ENGLAND take on the Netherlands on Wednesday night for a place in the final of Euro 2024. Gareth Southgate’s side haven’t been at their best for much of the tournament, but they have found a way to make it through to the semi-finals and will be taking on a Dutch side who have experienced their own ups and downs in the last month.

What are the key questions Southgate will have to answer as he ponders his approach to Wednesday’s game?


England looked better with a five-man defence at the weekend. Things still weren’t perfect, but there was a better balance to the side, with Phil Foden benefiting from not being stuck out on the flank.

However, in the wake of the game against Switzerland, Southgate admitted the switch in system had been driven, at least in part, by a desire to match up with the Swiss five-man backline and ensure the opposition wingers were not afforded too much room.

Gareth Southgate takes some notes during England's win over SwitzerlandGareth Southgate takes some notes during England's win over Switzerland (Image: PA)

The Netherlands play with a flat back four, something Ronald Koeman is not likely to change for the semi-final, so the need to match defensive systems with a five does not exist.

Will that mean Southgate reverting to a back four of his own in Dortmund? Or will the England boss conclude that, having spent most of the early part of his reign playing with a back five, things have come full circle to the point where the formation suits his side best?


Marc Guehi was England’s breakthrough player of the tournament in the opening four matches, stepping in to replace the injured Harry Maguire with a mixture of composure and defensive authority.

His partnership with John Stones was blossoming nicely, with England giving up fewer big chances in their three group matches than any other side.

However, with Guehi suspended for Saturday’s quarter-final, Ezri Konsa slotted into England’s new-look back five and delivered a superb performance that was a big factor in the win over Switzerland. On at least three occasions, Konsa produced penalty-area blocks that prevented the Swiss from recording an effort on goal.

Ezri Konsa impressed against SwitzerlandEzri Konsa impressed against Switzerland (Image: PA)

Dropping Konsa on Wednesday feels harsh, but it will almost certainly be the move that Southgate makes. Guehi was his first-choice centre-half at the start of the tournament, and he remains so now.


That is a key question. The plan on Saturday was to give Shaw quarter-of-an-hour or so from the bench. Instead, as he made his comeback from a hamstring injury that has sidelined him since February, the Manchester United full-back played for 45 minutes as the quarter-final went into extra-time.

Gareth Southgate speaks to Luke Shaw before his introduction as a substitute at the weekendGareth Southgate speaks to Luke Shaw before his introduction as a substitute at the weekend (Image: PA)

Assuming Shaw has not suffered any ill-effects from his exertions – and the indications are that he has not – does that mean he is now deemed to be fit enough to play from the start against the Netherlands? Or having played for longer than expected on Saturday, would an appearance from the start four days later be asking too much?

Having Shaw, a natural left-footer, in the side instead of Kieran Trippier would be a massive plus. England’s attacking threat and balance down the left would be completely transformed. Southgate tends to be a safety-first manager though, so there’s every chance it’ll be Trippier starting again on Wednesday, with Shaw primed to come on from the bench.


Palmer made a massive difference when he came on against Switzerland. The Chelsea forward oozes class, and looks perfectly at home amid the pressures of a major tournament.

Unlike a number of his team-mates, his first thought is to pass the ball forward, and his willingness isolate and run at an opponent one-on-one transforms England’s attacking outlook.

Cole Palmer has been used as a substitute during the tournament so farCole Palmer has been used as a substitute during the tournament so far (Image: PA)

For him to start against the Netherlands, though, Southgate would have to drop either Foden or Bellingham, or leave out Kobbie Mainoo and play with Declan Rice as the only central midfielder. With his side in a semi-final, it is hard to imagine the England boss doing either, so Palmer will once again find himself on the bench. At least if things are not going well against the Netherlands, Southgate knows exactly what his super-sub is capable of.


This has not been a good tournament for Kane. Yes, England’s record goalscorer has two goals, only one fewer than the four players currently leading the race for the Golden Boot. But he not looked sharp, with his performance against Switzerland at the weekend especially laboured.

There is definitely an argument to start either Ollie Watkins or Ivan Toney ahead of him – the former looked lively as a late substitute in the group game with Denmark, while the latter set up Kane’s winner against Slovakia and had a big impact in the closing stages against Switzerland.

Gareth Southgate speaks to Harry Kane on the touchlineGareth Southgate speaks to Harry Kane on the touchline (Image: PA)

Southgate remains convinced Kane will come good though, and will not be dropping him in a semi-final. “He’s (Kane) perhaps not as flowing as sometimes he looks with his passing and stuff,” said the England boss after Saturday’s win. “But he’s still playing an immense part for the group.”