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Late Watkins winner sends England into Euro 2024 finals


England will face Spain in the Euro 2024 final in Berlin on Sunday after a last-minute strike from substitute Ollie Watkins sealed victory over the Netherlands.

Gareth Southgate’s side looked to be going into extra time for the third successive game after Harry Kane’s contentious first-half penalty equalised a thunderous early strike from Xavi Simons until Watkins struck.

England dominated the first half, with Phil Foden outstanding, hitting the post with one long-range effort and drawing a fine save from Dutch keeper Bart Verbruggen.

The Netherlands, who saw Denzel Dumfries’ header hit the bar before the break, took control after the break and it required important interventions from keeper Jordan Pickford to keep England level.

England were facing another extra 30 minutes until a superb late strike on the turn from Watkins, on for Kane, sent England into their second successive European Championship final on a dramatic night in Dortmund.

Southgate’s England one game from glory

England’s victory over the Netherlands in Dortmund has left Southgate and his players one game from history and ending the so-called “years of hurt” stretching back 58 years.

The campaign in Germany has been a slow-burner, but the torch was lit on a sultry, stormy night and England now have the opportunity to finish with glory against favourites Spain at the Olympiastadion.

England will contest their first final on foreign soil after the 1966 World Cup final and the Euro 2020 finals were played at Wembley.

They reached it in a manner that has been their trademark in Germany, coming from behind then surviving anxious moments before another late show, this time from Watkins, got them over the line.

It also gives England the chance to make up for the bitter disappointment of defeat by Italy on penalties at Wembley in the Euro 2020 final.

Southgate and England have become synonymous with near misses at major tournaments during his eight-year reign but have earned themselves an opportunity to write a new chapter in their history.

For Southgate, another final is vindication in the methods that have come under such scrutiny after England’s indifferent earlier performances. Success in Berlin would change the narrative around his tenure forever.

And it was the introduction of Watkins with nine minutes left that was decisive, the Aston Villa striker providing energy and pace to trouble the Dutch defence, his finish on the turn across Verbruggen the piece of quality required to win a tight game.

England have suffered disappointments in the past and will be underdogs against Spain, but there has been a belief about Southgate’s team – even when performances have been indifferent – and they will go to Berlin believing they can finally claim the silverware that has eluded them for more than half a century.

image 296 Channel1 News Late Watkins winner sends England into Euro 2024 finals

England can face Spain with hope

England have stuttered and stumbled in Germany but they are still standing to make it to the end of Euro 2024 and the final against Spain.

And even though England lost momentum in the second half and the Netherlands looked more likely winners towards the end, the resilience and refusal to be beaten that has been a key characteristic once again saw them over the line.

England’s first-half performance was their finest at Euro 2024 by some distance, producing a fine reaction to the shock of going behind so early to a stunning strike by Simons after seven minutes.

Foden caused havoc as he roamed the central areas, seeing one shot somehow kept out on the line by Dumfries and then another rattling the woodwork before the Dutch got tighter to stifle him and brought on the giant Wout Weghorst as a focal point.

Manchester United’s 19-year-old Kobbie Mainoo delivered a performance of maturity and drive far beyond his years, showing confidence and creativity in the high-pressure environment of a Euro 2024 semi-final.

England also leaned heavily on keeper Pickford, who saved crucially from Virgil van Dijk and stood firm when the Netherlands turned up the pressure in the second half.

Southgate’s late changes worked like a charm as two of his substitutes combined to win the game, Cole Palmer’s cute pass allowing Watkins to turn Stefan de Vrij in that late twist to send England to Berlin.

Kane and Jude Bellingham were peripheral figures but this England victory contained enough of the positives that have been missing previously to send them to Berlin and Sunday’s final with optimism and hope.

Source: BBC

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