South­gate lauds the Dutch fol­low­ing Na­tions League semi-fi­nal draw

South­gate lauds Koe­man’s work after Na­tions League semi-fi­nal draw pits them against each other

Sport360 - - Front Page - By Kieran Can­ning @Kier­anCan­ning ✉ ed­i­to­[email protected]

Eng­land man­ager Gareth South­gate lauded Ron­ald Koe­man for his trans­for­ma­tion of the Nether­lands’ for­tunes after the two na­tions were paired to­gether in the semi-fi­nals of the in­au­gu­ral Na­tions League on Mon­day.

The draw in Dublin also pro­duced a meet­ing of host na­tion Por­tu­gal and Switzer­land in the last four for the right to reach the fi­nal on June 9.

As Eng­land were reach­ing the semi-fi­nals of the World Cup in July, the Dutch had to watch from afar after fail­ing to qual­ify for a sec­ond ma­jor tour­na­ment in a row.

Eng­land won a friendly 1-0 in Koe­man’s first match in charge in Am­s­ter­dam in March, but in his first com­pet­i­tive cam­paign, the Nether­lands beat both world cham­pi­ons France and Ger­many to a place in the last four of the Na­tions League.

“We play a team in Hol­land at a sim­i­lar stage to us, de­vel­op­ing, ex­cit­ing young play­ers and I can see the im­pact Ron­ald has al­ready made with that team,” said South­gate, whose side will face the Dutch in the north­ern Por­tuguese city of Guimaraes on June 6.

Koe­man be­lieves his side’s re­turn to form in re­cent months has re­stored the pride of Dutch fans in their na­tional team after a lean few years, say­ing: “It was dif­fi­cult the time when we started with the play­ers. We had two big tour­na­ments we didn’t qual­ify for.

“The best com­pli­ment for the play­ers is again the peo­ple in Hol­land are proud of the na­tional team.”

How­ever, there could be dis­ap­point­ment for some trav­el­ling fans as the Dom Afonso Hen­riques sta­dium in Guimaraes holds just 30,000 with Eng­land and the Dutch both ex­pected to bring a strong sup­port.

The 50,000-ca­pac­ity Es­ta­dio do Dra­gao in Porto will host Por­tu­gal’s meet­ing with Switzer­land on June 5 and the fi­nal.

“We are host­ing this in our coun­try, with our peo­ple, and that brings ex­tra re­spon­si­bil­ity,” said Por­tu­gal coach Fer­nando San­tos.

“We have the dream of get­ting to the fi­nal and win­ning the tro­phy.”

San­tos, though, was coy when ques­tioned if Cris­tiano Ron­aldo would re­turn to his side hav­ing missed all four Na­tions League fix­tures to date.

With the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal just four days be­fore Por­tu­gal’s semi-fi­nal, San­tos hinted that could hin­der his prepa­ra­tion and af­fect any de­ci­sion on Ron­aldo’s par­tic­i­pa­tion.

“These fi­nal games will be de­cided by the play­ers and it is very close to the Cham­pi­ons League and Europa League fi­nals.

“It will have an in­flu­ence on the Na­tions League and may in­flu­ence our prepa­ra­tion.”

Switzer­land shocked Bel­gium by bounc­ing back from 2-0 down to beat the num­ber one ranked side in the world 5-2 last month to make the last four.

Head coach Vladimir Petkovic’s side also beat Por­tu­gal in World Cup qual­i­fy­ing two years ago and he is hope­ful of pulling off an­other upset.

“You go to these tour­na­ments to win them,” said Petkovic.

“We are ready to make a sur­prise in June.”

“I can see the im­pact Ron­ald has al­ready made”

– South­gate

Three Lions are roar­ing: Eng­land boss Gareth South­gate at Mon­day’s cer­e­mony.

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