Fitness and Training

England win 5-3 on penalties

England 1-1 Switzerland

England stepped back from the brink of a Euro 2024 exit again as they secured a semi-final place with victory over Switzerland on penalties in Dusseldorf.

Gareth Southgate’s side, who were rescued by Jude Bellingham’s spectacular late equaliser in the last 16 against Slovakia, were in trouble once more when Breel Embolo stole in at the far post to put Switzerland ahead with only 15 minutes left.

Bukayo Saka then produced a moment of individual brilliance of the sort England have relied on heavily throughout the tournament to equalise with a fierce low shot five minutes later.

Extra time failed to find a winner, England going through with a set of flawless penalties after goalkeeper Jordan Pickford saved Manuel Akanji’s first spot-kick.

Cole Palmer, Jude Bellingham, Saka and Ivan Toney were all successful before substitute Trent Alexander-Arnold hammered home the decisive penalty in front of England’s delirious supporters.

England have advanced to the Euro 2024 semi-finals almost by stealth, producing another lifeless performance here and going behind before digging themselves out of a hole to win.

Southgate was finally able to celebrate victory in his 100th game in charge but only after another agonising 120 minutes and an anxious period when it looked like England were going out.

It was a particularly sweet moment for Liverpool’s Alexander-Arnold to strike the decisive penalty, having been dropped from his experimental midfield role after their second game, against Denmark, then being overlooked when Southgate decided to use wing-backs.

England’s new three-at-the-back strategy looked more comfortable for the players but against the well-organised and confident Swiss, lacked threat just as much as Southgate’s previous plans.

As with Bellingham’s equaliser 86 seconds from the end of normal time against Slovakia, Saka’s shot to keep England alive was their first on target of the match.

England, ultimately, will not care as it was a case of job done but there is surely a limit to how often they can make life difficult for themselves before they get off the hook.

Saka’s goal was just reward for a man-of-the-match display, while Aston Villa’s Ezri Konsa was impeccable in defence as deputy for suspended Marc Guehi.

Kobbie Mainoo also excelled in midfield but it remains a mystery why an England side so packed with attacking riches looks so impotent for so long – something Southgate will have to solve before their semi-final against either the Netherlands or Turkey in Dortmund.

For now, however, England can celebrate living on their nerves but staying alive at Euro 2024.

England manager Southgate was so confident in his collection of penalty takers that he felt able to remove captain and spot-kick expert Harry Kane from the fray with 11 minutes of extra time left.

Kane, who was off the pace throughout, had taken a heavy knock then fallen awkwardly into the dugout before Southgate sent on Toney.

Toney’s penalty expertise has been on show in the Premier League for Brentford, so when it came to penalties, Southgate had an impressive group to seal a semi-final place and the striker did not disappoint.

Palmer – labelled “Cool” Palmer for his nerveless approach from 12 yards at Chelsea – set England on their way before Bellingham, Saka, Arsenal’s penalty taker, and Toney set the stage for Alexander-Arnold’s thunderous finale.

It will give Southgate a feeling of security in these nail-biting situations to have those specialists to call on.

A miserable personal match for England captain Kane was capped when Southgate removed him from the action in extra time with this Euro 2024 quarter-final still finely balanced.

Kane looked nothing like his usual self against Switzerland, barely able to rise for a header and worryingly lacking in mobility for much of the game.

There was no shortage of effort but Kane, who has had a back injury, appeared jaded and struggled to make any impact – with his game then cut short following a painful fall that took him into Southgate in the technical area, with a tumble then into the dugout.

Southgate will still count on his captain for the semi-final but there was no question he was out of sorts here.

source – BBC

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