Friday, July 19, 2024

Euro 2024 final: How England reached Berlin showdown with Spain – BBC Sport

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Image caption, Ollie Watkins scored the decisive goal to send England to the Euro 2024 final

“Who cares how we are playing? We are winning.”

Those words were uttered by former England centre-back Matt Upson during the Three Lions’ run to the Euro 2024 final.

Whether through luck, grit or just sheer brilliance, Gareth Southgate’s team have found a way to succeed.

Football tournaments are decided in moments and, with England playing Spain in Sunday’s final in Berlin, we look back at the decisive ones from their journey in Germany.

  • Author, Joe Nelson
  • Role, BBC Sport journalist
Video caption, Bellingham heads England to the lead

Saka’s deflected cross

The Three Lions entered Euro 2024 on the back of a 1-0 defeat by Iceland at Wembley, but began Group C in positive fashion by edging Serbia 1-0 in Schalke.

Bukayo Saka’s right-sided cross looped up via a fortunate deflection and an eager Jude Bellingham powered in a header.

Start as you mean to go on.

The draw opens up

England drew 1-1 with Denmark in their second group match, with a performance described as “very poor” by former striker Alan Shearer.

But it meant Southgate’s team entered the final round of fixtures with the knowledge that a win over Slovenia would crown them as Group C winners.

A drab 0-0 stalemate followed but Denmark’s draw with Serbia meant England topped the group and ended up on the perceived ‘easier’ side of the knockout-stage draw.

Germany would have been on England’s side of the draw had Niclas Fullkrug not headed in a late equaliser against Switzerland that meant they finished top of Group A.

France, who were favourites to win Group B, limped through in second place, meaning they too ended up on Germany’s side, as did Belgium.

Wednesday’s semi-final against the Netherlands was the first time England had faced a team from inside the world’s top 10.

Video caption, Best goals of the Euros group stage

Slovakia squander golden chance

England’s last-16 tie against Slovakia was looking bleak when the Three Lions trailed 1-0 to an early Ivan Schranz goal.

And they could have been facing an embarrassing exit had David Strelec’s opportunistic second-half effort from the halfway line, after he spotted England keeper Jordan Pickford off his line, not curled wide.

Video caption, Bellingham scores last-gasp goal

Bellingham’s bicycle-kick brilliance

Strelec’s miss was a lifeline for England, and Bellingham grasped it with both hands to haul his nation level in the 95th minute.

The Real Madrid star acrobatically volleyed the ball past Slovakia keeper Martin Dubravka with the last kick of normal time, bringing the Three Lions back from the brink of elimination and sparking a comeback that was completed by Harry Kane’s extra-time winner to seal a 2-1 victory.

Saka slices through the Swiss

The Three Lions had to come from behind once more in the quarter-final against Switzerland, following Breel Embolo’s neat effort.

This time Saka was the saviour. The Arsenal winger forced extra time by brilliantly cutting in from the right and arrowing a low left-foot finish into the bottom corner.

Shaqiri strikes the woodwork

England certainly rode their luck at Euro 2024, with the woodwork sparing Pickford’s blushes in extra time against the Swiss.

With three minutes to go until the penalty shootout, former Liverpool forward Xherdan Shaqiri tried to catch the Everton keeper out with a clever corner that struck the crossbar as the game ended 1-1.

Pickford pounces and perfect penalties

Video caption, England v Switzerland all the penalties

While lucky to avoid conceding from Shaqiri’s corner, there was nothing fortunate about Pickford’s brilliance in the penalty shootout.

He reacted well to deny Manuel Akanji and ensure that as long as England’s takers made no errors – an Achilles heel for the Three Lions in past major tournaments – they would progress to the last four.

Cole Palmer, Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka, Ivan Toney and Trent Alexander-Arnold all dispatched their spot-kicks with ice-cold composure, putting preparation from the training ground into practice under intense pressure.

Penalty turning point and Watkins heroics

Video caption, Highlights: Watkins sends England to Euro 2024 final

In their semi-final, England once again had to come from behind after Xavi Simons rifled in an early goal for the Netherlands.

And they were indebted to a good bit of fortune when Kane was awarded a controversial penalty. He stepped up to equalise from the spot and change the momentum of the tie.

And with extra time looming, Ollie Watkins, on as a substitute for Kane fired in a 90th-minute winner with an excellent low strike from an acute angle to propel England into a second successive Euros final.

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