Contentious ref and penalty talk ban: All you need to know before the England vs Netherlands game

Split image. Left image: Netherlands defender Virgil Van Dijk. Right image: England midfielder Jude Bellingham.
Credit: PA

By James Gray, ITV News Producer

England will play the Netherlands on Wednesday for a spot in the Euro 2024 final.

The Three Lions will hope to go one better than in 2021 when they suffered penalty heartbreak at the hands of Italy.

But in their way stand a resolute Dutch side, which includes Liverpool captain Virgil Van Dijk and Paris-Saint-Germain (PSG) star Xavi Simons.

The blockbuster contest is taking place amidst a backdrop of key talking points, such as a ban on discussions of penalty tactics and a referee who has a previous gripe with one of England's star men.

Here, ITV News outlines all you need to know ahead of the match.

When are England playing?

England's semi-final versus the Netherlands is taking place on Wednesday, July 10 (8pm).

How can I watch?

You can watch the match live on ITV1 as well as the ITVX app and website.

Zwayer meets Bellingham

German referee Felix Zwayer has been selected as the man in the middle for England vs the Netherlands.

Ahead of the game, much has been made of his reunion with former Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham.

In 2021, Bellingham was fined by the German Football Association for comments he made after Dortmund lost to rivals Bayern Munich - a match in which Zwayer was the match referee.

Bellingham referenced Zwayer's involvement in a match-fixing scandal, which he received a six-month ban for in 2006.

Zwayer worked as an assistant referee alongside Robert Hoyzer, and helped to bring to light Hoyzer's match-fixing plot.

Zwayer's six-month ban was a recognition of his contribution, while Hoyzer was banned for life.

Speaking ahead of the game, England defender Luke Shaw said his teammates "respect UEFA" in terms of its selection of officials and that they were not concerned by Zwayer’s appointment.

Felix Zwayer will referee England vs the Netherlands. Credit: PA

England's anglicised Dutchman

Watching on from the England bench on Wednesday will be a former Netherlands and Premier League forward in the form of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.

Hasselbaink, who scored nine goals for the Dutch across a four-year spell, was named as part of England manager Gareth Southgate's coaching setup in March 2023.

Following England's penalty heroics against Switzerland, Hasselbaink was lauded by a number of the Three Lions' squad for his nous from the penalty spot.

Phil Foden told BBC Radio 5 Live that England put "a lot of work" into practicing penalties, adding: "Jimmy's got a lot of experience in the game, he knows his stuff. He's been taking a few of us after training to practice penalties.

"I feel like when I first came into the England side, we were maybe practicing them too much and there wasn't really a coach taking them.

"Now we have Jimmy for that reason to only take a couple, not overdo it."

The former Antwerp, QPR, Northampton and Burton manager has also proved to be a popular all-round member of the England camp, with Shaw, Foden and Trent Alexander-Arnold all championing his character in recent days.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink has been heavily praised after England's penalty heroics. Credit: PA

Penalty talk ban

The Football Association (FA) is reportedly determined to stifle talk of penalty tactics, with questions concerning the topic at recent press conferences blocked.

England's latest approach to penalties has been the subject of much speculation, with The Athletic reporting a so-called 'buddy system', where one player is assigned to support and congratulate a penalty taker once their kick has been taken.

Images of Jordan Pickford's water bottle have also been widely shared on social media, after it emerged he had attached a detailed list of Switzerland's penalty takers.

Key players for the Netherlands

Virgil Van Dijk - Van Dijk, as he does for Liverpool, captains the Netherlands and is widely regarded as one of the finest centre backs in world football.

He has helped the Dutch to keep two clean sheets from five games to this point and, alongside his defensive colleagues, will prove a formidable test for England's attack.

Xavi Simons - PSG star Xavi Simons is likely to be charged with providing a lot of the spark in the Netherlands midfield against England.

The 21-year-old has been in fine form so far at Euro 2024 and is currently joint top (three) of the assists chart, alongside Spain's Lamine Yamal.

Cody Gakpo - Gakpo is currently joint top-scorer at these Euros, with a goal a piece against Poland, Austria and Romania.

The Liverpool wide-man is likely to be up against England's Kyle Walker on Wednesday, and who emerges the better from that battle could play a key role in deciding the final outcome of the tie.

Virgil Van Dijk and Cody Gakpo are among the Netherlands' star players. Credit: AP

Dedicated England fans are planning where to watch the semi-final matchup whether at home, in the pub or with a pricey ticket in Dortmund

Previous meetings

England have never played the Netherlands before in the knockout stages of a major tournament.

The two sides have, however, met each other in the group stages at both Euro 1988 and 1996, and the 1990 World Cup.

When the teams last met in 2019, the Netherlands secured a 3-1 victory over England in the semi-finals of the inaugural Nations League.

England's Harry Kane attempts to shoot against the Netherlands during their UEFA Nations League semi-final in 2019. Credit: AP

Netherlands Euro 2024 results

The Netherlands were drawn in Group D alongside Poland, France and Austria, and kicked off their tournament with a 2-1 victory over Poland.

A goalless draw with France followed before the Dutch were duly beaten 3-2 by Austria in their final group stage match.

Ronald Koeman's side, despite the loss, qualified for the knockout stages where they faced Romania in the round of 16.

Goals from Cody Gakpo and Donyell Malen saw the Netherlands run out 3-0 winners to set up a quarter final clash against Turkey.

It was in Berlin's Olympic Stadium where a second half rally from the Dutch saw them overturn a 1-0 scoreline to beat Turkey 2-1 and secure their place in the semi-finals of Euro 2024.

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