Holland boss Ronald Koeman believes England have a chance of winning Euro 2020 and revealed Gareth Southgate’s remodelling was a blueprint for his own approach to international management.
The Dutch face the Three Lions in the Nations League semi-finals in Guimaraes on Thursday night aiming for a place in the first-ever final of UEFA’s latest competition.
Having managed in the Premier League with both Southampton and Everton, Koeman saw up-close the evolution of the England team under Southgate – which led to a World Cup semi-final and a place in these inaugural Nations League finals.
The 56-year-old feels Holland have closed the gap on England since his first game in charge ended in a 1-0 defeat to Southgate’s side in Amsterdam 15 months ago – but has backed them to go far at next year’s European Championships.
“Obviously, they have a lot of talent up front, a wide array of choices, physically strong players for different places,” he said.
“It’s not by chance they are fourth in the world rankings. They’re a squad who have a chance in the Euros.
“We were the lesser of the two teams when we played them last time. England were more advanced. But we’re closer now, I think, and have a better chance of winning tomorrow.
“It was a difficult period (for England) in that time, in 2014 and 2016. But when Gareth Southgate took over, he gave possibilities to young players and that had a big impact for the national team.
“If you watch them and look at their squad, it’s full of quality. A good balance in the team. They have physically strong players, fast players, a lot of players who can be selected.”
Koeman guided Holland out of a Nations League group containing Germany and World Cup winners France as he continues the rebuilding job after the country had failed to qualify for Euro 2016 or last summer’s World Cup finals.
Now they have a chance to add to their Euro 88 title and Koeman admitted he looked to the path taken by Southgate as he aimed to overhaul the Dutch side following his appointment.
“That’s why I spoke about Southgate doing a fantastic job,” he added.
“That was an example for the Dutch team, how they processed the squad, gave chances to young players. It’s all about the quality of the players. That’s what makes a national team strong.”
One of Holland’s most promising young players is sought-after Ajax defender Matthijs De Ligt.
The 19-year-old has shone in a side which lifted the Eredivisie title and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League and is now set to land a big-money move this summer.
He has been heavily linked with Manchester United and Koeman’s former club Barcelona, with the likes of Liverpool and Juventus also reportedly showing an interest.
Koeman admits he has spoken to De Light concerning his future but kept his cards close to his chest when asked what advice he offered up.
“We are happy to have that kind of defender in the national team,” he replied when asked about the quality of De Ligt and captain Virgil Van Dijk.
“One is only 19 and needs to make a good decision for his future, but he will do that. He’s progressing well. Of course, Virgil is a bit more experienced a player, who won a first big title.
“To become a star, you need to win big titles. Matthijs had a great season in the Champions League and he will choose whatever is best for his future.
“His big quality is he’s only 19. It looks like sometimes that he has the experience of a player of 25.
“That was great, that they had success in the Champions League, in the highest level competing against big clubs.
“That makes the development of young players. He’s a great professional, really clever. He’s doing extra training. He can improve, of course, because he’s not at the end of his qualities. That’s normal for someone of 19.
“He will be better in some years. Let’s hope he will choose a big, big club. He deserves that.
“I spoke to Matthijs one week ago about his future, and that’s a secret. What I told all the young players maybe thinking about making a step, the most important thing is to keep playing, keep getting minutes to develop your football.
“That’s the most important thing. How the club is playing is also a reason to make a choice. He, his family, his agent and those around the player will make the best decision for the player.”