BILLY BUNTER

Weblog: The football punter

Oranje and Three Lions can serve up cracker

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The Nations League does not yet have the prestige of a World Cup or European Championship but that could help to provide an entertaining semi-final between England and Holland in Guimaraes.

When the pressure cranks up goal expectations usually goes down, although these are two sides blessed with attacking talent and despite it being a semi-final showdown there is a lack of tension usually associated with similar international fixtures in the later stages of a tournament.

With that in mind expect both teams to play on the front foot and there should be goals at both ends, with England seen as slight favourites to overcome an improving Dutch outfit.

England's rise in the last 12 months has been a testament to the excellent work of Gareth Southgate and his staff.

The squad has been overhauled with a number of younger players given their chance and most of them grabbed it during an excellent qualifying campaign which saw them pip Spain and Croatia.

England's win over Croatia will have felt particularly sweet as it exacted a small amount of revenge over their World Cup semi-final conquerors, although the 3-2 success in Spain, with the front three of Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford rampant, was the most impressive Three Lions performance for many years.

Southgate's side have built on that to start the Euro qualifying campaign in fine style, putting five past Czech Republic and Montenegro with Raheem Sterling scoring four times.

Sterling's international improvement on the goalscoring front could be important with Kane still finding his way back to peak fitness, while Jadon Sancho's dazzling displays for Borussia Dortmund have pushed him closer to England's starting 11.

Against England is the fact seven members of their squad were in Madrid for Saturday's Champions League final, but that is not a huge advantage to Holland as the Dutch also had Liverpool pair Virgil van Dijk and Gini Wijnaldum involved.

Van Dijk's centre-back partnership with Matthijs de Ligt has the potential to be the best in international football, however, three clean sheets in the last ten suggests that as a unit there is a way to go before the Oranje are ready to boom once more.

Ronald Koeman's men are on the right track following their failure to reach the last two major tournaments, and they overcome France and Germany to reach the Nations League finals.

The Dutch scored eight times in their four qualifiers with Memphis Depay impressing in his international role as a striker compared to his usual club position on the left wing.

Recommendation
Both teams to score

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Expert verdict
Japan haven’t performed up to their usual standards in recent internationals and they will need to up their game if they are to compete with two-time defending champions Chile. The Chileans are hard to trust entirely but recent results in friendlies suggest they should have enough to pinch victory.