Watkins’ Stoppage-Time Winner Propels England to Euro Final

Ollie Watkins and Gareth Southgate, Euro 2024
Ollie Watkins and Gareth Southgate, Euro 2024 (PC: Euro 2024/X)

Super-sub Ollie Watkins’ stoppage-time winner helped England defeat the Netherlands in the thrilling second semi-final of the ongoing Euro. With this win at Signal Iduna Park in Germany, Gareth Southgate’s men have reached back-to-back Euro finals. They will now face Spain, aiming to reverse the outcome they experienced in the 2020 final against Italy. England kicked off this match with a historical advantage, having won 13 out of the previous 32 matches against the Dutch, while the Netherlands had only nine wins, and 10 matches ended in draws.

However, before this clash, there was some disappointment with England’s performance under Southgate despite having quality players in every position. Defensively, they were exceptional, but even with the availability of Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka, and Phil Foden in the attacking department, scoring goals from open play had been a struggle, leaving fans frustrated. On the other hand, Ronald Koeman’s team found their rhythm as the tournament progressed, though their defense was somewhat questionable.

Regarding the match, the Euro 2020 runners-up began with better control, especially in midfield, compared to the Dutch. However, they struggled to penetrate the final third of the Dutch defense led by Virgil van Dijk. Against the run of play, Xavi Simons scored a stunning goal, stealing the ball from Declan Rice and dribbling down the middle before taking an outrageous shot from distance to find the top left corner. England responded immediately, launching constant attacks on the Netherlands’ defence, resulting in a penalty.

Denzel Dumfries fouled Kane when the England captain attempted a volley at the goal. After a brief VAR check, the referee awarded a penalty, and Kane scored the equaliser in the 18th minute. This was his sixth goal in the knockout stages of the UEFA European Championship, more than any other player in the tournament’s history. It was also his ninth goal in the knockout stages of major tournaments (World Cup/Euro), the most by any European player.

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Gareth Southgate bringing on Ollie Watkins and Cole Palmer
Gareth Southgate bringing on Ollie Watkins and Cole Palmer (PC: Euro 2024/X)

The match saw more action involving Dumfries, who made a goal-line save and hit the crossbar with a header off a corner within the next 12 minutes. In the 32nd minute, Manchester City’s Phil Foden took a left-footed curler that unfortunately hit the post. Netherlands’ fans were frustrated as their star player, Memphis Depay, left the field due to an injury, with Joey Veerman replacing him.

The second half started at a slower pace, and both teams made changes, but neither could break through the opposition’s defence to score. In the 79th minute, Saka scored a simple tap-in from a Kyle Walker delivery, but it was called offside by the linesman due to Foden’s pass to Walker. The following minute saw Southgate bring in Cole Palmer and Watkins, a move that ultimately proved to be a game-changer for the Three Lions.

In stoppage time, Watkins, the Aston Villa forward, came up with a superb finish, assisted by Chelsea’s Palmer, giving England the much-needed lead. The final whistle blew, resulting in heartbreak for the Dutch players and fans. With a scoreline of 2-1, England qualified for the final for the second consecutive time, reaching the final in two of their last four major tournaments under Southgate. After scoring on his first chance at this Euro, Watkins said: “I swear on my life, my kid’s life, I said to Cole Palmer: we’re coming on today and you’re gonna set me up.” The final between Spain and England will take place on July 15th, at the Olympiastadion in Berlin, Germany.

Also Read: England hold slight edge against the Netherlands in Euro 2024 semis