Netherlands v England: tactical conundrums that will settle semi-final

Gareth Southgate must decide on a back three or four, counter Cody Gakpo and weigh up Harry Kane’s struggles

Precedent has gone out of the window. Gareth Southgate has always been a cautious manager, somebody who drew up his blueprints and stuck to them – and then came this tournament. Having failed to identify a partner for Declan Rice at the back of midfield, he has chopped and changed; that, allied to the lack of left-footed full-backs, led to the switch to a back three against Switzerland. Luke Shaw was fit enough to play the final 12 minutes plus extra time of that game so it may be he can start and offer natural width on the left. Even if he does, given the greater fluency of England in the first half of the quarter-final, it seems likely the back three will be retained. That then means either Kieran Trippier as right wing-back with Bukayo Saka moved into the forward line and, probably, Phil Foden missing out; or, more likely, Saka remaining at wing-back and Trippier standing down. Trippier, though, is one of England’s more vocal organisers and, with no Harry Maguire or Jordan Henderson, that may be a quality Southgate is reluctant to lose.

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