18 days ago

England into Euro semis after shootout win over Switzerland

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After so many painful 12-yard setbacks, England embraced the shootout on Saturday as they beat Switzerland 5-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw to reach the semi-finals of Euro2024 and move to within a step of their first overseas final.

Trent Alexander-Arnold slammed home the decisive last of a faultless five to send England into their third semi-final in four tournaments after Jordan Pickford had saved from Manuel Akanji, according to a Reuters report.

It was the third successive Euro 2024 quarter-final to go to extra time, two of them to penalties, and in the semi-final in Dortmund on Wednesday England will face the winner of the fourth, between Turkey and the Netherlands.

In a game of few chances, Breel Embolo had put Switzerland ahead after 75 minutes, with Bukayo Saka brilliantly levelling five minutes later.

Saka, who missed in England's Euro 2020 final shootout defeat by Italy, stood up again on Saturday and converted confidently in front of a wall of England fans.

"He is so brave, he's one of our best so we were never in any question that he was going to take one," coach Gareth Southgate said of the midfielder.

Southgate, who missed the decisive kick in England's Euro 1996 semi-final, threw off his usual calm demeanour to dance with the players at the end. "Every now and then you think 'Surely there must be some enjoyment in this job?'," he said.

Saka said: "To come back from something like that was really difficult. I used that to make me stronger. Today I took the chance and I'm happy.

Having reached the 1966 World Cup final and 2020 Euros final at Wembley, making it to Berlin next Sunday would be England's first final away from home soil.

To get there they will almost certainly have to find more intensity and accuracy in attack than they showed on Saturday, but the confidence gained from another shootout win after decades of pain will be priceless.

"Incredible. A lot of practice goes into that moment," Alexander-Arnold said of the penalty he smashed into the top corner. "I practice. I knew what spot. I knew I just needed to execute it and I did that."

England came into the game on the back of two dire performances and, though they showed more invention and movement, there was again little end product, and with the Swiss equally cautious, there was barely a meaningful effort on goal for an hour.

Switzerland, impressive victors over Italy last week and seeking their first major semi-final, took the lead when Dan Ndoye whipped in a deflected low cross with Breel Embolo stretching to poke it home.

Southgate responded by immediately throwing on three substitutes – Cole Palmer, Luke Shaw and Eberechi Eze - and five minutes later energised England were level as Saka cut in from the right wing and curled a superb 20-metre left-footed shot in off the far post.

In extra time England's Declan Rice had a fizzing shot from the edge of the box brilliantly saved by a diving Yann Sommer, while Xherdan Shaqiri clipped a post direct from a corner, before the penalties that had felt inevitable almost from the start duly arrived.

Switzerland had lost three of their four major tournament shootouts, while England’s famously uncomfortable record was seven defeats and two wins.

That reads 7-3 now after Cole Palmer, Jude Bellingham, Saka, and Ivan Toney all scored confidently ahead of Alexander-Arnold's finale.

"Huge performance, huge result for us," Southgate said. "To come from behind again and show the character and resilience that we did... winning tournaments isn't just about playing well. I thought we did play well today but you've also got to show all those other attributes to win and we showed them all tonight."

The Swiss also lost in the quarter-finals of the last Euros in a shootout, and coach Murat Yakin said: "After such a performance we didn't deserve to be knocked out.

"We can be really proud of our tournament. To the end we stood as one and the joy we gave to the nation gives a very positive feeling."

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