Euros Notebook - Luke Shaw

Euros Notebook: Luke Shaw's England involvement, Dani Olmo's impact & France focus

It's become a tournament of fine margins rather than the high drama we witnessed in the early proceedings.

We can't be too surprised because that is ultimately what it takes to succeed. It's preferable to sacrifice your attack to solidify your defence and limit the chances allowed to the opposition.

A continuation of the quarter-finals is likely then, with Spain taking on France on Tuesday before England's semi-final encounter with the Netherlands on Wednesday.

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We're at a stage of the tournament where supporters of the four nations still involved won't care about the style or manner of their victory. One theme will dominate: just get the job done.

For England and France, this has particularly been the case anyway, while the Netherlands have shown attacking quality at times and Spain have been consistently strong throughout.

We've got two intriguing ties coming up, which could go either way.

A Shaw thing?

Gareth Southgate's side looked slightly better in their contest with Switzerland with penalties required to separate the sides.

There's still plenty of room for improvement yet you have to balance how much that matters with the fact the tournament will be over this time next week.

The decision to go with Kieran Trippier on the left side was once again baffling. It is still so obviously a weak point in their build-up and yet Southgate insists on going with it.

Kieran Trippier's pass map vs Switzerland

Why? Who knows, but Luke Shaw's strong appearance from the bench gives hope he should see some sort of extended involvement in the semi-final.

Luke Shaw's pass map vs Switzerland

In that spell, Shaw provided the balance so desperately needed. His pass map highlights the two attempted cut-backs that were simply lacking with Trippier - of course we do have to consider the game state here.

It's a problem position for England and Eberechi Eze's presence there late on - as good as he was - highlights the issue they're facing with personnel down their left.

Adding Shaw in won't solve all of the problems but it does give them more fluidity. A naturally left-footed player willing to overlap not only improves the flow but should also bring out the best in Phil Foden or Jude Bellingham as it allows them to cut inside with the ball.

It'll take away the 'safer, short passes back' that we've been seeing all tournament. If he's in the squad and fit enough to play around 45 minutes in the quarter-final, Shaw simply has to start against the Netherlands.

Netherlands' own response

Naturally, we're far more exposed to our own reporting of the national team but there has been discourse in other nations with how their own side is performing.

The Netherlands certainly falls into the 'criticise' category with a number of concerns raised throughout the tournament. So, how do they approach a contest with the previous favourites?

They couldn't replicate the strong performance against Romania as they squeezed past Turkey last time out and Ronald Koeman is likely to go with one of two possibilities.

One: change the system to match England's likely back three. Two: deploy a similar line-up to the one which drew 0-0 with France in the group stage.

The latter feels the most likely at this stage. It would either expose England's lack of fluidity down their left or look to stop them overlapping with Shaw's involvement.

This is where Jeremie Frimpong steps in.

Jeremie Frimpong's heat map vs France

The Netherlands have tried a number of options down their right and the problem has grown following Xavi Simons' impressive showings when featuring more centrally.

It's worth checking the line-ups and monitoring the news in the day or so before the game for any potential leaks because Frimpong's presence in the XI will bring some value in the markets.

He's currently 2/1 for a shot on target and 8/1 to score - that doesn't look too bad if he's involved for a team which have been high-scoring.

Olmo set to star

Pedri's injury is a huge blow for Spain but the spot going to Dani Olmo gives them real quality as his replacement.

His tournament has delivered two goals and two assists despite only starting one of five games - two of those goal involvements came in the win over Germany last time out.

Dani Olmo's shot map

He's posted 14 shots across his four appearances too - six in 38 minutes against Georgia - and he will be a huge threat against France.

Olmo is given the freedom to contribute in attack and his 5/1 price to score anytime is certainly eye-catching, as is the 10/11 for a shot on target and 5/1 for two or more.

With Spain likely to demand control of proceedings, the midfielder should get shooting opportunities from the edge of the box.

Off-field matters for France

It would be fair to say France's tournament has been rather uninspiring.

That's how Didier Deschamps' teams largely operate though. Defensive solidity is preferred to free-flowing football if that's what is required to get the job done.

A major talking point around this France side regards off-pitch matters though. Like we've just had here, France saw an election campaign running alongside the Euros but unlike England's "politics free zone" the French players have been clear in their thoughts and beliefs.

As much as some may not like it to, sport and politics are ultimately intertwined, with societal issues often reflected within the game or the huge platform it has used to convey a message.

Some of France's players - most notably star Kylian Mbappe - have been outspoken against Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally party.

"It is an urgent juncture. We cannot let our country fall into the hands of these people. It is pressing — we saw the results, it is catastrophic," he told a press conference in Hamburg.

That came after the first round of voting indicated likely victory for Le Pen, yet the second saw united opposition as they slipped to third overall. News that delivered very public joy for those within this squad.

Ousmane Dembele, Ibrahima Konate, Jules Kounde, Aurelien Tchoumeni and Marcus Thuram are among those who have shared messages in the aftermath of the poll, all of which follow the same theme of celebration.

We can often get lost in sport and forget the fact that players are not simply statistics on the pitch. This has been something clearly at the heart of those involved, with questions asked in the very early stages of press conferences.

This is not to now claim France will suddenly be free-flowing when they face Spain, but we have to remember the human element of those within sport, particularly at a time when they haven't looked up to their usual standards.

Perhaps, just perhaps, the French - 11/5 outsiders for victory - will deliver when their country needs them most.

And I'm talking about the football...

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