at England in the wide area and are better than England along the backline and in goal. So, we’ll see

    Anyway, many thanks, Jan, for the above. One of the best takes on England I’ve read/listened to the entire tournament.

  7. Spain these days at least plays legitimate football and tries to score, and it was kind of gratifying to see France exposed by someone capable of exposing them. Perhaps those chickens on their jerseys were not oversized after all!

    Hopefully we can do the same to England tomorrow!

  8. Great analysis Jan. I just hope Koeman, or someone on his team reads your blog.

    I have mixed emotions and a bit of apprehension about the next two games. On the positive side of things, I see more chemistry, more confidence, more fighting spirit in this team. A lot of Dutch teams in past tournaments lacked these traits when they lost and got eliminated. Even if this team loses the semi-final or the final, I can at least feel good that they went out fighting. I also see certain players take the next step and elevate their game, and new promising faces join this team.

    On the negative side of things, the defense still worries me whenever the opponent is on a counter, or taking a set-piece. We have a great goalie and top defenders, but somehow, there’s still cheap goals that we concede. I don’t mind goals where the opponent beats you will skill that you can’t do nothing about. But giving up goals because of your positioning is off, or you lost your man is upsetting. The midfield also seemed timid and ineffective vs. Turkey. I wish we had a tough-tackling enforcer like Davids or Van Bommel, or even Nigel De Jong, to break up opposition plays, and add physicality to the team. And up top, I have been so far disappointed by Memphis and Simons. This would be time for Koeman to give a chance to Brobbey or Zirkzee. Someone the English team haven’t seen before, and haven’t prepared for.

    I knew the Dutch FA was going to reward Koeman with an extension for making it into the semis. To be honest, despite this achievement, I rather see someone else lead this team to the next WC. Enough has been said about Koeman on this blog, so I won’t get into it, especially hours before a big match.

    I see the game vs England as a 50:50 toss up. Yes, we can certainly beat them, but then again, they can too. We are not too confident when it comes to defending set-pieces, and that’s one of their strengths, since it makes up for their bad lack of play during games. They can somehow get goals and get the win. The final 10 or 15 mins vs Turkey was worrying. This is when good and experienced teams usually close shop, get into their defensive shape, frustrate the opponent, and grind out wins.

    Spain has been playing real well. They seem to have graduated from their endless side to side passing with no goals to show for it. Now, they still can dominate possession, but they take their chances on goal, take shots from distance, move vertically and are scoring enough goals for their efforts. I was rooting for France, hoping they would be an easier matchup if we got past England, especially with this team that is not in form, including Mbappe.

    Anyways, hope for the best, and let’s see what happens!

  9. I think this team has reached its peak and went above and beyond of any expectations. I do not think anybody would have expected that we would make the semifinals. Historically, we have been very unlucky in the major tournaments: with fantastic teams we could not win the tournaments. Two examples: WC 1974 and Euro 2020. The latter is particularly bitter for me because I thought it was the best Oranje ever, including our coach F. Rijkaard. In this tournament, surprisingly luck has been so far with us. Not sure whether it is attributed to our coach, but we have been really LUCKY taking into account our leaky midfield and inadequate attack. We got placed third in the group, but it still worked in our favor allowing us to meet beatable teams. Although people say that the strongest team wins a tournament, it is not always like that: luck, politics, and match fixing due to betting is not the full list of components that could affect the results of a tournament. Not sure what to expect in semis, but I wish all the best to Oranje and tons of luck.

  10. The defense has to play lights out today for us to have any chance, especially with defending set pieces. England as a team scares me as you have no idea what they will do and when. With Spain, France, you have a basic idea.

    Nevertheless, I agree that Oranje has over-achieved in this Euro. A pessimistic side of me thinks it is better to lose a narrow one (or a penalty-shootout) against England than to get hammered by Spain in the final with the whole world watching.

    But, stranger things have happened. I am keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for the best.

  11. I’m actually cautiously optimistic vs England. They’ve drawn in three of their five matches in this tournament and have scored more than one goal only once, both of which came after 90 minutes against Slovakia when they were on the verge of elimination. And we are arguably a stronger / more talented side than any of the opponents they have faced so far.

    In contrast, other than vs France, we have scored at least two goals in every match, and I would argue that we have faced a stronger set of opponents than England has.

    We just need to keep cool heads and to stay organized and take our chances when they come! Easier said than done, but I think we can do it

  12. Memphis and Malen already very active in pressing / defending, which I consider to be a good sign

    Meanwhile England appears to devoting substantial attention to Gakpo

        1. No excuses being made here. We’re not playing well and Koeman is going to have to sort it out at halftime and come with a new plan. 70% possession to England is untenable

    1. Haha! I’ve been waiting for a Gravenberch appearance the whole tournament. He must bring something, although no one seems to know what it is.

  13. Malen appears to have approximately 12 minutes of energy that he can expend in a match. I think we’ve exceeded his limit. Midfield playing ultra deep, which is giving England acres of time and plenty of space to create attacks

  14. Lateral and back passing won’t do any good either. Look at walker and tripper. How high they are playing. Zirzkee for Depay would have been better. He can hold the ball

  15. Well the last 3 + minutes of the first half we kept the ball. Novel concept. Maybe we should try that again sometime — works both in attack and defense. Koeman has a few minutes now to find some organizational solution that doesn’t make England look like Spain. Maybe a 4-4-2? I know, I’m desperate…

    For me, Malen needs to make way for someone (anyone) else — Zirkzee, Brobbey, anyone. Someone with some energy. And we need another attacking threat coming somewhere from the midfield

  16. But let’s not run away from the fact, England is a better team. Let’s see if the Dutch can catch them off guard.. that’s the only way they can win.

  17. Not surprisingly, England is dominating statistically in all areas other than blocks and clearances. We have to keep the ball and attack and put them on their heels. We can’t just let them have the ball outside our box for extended periods. Or else they’ll score or get another VAR penalty.

  18. Why are we playing so scared? And where is the speed and press? In a team with a shaky defense, speed can cover some faults.

    Have to introduce Weghorst now or soon. Not sure why he wasn’t sent in when Memphis got hurt. The team needs to play to a plan fearlessly.

    1. Gakpo has been thoroughly neutralized so far. We need to find a solution to set him free and find him in some space. He’s been a complete non factor, but at least he’s trying, unlike Malen

    1. Yes. One of the central midfielders should be dedicated to him. Bellingham hasn’t really been a factor either so Foden needs to be the one addressed at the moment.

  19. @ vikram

    With the possession football England is playing, its gonna just play into England’s favor more. The Dutch are just relying on counters. Look at stats man

  20. Even him the Dutch scrap past through, they need more cutting edge, players like Xavi , left footers and for gods sake, it time to move on from total football ( lateral and back passing). No more CBS playing LBs as well

  21. I say this again, respectfully, a loss tonight might be a blessing. This Oranje team, under Koeman can beat Spain once in every 15 tries.

  22. Schouten getting more involved in the attack, which I like. Veerman has become like a mud puddle on a rainy day that the ball comes to a stop in.

  23. Xavi’s decisions and vision have generally been good, but the touch / weight / angle of his passes has been slightly off. Just need another moment of brilliance— is that too much to ask?

  24. Well, reaching semifinals with this average team and poor coach is a good achievement. We will continue this poor display until Koeman is with us. However, to be fair to Koeman, absence of FDJ and Teun Koopminers dearly cost us. Entire tournament our invisible midfield put a lot of pressure on defenders and GK, and did not create any chances for our attackers. Veerman and Schouten are not Oranje material and Reijnders alone can not do anything. Even though we knew that Dutch was the weakest semifinalist, losing in a last minute is always bitter.

  25. So disappointing after such a bright start! The team played with a lot of heart, but I just feel like we never really developed a plan after Memphis went out, and just relied on Xavi Simons to create everything. Xavi and Schouten were very good today, but the rest of the squad was fairly average. Gakpo in particular never got going, and Brobbey and Zirkzee were introduced way way too late as it turned out. England did nothing the entire second half until the final subs, and I think we got complacent and began to prepare for extra time.

    Still plenty of good things to take away from this tournament and the progress we made and depth developed. But so gutting to get this far and come up short yet again!

  26. Schouten, Simons are my picks for this tournament for the best Dutch players. Like I said the team needs more cutting edge and some left footers or dual for that matter.

    1. I really didn’t see much out of Schouten until this final match, where I felt like he stepped forward in a significant way. This is the best I’ve seen Xavi play as well, although I think he can still continue to improve in his precision. But he was the spark for the team. Maybe going forward with de Jong back, with Zirkzee, Reijnders and others, we can build off of this success. That said, our backline wasn’t nearly as resolute as I’d hoped, and all of those guys are aging too. Maybe van de Ven and Geertruida can become new leaders there.

  27. @ JB

    Agree. I was just what would have happened to southgate if England would have lost with those subs. He wouldn’t have reached home. But they did lose the first half momentum after that Shaw sub at HT.

    In my books cutting edge wins no matter what. The Dutch probably had one of the best defense. Inter, Liverpool, city, Spurs but no cutting edge in attack.

    Again you look at how playing tatically with Ake at LB impacts the attacking game. While he was good but that left flank just looked dead. Gakpo too, I said this before, one trick pony. Time for change. Get those versatile players up there.

    1. Wilson,

      I’m generally in agreement with everything you said. But I had no expectations coming into this tournament, and these players managed to fight their way to the semifinal. So that bodes well for the future, and hopefully we can find the right combination of new talents to make it happen.

  28. Re Schouten

    He was good in those shadowing and disrupting phases when the English used those middle channels. Good bench player going forward. Untill someone more versatile pops up.

  29. Bottom line, we were not very good in this whole tournament and honestly overachieved by reaching the semifinals. This was a team with a weak defense, a weak midfield, and a weak attack. Played 1 good complete game in the whole tournament against a very weak team (Romania).

    I am not a big fan of Ronald Koeman as you all know. He overcomplicated things, essentially with a playmaker like Xavi. He is a goddamn central playmaker, not a freaking right winger. I agree he lost two vital players in Frenkie and Teun (a left footed player who could have given some balance), but someone like LVG would have shielded the weaknesses much better. Remember, the 2014 WC team was limited too, but he disguised it with a 5-3-2 and built the attack around Robben only.

    In the past I would have been heartbroken if we lost the way we did today, but honestly I am not today. I want to repeat what I said earlier this morning. If this team would have somehow made it to the final, they would have been hammered by Spain with the whole world watching. Now, that would have been embarrassing. At least, we can now leave with our heads held high.

    1. I agree with you on that. We just weren’t that good the whole tournament. England was dancing on our bellies the first half, and in the second, while we managed to keep the ball somewhat, players were much too static to offer anything meaningful.

  30. Some of you are talking about De Jong and Komp
    They both were at the WC and didn’t do much. I’m not sure if they would make any difference. I think the 2 midfielders did ok at the euros. We are in desperate need for strikers . We need a left back badly. Dumfries can’t dribble pass a 13 year old. Ake on the lleft is good but doesn’t provide anything offensively. We never got a cross from him. These are the areas that we need to continue focusing on until we can find some upcoming talents. Definitely a new coach.

  31. Tough loss. Didn’t have any expectations going in, but hoped they could do well, and as they progressed began to hope. Now have that familar gutted feeling. But it sure was fun while it lasted. I’ll leave the post-mortems to others. It all a little too immediate right now.

  32. And many, many thanks to Jan for jumping back in. I go to other blogs on soccer and other sports and rarely see even one article with as much insight and information as he has been putting out for what seems like every other day this last month.

    I mean, its the forum of choice for Nicolaas, Aloysius and Hendrik. What could say more…

    1. Haha! Agree 100%. This blog is essential to my enjoyment of these tournaments and Jan’s analysis makes me feel about as informed as I could be in watching the matches. Excellent job Jan once again!

  33. Yes, we all love coming here and sharing and hearing everyone’s views. It’s like everything in football – and life. You need to look, you need to think, you need to move, you need to find space, you need to help others. It’s very simple in the end.

    Although Jan, I have to say that I still would have gone with the diamond…

    Hartelijk dank,


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