England vs Netherlands: Euro 2024 semi-final preview, stats, team news, head-to-head

Southgate said before the quarter-final he was previously “hammered” for utilising a back three.

The match was Southgate’s 100th in charge and, in the previous 99, he used a back three or a back five in 33 of them.

With Kieran Trippier and Bukayo Saka utilised as wing-backs the switch meant the wide areas were better covered, allowing Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden to stay more central.

Manchester City’s Foden had been playing on the left throughout this tournament rather than the central role that saw him named Premier League player of the season for 2023-24.

“Going to three at the back and a box in midfield and three up front, I wondered whether our wing-backs would just become a five and if we’d just become unstuck against a team that know how to play that formation,” said BBC pundit and former Manchester City defender Micah Richards.

“But it was the complete opposite – they were brave, they got up the pitch.”

However, Southgate may choose to revert to a back four against the Netherlands – who play 4-2-3-1 – and look to minimise the threat of attacking players Cody Gakpo, Memphis Depay and Xavi Simons.

England are still, however, lacking creativity, with Saka’s 80th-minute strike to force extra time their first on target of the match, as was the case with Bellingham’s equaliser 86 seconds from the end of normal time against Slovakia.

“There are still things to improve, but players were looking to get on the ball and create things. We’re not the finished article yet but there are better signs,” added Richards.

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