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Watkins’ Last-Minute Strike Sends England To Euro 2024 Final

  • July 10, 2024
  • 3 min read
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Watkins’ Last-Minute Strike Sends England To Euro 2024 Final

Ollie Watkins became England’s hero with a golden touch in the 90th minute, firing a right-footed shot past Netherlands goalkeeper Bart Verbruggen to secure a dramatic 2-1 victory on Wednesday.

The win sends England to their second consecutive European Championship final.

The game seemed destined for extra time after a 1-1 stalemate. However, Cole Palmer found Aston Villa’s Watkins with a perfect pass, and Watkins coolly turned and slotted the ball into the net, sending the English fans into a frenzy.

England, who fell short in the 2021 final against Italy on penalties, will now face Spain in the championship match on Saturday. The Three Lions, despite unconvincing performances throughout the tournament, remain undefeated in their last 13 European Championship games, their longest unbeaten streak in the competition since at least 1992.

The Dutch started strong, with Xavi Simons stunning Jordan Pickford with a long-range strike in the seventh minute. This early goal reflected their recent dominance over England, having won three, drawn one, and lost just one of their previous five encounters.

Unfazed by the setback, England controlled possession and earned a penalty after a VAR check confirmed a foul in the box. Harry Kane, still carrying the weight of his missed penalty against France in the last World Cup, stepped up confidently and converted the penalty to equalize.

The match continued with both sides creating chances. Phil Foden nearly put England ahead, but Denzel Dumfries made a crucial goal-line clearance. Dumfries, a constant threat on both ends, then saw his powerful header rattle the crossbar, narrowly missing a chance to regain the lead for the Netherlands.

The second half featured tactical adjustments from both managers. England brought on Luke Shaw for Kieran Trippier, while the Netherlands replaced Donyell Malen with Wout Weghorst. The game settled into a more cautious rhythm, with both teams focusing on controlled build-up play.

Virgil van Dijk nearly broke the deadlock in the 64th minute with a close-range shot, but Pickford was again equal to the task. England thought they had won it in the 79th minute when Bukayo Saka finished from close range, but the goal was disallowed for offside.

With extra time looming, England manager Gareth Southgate made a bold move, bringing on Palmer and Watkins for Kane and Foden. This gamble paid off handsomely as Palmer set up Watkins for the winning goal in the dying minutes.

England now faces a captivating encounter against Spain in the final. Both nations will be vying to lift the prestigious EURO 2024 trophy.

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Nkanyiso Mchunu

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