Watkins' late stunner fires England into Euro 2024 final

Ollie Watkins’ late stunner fired England to a 2-1 win over Netherlands, sending the Three Lions into the Euro 2024 final against Spain in Berlin.

England have now reached the final of back-to-back European Championships, with Sunday’s showpiece the first time the men’s team have progressed to a major tournament final on foreign soil.

Watkins was the goalscoring hero, collecting a pass from fellow substitute Cole Palmer in added-on time before shooting into the far corner and sparking wild scenes across the country.

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England fans across the country went wild as Gareth Southgate’s men booked their place in the European Championship final

The Three Lions were dazzling in the first half, powered by Phil Foden and Kobbie Mainoo.

They had to come from behind for the third time in the knockout stages too. A brilliant strike from Xavi Simons (7) put the Dutch ahead, although it came after Declan Rice had his pocket picked in his own half.

England’s equaliser 11 minutes later came in controversial circumstances. Harry Kane took a whack to his right foot from Denzel Dumfries as he shot at goal, with the referee eventually being sent to the pitchside monitor by VAR.

The official then pointed for a penalty which Kane himself took, expertly dispatching past Brighton goalkeeper Bart Verbruggen.

The England captain told ITV Sport after the game: “My foot is hanging off so he did catch me. Sometimes you get them, sometimes you don’t. I was happy to step up and happy to be in the final.”

England dominated the remainder of the first half. Foden twice went close – Dumfries clearing off the line before another effort hit the woodwork. Dumfries also hit the woodwork himself, although Netherlands’ chances were few and far between.

However, the second half saw an unwanted move back to a slower, more laborious England that had been prevalent for much of Euro 2024.

Denzel Dumfries fouls Harry Kane to concede a penalty
Denzel Dumfries fouls Harry Kane to concede a penalty

Jordan Pickford was needed to keep out a Virgil van Dijk effort, while half-time substitute Wout Weghorst made himself a nuisance for a tiring England defence.

Gareth Southgate’s side thought they had gone ahead when Bukayo Saka slotted home from Kyle Walker’s cross – but the latter was marginally offside in the build-up and the goal was ruled out.

Bukayo Saka reacts as his effort is disallowed for offside by VAR
Bukayo Saka reacts as his effort is disallowed for offside by VAR

But there was time for one more chance and it was a sensational finish from Watkins. He was found in the area by Palmer and turned away from Stefan de Vrij before firing home through the defender’s legs and into the far corner, sending the England fans around the world into raptures.

Joe Shread’s England player ratings

England: Pickford (6), Walker (6), Stones (7), Guehi (7), Saka (7), Mainoo (8), Rice (6), Trippier (5), Foden (8), Bellingham (6), Kane (7).

Subs used: Shaw (7), Palmer (7), Watkins (8), Gallagher (n/a), Konsa (n/a).

Player of the match: Ollie Watkins.

Drink it in: England’s victory in pictures

Gareth Southgate celebrates England's victory at the final whistle
Ollie Watkins and Jude Bellingham celebrate the Aston Villa striker's late winner against the Netherlands
Ollie Watkins celebrates his late winner with the England substitutes

Analysis: England’s extraordinary belief

When Ronald Koeman changed things tactically, there were echoes of those past near misses. What would Gareth Southgate do now? The answer was take off Harry Kane and Phil Foden for Ollie Watkins and Cole Palmer. The two combined for the winner.

Huge for the country, huge for Southgate. England’s football history is still about 1966 and all that. But the other two finals that the men have now reached, the majority, in fact, have come under the leadership of the oft-criticised Southgate.

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Watkins insisted his friends and family told him beforehand he was going to score and make a difference for England against Netherlands

“There has been a definite shift,” he had suggested beforehand when referring to the mood within his squad. He talked of the expectation weighing heavily on England during the group stage. Into the last four but no longer favourites, it just felt different.

There was a dip, of course there was. Maybe it was fatigue, more likely it was the tactical tweak by Koeman that squeezed the space for England’s most creative players. But once again they found a way. It has happened too often now to be a coincidence.

Read the full feature on how England find these big moments

Southgate: Another Euro final is my best achievement

Match-winner Ollie Watkins is congratulated by Gareth Southgate
Match-winner Watkins is congratulated by Gareth Southgate

England manager Gareth Southgate to ITV Sport:

“This has to be the best [achievement]. It’s another landmark, but the way we played, we played so well throughout the game. It was a complicated game, they kept changing, we had to respond. We caused them problems all night and the end is so special for the squad.

“The most important thing is that the whole squad are ready to come into the game. We spend a lot of time with those guys [the substitutes], and I’m so chuffed for Ollie.

“We felt, energy-wise, we were starting to lose some pressure [in the second half]. Ollie can press well and make those runs in behind. We thought it was a good moment to try him.

“We deserved to win. We were very fluid in our formation, it wasn’t just a back three, we had to adapt all the time and the players made so many good decisions.”

Koeman: We maybe deserved extra-time

Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman to ITV Sport:

“My feeling was in the last 20, 25 minutes, maybe our team is a little bit more fresh than England.

“But they scored a late goal in the last minute and that’s football. Sometimes I don’t say it’s unlucky because it’s a great goal.

“Maybe we deserved extra-time, but it’s like that. We can be proud about our team, our players because we had a great tournament and unlucky that it stops tonight.”

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David Ornstein from The Athletic and the Daily Mail’s Riath Al-Samarrai discuss if ‘underdogs’ England can defeat favourites Spain in the Euro 2024 final

England reach the final of Euro 2024: What they said

Goalscorer Ollie Watkins to ITV: “I said to Cole Palmer: ‘We’re coming on today and you’re going to set me up’. I knew, as soon as he got the ball, he was going to play me in and you’ve got to be greedy. Touch, finish and when I’ve seen it go in the bottom corner, it was the best feeling ever.”

Gary Neville to ITV: “Spain, they have been the best team and played the best football. So we’ve got our work cut but it feels like something is happening. Things are stacking up in England’s favour and that builds confidence.”

Roy Keane to ITV: “I’d have Spain as favourites, but sometimes things are written in the stars for this England team. They should have been out of it a week or so ago, they’ve now got momentum.”

Harry Kane to ITV: “We talk about being ready when it matters. You might get five minutes, one minute but you can make a difference and win us a tournament. Ollie has been waiting, patiently, and what he did was outstanding. He deserves it.”

Jude Bellingham to ITV: “Spain have looked amazing. They’ve been really good but it’s a one-off game and anything can happen. It’ll be interesting to go toe-to-toe with them.”

Stats: Story of the match

How Euro 2024 finalists were decided

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