England vs Netherlands result: Extra-time errors see Three Lions' Nations League dreams die

Netherlands 3-1 England (AET): Gareth Southgate's side led only to eventually fall to defeat after extra-time

Miguel Delaney
Guimaraes
@MiguelDelaney
Thursday 06 June 2019 22:40
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England v Netherlands: England fans sing the national anthem ahead of Nations League match

The Nations League won’t offer the end to England’s long wait for silverware, then, but has instead offered a showcase of what happens at the end of a long club season. A game characterised by calamitous errors saw Gareth Southgate’s side, John Stones and Ross Barkley make the worst of them, ultimately gifting a good but erratic Dutch side a 3-1 win and a place in Sunday's final.

It summed up the entire game that the decisive goal to make it 2-1 was an own goal, that came from a near self-own. We will at least be spared tedious debates over whether this competition represents a proper trophy, but it will result in more arguments about some of the players, not least Stones.

The tough truth for him is that this has been a continuation of some of his club form, even if - as with everyone else on the pitch - that was accentuated by the type of game this was, coming so soon after the end of the club season. The Nations League thereby ended up becoming the kind of low-intensity high-error friendly everyone once presumed it would be, but only because of timing rather than a lack of tension.

Even Virgil van Dijk - somewhat forgivably, given he was celebrating so effusively just days ago - looked off his level. His central defensive partner Matthijs De Ligt perhaps personified the match. He was responsible for some awful errors, not least the opening goal, but still scored the equaliser to stoke and reflect a genuinely entertaining game.

That was the story of it. There was no real lesson, no revelation of anything we don’t already know.

The entire match similarly involved a pattern that is wholly familiar. With a far superior midfield, Netherlands were controlling the ball and the centre of the pitch… but also making the kind of mistakes that that are so susceptible to surges of speed. England, of course, have that in abundance, even if they did not have so much of the ball. They still lack that midfielder, a minority of the players still lack that level.

Southgate’s team were scrappy, but also snappy.

The Dutch were meanwhile showing their talent, but also their age. At least as a team.

Some individuals were another matter, particularly Frenkie de Jong. He doesn’t look like a mere revelation. He looks like he’s been playing for Barcelona for years, and as if he’s performing like Xavi for years. He’s that good. He dictated the game. He was the main reason for victory, beyond so many errors.

His equally valued teammate Mattijs de Ligt is also very good, and almost unbeatable in the air, but this was not his best game of the ground. This is why some top clubs - all interested in signing him of course - do worry whether he is a bit easy get at.

Rashford opened the scoring from the spot

Out of the Ajax structure, and even with Van Dijk beside him, the teenage centre-half was especially susceptible to pace, and especially to that of Rashford.

This remains one of England’s most potent weapons, and maybe above any team in the world with it bar the French with Kylian Mbappe.

They have so much pace, and so many different players with pace.

It is going to be an outlet against any team, no matter how much England are outdone on the possession count.

De Ligt, not for the first time it must be said, particularly struggled with it.

De Ligt atoned for his first-half error

The opening goal didn’t see him so much look like a young Ronald Koeman as a 40-year-old Lothar Matthaus.

He miscontrolled badly the ball badly from a spell of fairly idle possession and, in an abrupt panic, so clumsily brought Rashford to the ground.

There was nothing clumsy about Rashford’s own penalty. He stroked it away so well to make it four goals in his last six for England.

Pace itself can be offset, however, if you’re off balance at the back. England repeatedly were. This was their ruination. Their entire defence were at one point or another caught out in what could have been a calamitous mishap.

There was first one involving all of Ben Chilwell, Declan Rice and Harry Maguire that put Steven Bergwij through, then in the second half a woeful Kyle Walker miscontrol that put Memphis Depay straight through in on goal.

Lingard thought he'd equalised only for VAR to rule it out

England were lucky in both cases that neither brought anything more than the most basic of shots - emphasising Netherlands’ need for an actual striker - and it was remarkable that Stones’ misplaced attempt at a Cruyff turn in the box only resulted in the ball getting haphazardly cleared. The latter, however, was mere foreshadowing.

These are of course the sort of errors that might be eroded by the more exacting pressure of a proper competitive game, and when it’s not the end of a long club season, but still something Southgate will want to look at.

You could say it would have concerned the manager that his defence were just as slack when De Ligt hammered in the equaliser, particularly since set-pieces are something his side have made a virtue of, but not as much of a virtue as De Ligt himself.

He might occasionally struggle on the ground, but he is imperious in the air.

Walker jumped with him, but could still barely get close to him, as De Ligt thundered in the equaliser.

From a 40-year-old Matthaus to a prime Sergio Ramos.

Walker's own goal put England behind for good 

The attempts of Stones and Walker to challenge him were still nowhere near as close as the VAR offside call for Jesse Lingard’s strike, but offside it was. If so, so marginally. The score remained at 1-1.

As it did when referee Clement Turpin again went to VAR for a Dutch handball call.

Such literal technological precision stood in strong contrast to a lot of the play. You would have thought that was best encapsulated by one Maguire fluff and one blazed Memphis finish late on in the same passage of play in the 90, but there was still worse to come.

Stones, again, got himself utterly stuck doing the one thing in the game he is supposed to be so good at.

With the ball at his feet at the edge of the own box, he didn’t initiate play but instead finished the game. Stones just got caught by Memphis, for the ball to eventually be bounced in off Walker.

There was a lot of blame to go around, going right back to Barkley, but it ultimately came down to Memphis so easily going around Stones.

Barkley wouldn’t be denied that moment, though, as he supplied the Netherlands with the wayward pass to seal it.

Memphis stole in and substitute Quincy Promes prodded in.

It probably would have been more inkeeping with the game if he’d missed.

It all means England miss a trip to Porto, and a chance at silverware, however minor it is.

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