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Talking Points: England’s Euro 2024 journey takes them to the final!

When Xavi Simons flashed a shot past Jordan Pickford early in the first half, another tricky night could’ve been in prospect against Ronald Koeman’s well-drilled and dogged side, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned about England during this tournament, it’s there’s no such thing as a lost cause and that they’ve got the fortitude to dig out results when things look tricky.
Shortly afterwards, a fortuitous VAR call gave Harry Kane the chance to equalise from the penalty spot, which he duly did, and from then on, we proceeded to turn in our best display of the competition, with Phil Foden and Kobbie Mainoo running the show and Bukayo Saka keeping the Dutch defence on their toes.
The second half was slightly more cagey as Koeman’s side slowed the game down and tried to neutralise England’s threats, but the decision to bring on Ollie Watkins for Kane eventually paid dividends, with the Aston Villa striker making it 2-1 with a fabulous finish in the dying seconds.
This has been a memorable tournament for a variety of reasons, and England might not have played the kind of football we’d all like to see, but in tournament football, results are everything and it’s now onto Berlin, where we’ll play Spain in the showpiece game.
Can we take the final step and succeed where so many England teams have failed since 1966? Why not? Gareth Southgate proves his doubters wrong once again
It’s one of football’s most curious quirks of fate that the man who was at the helm when Middlesbrough were relegated from the Premier League has now taken England to two European finals, but only fans with a heart of stone would begrudge Southgate fulsome praise at this stage.
Yes, he has his detractors and his style of play and tactical approach will always be questioned, but the facts are that he’s taken England to places that many of us have ever experienced in our lifetime, and he’s done so with grace, dignity, humility, and passion.
He’s been under the microscope for a long time (not least from one or two borderline spiteful figures in the media), but he’s stood firm, the players have backed him, and this is the end result.
After the costly failures of supposed ‘proper managers’ in the likes of Fabio Capello, Southgate has rejuvenated the national team, and he’s defied the critics during England’s run in Germany. Let’s hope he’s got one more memorable night still to come. England show their fighting spirit
If there’s one thing this England team has in abundance (aside from the mountains of personal accolades and goals racked up in domestic football) it’s resilience by the bucketload, and although we avoided the drama of extra time and the possibility of another penalty shootout, we had to dig deep, keep working, and wait for the moment to arrive.
You can’t question this group’s team spirit and sense of togetherness, and this was illustrated when the substitutes flooded onto the pitch to celebrate with Ollie Watkins after his winning goal.
After years of club rivalries proving a hindrance whenever players pulled on an England shirt, the barriers have been broken down and the result is a team who’ll fight for each other- and the fans- right until the final whistle.
Southgate, his coaching staff, and the players themselves deserve huge credit for the cultural shift that’s taken place since 2016. It’s allowing England to progress deeply into tournaments, and it’s something that simply wasn’t the case for so many years. Jordan Pickford takes the rave to Berlin
Yes, he hasn’t played for Sunderland in seven years, and no, I don’t care, because anyone who denies the greatness of the Washington-born stopper is either blinkered, attempting to be edgy, looking at football through black and white-tinted spectacles, or a combination of the three.
He didn’t have to dive left, right and centre to keep the Dutch out last night, but that doesn’t matter, because Pickford’s mere presence in the team spreads calmness through the defence and gives everyone the comfort of knowing that an elite operator is between the sticks.
He’s the best England goalkeeper in decades; he’s as commanding a figure as we’ve had during the last fifty years, and he’s got another chance to win a European title on Sunday.
Oh, and he’s one of our own!

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