England’s quest to end their 53-year wait for international glory continues on Thursday night when they face Holland in the inaugural Nations League semi-final.
Former England internationals and now Sportsmail’s Three Wise Men – Martin Keown, Chris Sutton and Jamie Redknapp – provide the lowdown ahead of that clash at the Estadio D. Afonso Henriques in Guimaraes, Portugal…
If Harry Kane can start the Champions League final he can start this game and I suspect, with a potential trophy on the line, Gareth Southgate will want his main man in the side against Holland.
Kane has been directly involved in 20 of the 59 goals that England have scored under Southgate – scoring 17 and assisting three – so he should start ahead of Marcus Rashford up front.
In that final against Liverpool, his first appearance since April 9, Kane was disappointing. He went up against Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip and barely had a sniff of goal in Madrid. Now, he will also have to contest with Matthijs de Ligt, so this could be an even sterner test for Kane in his injury comeback.
Harry Kane could start for England and captain the side after overcoming an ankle injury
It has been a long season for this England squad. Chelsea played 63 games in all, Manchester City 61. Arsenal and Tottenham played 58 each, and Manchester United and Liverpool played 53 apiece. But Southgate will want his stars to use this encounter to send a message. To beat the Czech Republic 5-0 and Montenegro 5-1 in March showed their level. This is some of the best football we have witnessed in decades.
If Southgate can lead England to a trophy, then it will underline that fact.
Gareth Southgate (right) has revitalised England’s football since becoming manager
This Holland side are no pushovers under Ronald Koeman. Van Dijk, De Ligt and Frenkie de Jong are the three best players I’ve seen this season. Koeman also has former Manchester United forward Memphis Depay and Champions League winner Gini Wijnaldum. Holland are on the comeback trail, but England are also up there with the best on the international stage now. It ought to make for an intriguing match.
Virgil van Dijk will hope to add the Nations League trophy to his Champions League success
People perhaps thought this England team peaked after the World Cup but they clearly haven’t. Southgate has kept the momentum going by evolving the way they play. Last summer in Russia, England used a back three rather than a back four.
Having played in both of those systems, I can tell you which one I prefer. The back three has a tendency to present problems. Southgate realised that and turned to 4-3-3, with Ross Barkley playing an integral part. That decision paid off and England have secured five successive wins.
Keown’s England XI (4-3-3): Pickford; Walker, Maguire, Stones, Chilwell; Barkley, Henderson, Alli; Sterling, Kane, Rashford.
My prediction: England to win 2-1.
Ross Barkley (left) has played an integral role in England’s run of five successive wins
Gareth Southgate may well include Dele Alli from the start against Holland because the England boss likes to show faith in his players. After Alli’s performances this season, however, I’m not sure he deserves to be in the team to face Holland.
Alli is used to getting to double digits for goals and assists but those numbers dried up in 2018-19. He wound up with only seven goals and eight assists for Tottenham.
Alli is still capable of the odd magical moment. It was his lovely lay-off for Lucas Moura that saw the Brazilian complete his hat-trick and send Tottenham to the Champions League final.
Dele Alli (right) hasn’t hit the heights of previous seasons and is in danger of not starting
But overall, does he deserve to start ahead of Ross Barkley? Should Declan Rice miss out? I don’t think so. I would prefer to see Rice in front of the defence, with Barkley and Jordan Henderson ahead of him.
Alli is still only 23 and youngsters can have off seasons. But Southgate must decide whether it is in the best interest of the team to start or drop him against Holland.
Sutton’s England XI (4-1-2-3): Pickford; Walker, Maguire, Stones, Chilwell; Rice; Barkley, Henderson; Sancho, Kane, Sterling.
My prediction: Holland to win 2-1.
In contrast, Declan Rice (right) has played brilliantly this season and could start in midfield
Plenty of exciting talent will be on show on Thursday night but England need to somehow stop Frenkie de Jong. He is the best young midfielder in the world right now. He is special. He runs games.
My son first brought him to my attention. He kept telling me to take a look at this kid on YouTube, he is going to be a future star. He has turned into just that. Ajax’s rise to the Dutch title and Champions League semi-finals was in no small part down to having De Jong in the centre of the pitch.
For such a young player, he shows so much intelligence. He assesses situations as well as anyone I’ve seen. That’s why Barcelona have signed him. England have to watch out for him on Thursday night. If you give this guy any time on the ball, or space, then he will hurt you.
Holland star Frenkie De Jong is the best young midfielder in the world and will pose problems
Jadon Sancho is one of those players who seems to thrive in high-pressure situations. The bigger the stage, the more he relishes the chance to do something special. That’s a gift. Not many players have that mentality, and he’s still only 19 years old.
I hope we see him start for England on Thursday night. He’s proven his talent with Borussia Dortmund over and over again this season. Now might be his chance to do it on the international stage. Sancho has the ability to scare the life out of defenders. Let him loose on Holland, let’s see what he can do.
Redknapp’s England XI (4-3-3): Pickford; Alexander-Arnold, Maguire, Stones, Chilwell; Barkley, Henderson, Sterling; Sancho, Kane, Rashford.
My prediction: 1-1 draw, then England to win on penalties.
Jadon Sancho has the ability to scare the life out of defenders – and could do so on Thursday