Published On: Thu, Jul 11th, 2024
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England into Euro 2024 final thanks to hero Ollie Watkins as Southgate proven very wrong | Football | Sport


England have reached the Euro 2024 final with a last-gasp 2-1 win against the Netherlands in Dortmund on Wednesday night. The Three Lions will meet Spain at Berlin’s Olimpiastadion and are now 90 minutes away from immortality.

Harry Kane equalised from the penalty spot after Xavi Simons’ early stunner before his replacement, Ollie Watkins, rifled home a pinpoint 90th-minute finish to lift the roof of the Westfalenstadion.

Express Sport takes a look at four key talking points after England booked their spot in a second successive Euros final.

Ollie Watkins does his bit

Watkins may have been disappointed with his game time at Euro 2024 so far after a sensational season leading the line for Aston Villa.

But the 28-year-old made sure to play his part in a potentially historic campaign after replacing Kane with 10 minutes to play.

Cole Palmer’s threaded through pass found Watkins, and he struck low and hard into the opposite bottom corner as the clock struck 90 minutes to send raptures across the country.

England’s squad depth has been heralded this summer, and that moment showcased exactly why.

England make more history

On Sunday, Spain await at the Olimpiastadion in Berlin. By joining them, England have reached their first-ever major tournament final off home soil.

Gareth Southgate’s side face a daunting task against the tournament favourites – a fitting title, given they’ve won all six of their matches.

Croatia, Italy, Germany and France are among the nations to have fallen under the sword of Spain’s ultra-talented squad across the last three weeks.

England also faced a side boasting a 100 per cent record at the Euro 2020 final at Wembley Stadium. They must now ensure that this year, the conclusion is different and football comes home almost six decades.

Kobbie Mainoo steals the show

Aged 19 years and 82 days, Kobbie Mainoo became the youngest-ever player to represent England in a major tournament semi-final by making his third successive start against the Netherlands.

That particular record made the fact that he looked like he had played on this stage for years – less than two months after stealing the show in an FA Cup final victory against Manchester City – all the more breathtaking.

Southgate’s claim that he didn’t possess a natural midfield replacement for Kalvin Phillips after England’s 1-1 draw with Denmark in Group C was met with bemusement.

Mainoo proved why every time he intercepted a dangerous ball, lasered a direct pass through the lines or confidently took on a Dutch player. Manchester United and England have a gem at their core.

Harry Kane’s Golden Boot hunt

Kane wasn’t at his world-class best before being replaced by Ollie Watkins at 81 minutes, but he profited from a controversial VAR penalty decision to equalise in the first half.

The 30-year-old confidently fired his low spot-kick past Bart Verbruggen, his third goal of the tournament, to become the joint-top scorer in Germany.

Spain’s Dani Olmo is the only other player participating in the final with three goals to his name, while Jude Bellingham and Fabian Ruiz have scored twice.

No England player has scored more European Championships goals than Kane after he levelled Alan Shearer’s tally of seven. He could add the latest Golden Boot to his individual honours reel on Sunday.

Gareth Southgate’s final dilemma

Southgate opted to keep faith in Kieran Trippier at left-wing-back despite Luke Shaw’s return to fitness against Switzerland in the quarter-finals.

But the 33-year-old was targeted in the first half before being hauled off for Shaw at half-time. Southgate, seemingly accepting his mistake with that change, now faces a huge dilemma.

Will he stick with Trippier – a stalwart of his six-year reign – against Spain’s teenage sensation and one of the favourites for Player of the Tournament, Lamine Yamal?

Or will he call on Shaw – an established left-back who carved some promising chances in the second half in Dortmund? Only time will tell…



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