Southgate on referee and Luke Shaw injury concerns ahead of Netherlands clash

By John Mercury July 9, 2024

Gareth Southgate has said he is “not concerned about who the referee is” after it was confirmed the official for tomorrow’s night semi-final clash served a six-month ban for match-fixing.

German referee Felix Zwayer also has a history with England star Jude Bellingham – with the midfielder criticising him after his then Borussia Dortmund team lost 3-2 to Bayern Munich in December 2021.

Southgate gave a news conference alongside England captain Harry Kane as they prepare to face the Netherlands in Dortmund tomorrow night.

Asked about the choice of referee, the England boss said: “I think everybody knows how I deal with referees. We have complete respect for every referee.

“I think there’s a right way to conduct yourself towards officials. I think it’s very important for the image of the game.

“So, no, I’m not concerned about who the referee is.”

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Bellingham’s history with referee

One of the talking points of England’s tournament so far has been the team’s lack of balance as injury problems facing Luke Shaw mean the side have not had a natural left-back.

04 December 2021, North Rhine-Westphalia, Dortmund: 04.12.2021, North Rhine-Westphalia, Dortmund: Football, Bundesliga, Borussia Dortmund - FC Bayern Munich, Matchday 14 at Signal Iduna Park. Referee Felix Zwayer (M) walks past Dortmund's Jude Bellingham to the side of the pitch to watch the video evidence for the penalty kick that is subsequently given. Bayern's Corentin Tolisso is on the right. Photo by: Bernd Thissen/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
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Jude Bellingham (L) and referee Felix Zwayer in the Dortmund-Bayern game in December 2021. Pic: AP

Newcastle defender Kieran Trippier, who is right-footed, has been occupying the position – but Shaw came on as a late substitute during England’s quarter-final win over Switzerland on Saturday.

Asked if Shaw could start against the Netherlands tomorrow, Southgate said: “Luke has been injured for four months, it wasn’t a possibility for him to play until the last match.

“He made a good contribution to the game. So that’s the decision we have to make, whether he’s ready to start, whether that’s the best way to use him.

“But, yeah, we’re very happy to have him back. He obviously gives us balance, a different balance with the team.”

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Fans go wild as England beat Switzerland

Southgate’s men, who had been criticised for some lacklustre performances on their route to the quarter-finals, go into the tie against the Netherlands after a much-improved showing against a strong Switzerland side on Saturday.

The Swiss went 1-0 up in the 75th minute before a classy strike from Bukayo Saka put England level five minutes later.

The game went into extra-time before England scored all five of their penalties to give themselves a chance of reaching the final of the tournament for the second time in a row.

England captain Harry Kane, left, with manager Gareth Southgate
Image:
England captain Harry Kane, left, with manager Gareth Southgate

An England support in Dusseldorf as the Three Lions prepare for the semi-final. Pic: PA
Image:
An England supporter in Dusseldorf as the Three Lions prepare for the semi-final. Pic: PA

Asked about the criticism Southgate and the side faced before the quarter-final, Kane said: “I think over the years since Gareth has been here and since I’ve been captain, we’ve handled that really well and I think this tournament has been no different.

“The expectation has maybe been a little bit different from the start and maybe the noise has been a bit louder but I think we’ve all handled that really well and some players will use it as motivation.

“Some players will block it out and ultimately it’s just down to what we want to achieve and we have a really close togetherness, not just players but staff as well and we’ve all been in the same direction for a while now and that’s all we are thinking about.”

Southgate hoping squad’s special bond can help them make history

By Tyrone Francis, sports producer in Germany

Gareth Southgate was full of praise for how his “special” group of players have bonded during their time in Germany.

The England manager spoke about the contribution his squad of 26 have made, highlighting the importance of a group who lack tournament experience – and that is true with the likes of 19-year-old Kobbie Mainoo, Crystal Palace’s defender Marc Guehi and Brentford’s no-look penalty taker Ivan Toney being shining lights for the manager who will reach a milestone of 101 games in charge of the national team.

Perhaps in doing so Southgate was indirectly stressing his own achievement in developing a pathway for this young crop of players to help their side reach a semi-final in a major tournament.

Both Gareth Southgate and his trusted lieutenant, captain Harry Kane, spoke about the “expectation” being different in comparison to previous tournaments – with Southgate saying the “external noise” has been “louder than it’s ever been”.

With the weight of the nation on their shoulders, both Southgate and Kane will hope the special bond of brotherhood on the pitch produces a victory over the Dutch to put England one win away from lifting the European Championship trophy for the first time.

England will have to overcome an impressive Netherlands side in order to reach the final on Sunday – with the Dutch showing resilience to come from behind to beat Turkey 2-1 in their quarter-final clash in Berlin over the weekend.

The winner of England and the Netherlands will play either Spain or France in the final.

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The Netherlands’ travel plans for the semi-final were thrown into disarray on Tuesday after their train to Dortmund was cancelled.

Dutch manager Ronald Koeman and his side were due to travel by train from their base camp in Wolfsburg on Tuesday evening, in time for their pre-match media duties at Signal Iduna Park.

Instead, they were informed by Deutsche Bahn, who run the German rail network, that their journey had been cancelled after a technical issue on another train caused chaos on the line.

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