England are out of the Women’s Euros in traditional-England style. No matter what comes our way the semi-final ‘curse’ strives on, though, once again, with after the opposition was criminally rated.
The Dutch side, one of my favourite international sides right now, took hold of the match from minute one until the 90. Danielle Van de Donk played a stunning game, Vivienne Meidema was typically dangerous and Shanice van de Sanden, while not at her best, was a constant attacking threat throughout.
Another highlight came from the brick-wall that was the Dutch defence. Stefanie van der Gragt was a contender for player of the match after her rock-solid performance at centre-back before leaving the game after 70 minutes.
Despite the clear quality of the Dutch side, featuring players from Barcelona, Arsenal and Bayern Munich, once again English arrogance had put England forward as favourites, as if they were already in the final. Even if England were outright favourites, it should be obvious by now that you should never write off the ‘underdog.’
Ultimately though, England and Sampson’s game plan fell flat – and it didn’t change despite its blatant ineffectiveness throughout the game. The main plan of action, which was effective to some extent in previous matches, consisted of long balls up to Fran Kirby and Jodie Taylor, two of the shortest players in the side, standing at 5ft 2 and 5ft 6 respectively. Not the best plan against the likes of van der Gragt at the back.
That’s not to say that England didn’t have opportunities – they registered 17 attempts on goal – though many of those were optimistic long-range efforts unlikely to find the back of the net.
Sampson’s management let the side down. They had no shape and were second to every second ball – something the manager resisted tuning until the 67th minute, when a lost Farah Williams was replaced by an utterly invisible Toni Duggan.
Sampson himself, to his credit, admitted he made managerial mistakes. In an interview with tournament broadcasters Channel 4, he said “I made some mistakes, for sure. I’ll go away and reflect. I’ll look at it all and then do a better job next time.”
Sampson has been criticised. Many believe him to be tactically inept, and this match certainly didn’t help calm those who doubt him, but he does love his team. He’s certainly brought them a step up to be title challengers. But many are aging players, set to play their last major tournaments in years to come. If he and the team can adjust to new tactics and methods, we could see something special at future tournaments.