Home Sport England head to Euros final as positive approach pays off

England head to Euros final as positive approach pays off

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Ollie Watkins’ late winner to secure the 2-1 win over the Netherlands was as much as they deserved after dominating the encounter in a display their supporters had been eagerly awaiting but barely daring to hope for.

England’s Ollie Watkins shoots and scores his team’s second goal during the UEFA Euro 2024 semi-final football match against the Netherlands at the BVB Stadion in Dortmund on July 10, 2024. Picture: Adrian DENNIS, AFP

Mark Gleeson, in DORTMUND, Germany – England finally showed their true colours at the European Championship on Wednesday, putting on a convincing and effective performance when it mattered most to book themselves a berth in Sunday’s final in Berlin.

Ollie Watkins’ late winner to secure the 2-1 win over the Netherlands was as much as they deserved after dominating the encounter in a display their supporters had been eagerly awaiting but barely daring to hope for.

It was an emphatic answer after the criticism heaped on the side for some languid showings against underwhelming opposition earlier in the tournament, and sets up a mouth-watering final against a slick-looking Spain.

England had frustrated their followers, looking pedestrian at times in the group phase as well as their knockout round games. It was as if they were suffocating at times under a heavy burden of expectation, a feeling coach Gareth Southgate said on Tuesday that they learned to leave behind as they went deeper into the tournament.

Their round of 16 performance as they edged Slovakia bordered on the miraculous, snatching victory minutes from being eliminated, and there was a nervy showing as they fought back, again, to edge Switzerland on penalties in the quarter-final.

This time, however, there was a positivity about their play from the start, even if it was a third successive game where they went behind, this time to Xavi Simons’ spectacular seventh minute effort.

Harry Kane’s penalty equaliser was followed by a sustained period of pressure on the Dutch defence, with England shaking off the cobwebs and properly greasing the wheels of their attack.

The individual quality of their players was on full display and they had their opponents pegged back, looking dangerous every time they entered the final third. Phil Foden was exceedingly unlucky not to have them ahead at halftime with some sublime skill but had his effort cleared off the line.

The second period was not as dominant as fatigue set in and the Dutch enjoyed their fair share of possession. But even then, whenever England moved menacingly forward, a goal looked on the cards.

It was almost to script that they engineered victory just before the final whistle, as Watkins emerged an unlikely hero not long after coming on. The confidence boost cannot be underestimated, especially as an in-form opponent awaits on Sunday at the Olympiastadion.

When they needed to stand up and be counted, the real England came to the party and, after almost a month of gritty competition, the tournament has two worthy finalists.

Reuters

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