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Nations League: English, Dutch battle for place in final

June 5, 2019

GUIMARAES, Portugal (AP) — England is aiming to translate the recent European dominance of its clubs to the international stage when it meets the Netherlands on Thursday in UEFA’s inaugural Nations League tournament.

England is looking for its first international trophy since winning the 1966 World Cup, but a resurgent Dutch squad stands in its path to Sunday’s final.

“We want to be in the habit of starting to win things,” England coach Gareth Southgate said on the eve of the Nations League semifinal.

England is in high spirits after reaching the semifinals of the World Cup last year. Also, the Premier League provided all four clubs in the recent Champions League and Europa league finals — an unprecedented feat.

“We’ve got players who are capable and hungry,” Southgate said in Guimaraes in northern Portugal. “We’ve shown incredible adaptability and resilience in the team.”

With a head-to-head record of six wins each and nine draws, the encounter is likely to be a tight affair between two teams that are on the up. England edged the Dutch 1-0 in a friendly game last year.

The Netherlands’ trophy cupboard has had no new additions since the 1988 European Championship title, when its current coach Ronald Koeman was still playing for the national team.

After failing to qualify for the 2016 European Championship and the 2018 World Cup finals, the Dutch got back on track by knocking out World Cup-winner France and powerhouse Germany to reach the Nations League final four.

“We’re playing (against) a very good team,” Southgate said. “I think it’s going to be a really exciting game.”

Koeman said Southgate has done “a fantastic job” by putting together a squad of young, gifted players.

“They have strong players, they have technical players, they have fast players,” Koeman said.

Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk, who won the Champions League title with Liverpool last weekend, said he expects a tough and evenly-balanced game.

“They’re definitely full of confidence, but we should be as well,” he said.

The winner plays the final on Sunday in Porto, meeting either host Portugal or Switzerland, while the loser goes into the third-place match in Guimaraes earlier the same day.

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