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First team

Cal up against two of the best in the world

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth star Nathan Ake believes both himself and Callum Wilson have a formidable Nations League hurdle to overcome.

Ake and Wilson have both been named in their respective countries’ provisional squads for next month’s inaugural finals in Portugal.

Wilson’s England meet Ake’s Netherlands in the second semi-final on June 6 with hosts Portugal doing battle with Switzerland 24 hours earlier.

And while Ake would relish facing his Cherries teammate in Guimaraes, he knows displacing Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt will be a tall order.

Van Dijk has played a starring role in helping Liverpool reach the final of the Champions’ League, while teenager de Ligt has shot to prominence with Ajax this season.

Ake, who has been capped 10 times by Oranje, was an unused substitute when Netherlands last met England, with Jesse Lingard netting the only goal in Amsterdam in March 2018.

He told afcb.co.uk: “It would be great to see Cal if we both get to play. We know about his threats and it will be a tough game.

“At the moment, our defence is very strong. We have de Ligt and van Dijk forming the central partnership, two of the best centre-backs in the world.

“It’s going to be hard for me to get in in front of them but I’m learning and I look at them in training. I just keep trying to improve and will be ready when I get my opportunity.

“I see what I can take from Virgil, leadership-wise. He’s a big leader in our team and also for Liverpool. That’s something I need to improve and be more of a leader.”

Striker Wilson has retained his place in the England squad after coming off the bench in the 5-1 win over Montenegro in a European Championship qualifier in March.

The 27-year-old frontman, who won the Cherries Golden Boot this season, scored on his full debut in a 3-0 victory over USA at Wembley in November.

Wilson told afcb.co.uk: “They are a good team. Van Dijk is one of the players of the season and de Ligt has had a great season with Ajax as well.

“It will be a tough game but we have great quality in our squad as well.

"We want to be the best in the world and, to do that, we are going to have to beat teams like this and put down a marker to everybody else that this team and the manager are taking the country in the right direction.

“I am excited to be a part of the squad and to have a chance to represent my country in a semi-final. These opportunities don’t come around too often.

“There is a training camp leading up to the finals where players will try to impress the manager. Everybody is going to want to play at some point and I’m the same.

“Other players will be on holiday but they would much rather be in my shoes and be able to represent their country so I’m delighted and it’s a great honour to be part of the squad.”

Meanwhile, Cherries pair Dominic Solanke and Aaron Ramsdale are attending a training camp with England under-21s, while Emerson Hyndman is due to be involved in a training camp with USA at the end of the month.

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