Neville: England have know-how – but must step up again vs Dutch

Gary Neville praised the “tournament know-how” of Gareth Southgate’s England side after they successfully navigated a penalty shoot-out against Switzerland to clinch another semi-final appearance.

However, the Sky Sports pundit warned the team will need to build on their improved performance against the Swiss when they meet Netherlands in the final four at Euro 2024 on Wednesday.

England switched to a back three against Switzerland but needed a moment of magic from Bukayo Saka to equalise after falling behind, and then were perfect from the spot after Manuel Akanji’s effort was saved by Jordan Pickford.

While England were still not at their absolute best, the result continues Southgate’s impressive track record at tournaments, following on from a semi-final at the 2018 World Cup, a final at Euro 2020, and a quarter-final at the 2022 World Cup.

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Rob Dorsett delivers his verdict on England’s win over Switzerland and wonders if the victory will give England momentum to reach the Euro 2024 final

‘Getting through difficult matches is a good sign’

Jordan Pickford and Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrate after England defeat Switzerland on penalties
Jordan Pickford and Alexander-Arnold celebrate after England defeat Switzerland on penalties

“I thought it was better,” said Neville of England’s overall performance. “Since Gareth took over, the times we have played three at the back, I’ve always liked us playing that way. I’ve felt we’ve had a better balance, the team suits it – more fluid, a more relaxed nature in the football.

“Particularly in the first half. The second half we went back to recycling the ball safely, but in the first half we played some half-decent stuff. Extra-time was then very safe, very cautious, they were probably very tired. We didn’t grab the game by the scruff of the neck and there was no tempo in it.

“But this team has tournament know-how, they get to semi-finals. There’s fortune along the way with the draw – we’ve played, Serbia, Denmark, Slovenia, Slovakia and Switzerland. If you said you’d get those five teams in a major tournament you’d be very happy.

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Penalty decision-making, tactical plans and England’s streetwise nature were on the agenda during Gareth Southgate’s press conference following the Switzerland win

“We haven’t played at our best but it’s a tournament that seems to be moving that way. Spain have played some fantastic football but the other teams have been quite unspectacular but getting through. The Dutch, France – the tournament favourites – have not been at their best.

“It’s a good sign for a team, you have to get through difficult matches – but you can’t normally rely on that all the time. My feeling is you’ll get caught out eventually if you don’t step up your performance level.

“Saturday was definitely a step up in terms of our balance, it was a progression forward, now we have to step up again against Netherlands on Wednesday – and we’ll have to step up quite a bit because they have some serious players.

“Are we going to get caught out? Are our performance levels good enough? But we’re only two games away from absolute utopia. Can England go all the way being as resilient as they are, having that tournament know-how, that patience and composure they seem to have even if things aren’t going their way?”

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Gary Neville says Harry Kane will remain in Southgate’s England starting XI despite the striker’s lack of form at Euro 2024 so far

Nev on England’s penalty success: ‘There’s clear plan’

Trent Alexander-Arnold scores the decisive penalty to send England into the Euro 2024 semi-finals
Alexander-Arnold scores the decisive penalty

Reflecting on England’s penalty shoot-out – the first time the country has ever converted all five of their kicks – Neville praised the mentality of the players but also the preparation and experience they have in that situation.

“I don’t think the fear ever goes for those players stepping up, but there’s no doubt they’re in a better place than we have been as a country in the past,” he said.

“There is a clear plan of who is going to take them, a clear plan for the ‘keeper in which way he’s going to dive – I know that’s not new but everything is well thought out.

'Akanji, dive left' - Jordan Pickford's water bottle had his penalty notes on it!
‘Akanji, dive left’ – Pickford’s water bottle had his penalty notes on it!

“You need people on the pitch who have been in that position before, who take penalties naturally. That’s what we had – five guys who have been comfortable taking a spot-kick.

“I know there is the added pressure of being in a tournament but if you have that repetitive experience you’ve had before it definitely helps.

“There were times when we were playing for England where there were lads stepping up who hadn’t taken a pen for 15 years since they were a kid.”

Who plays who in the semi-finals?

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