Saturday, July 13, 2024

England 2-1 Slovakia: What Were The Main Talking Points As Jude Bellingham Helps The Three Lions Avoid One Of The Darkest Days In Their History?

Tom Dunstan in Editorial, European Championships 1 Jul 2024

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Avoiding what would have been one of the most infamous defeats in their history, Jude Bellingham saved both England and Gareth Southgate’s blushes as they scrapped past Slovakia on Sunday evening.

England were seconds away from an embarrassing exit in Gelsenkirchen as Slovakia defended a lead they had held since the 25th minute when Ivan Schranz raced into the box to poke a low finish past England keeper Jordan Pickford.

Just seconds away from crashing out and facing a major public backlash, it was Real Madrid sensation Jude Bellingham who dragged the Three Lions over the finishing line in the most dramatic of fashion.

Bellingham, who celebrated his 21st birthday on Saturday, demonstrated the brilliance that has made him England’s new superstar by going airborne in the penalty area to send Marc Guehi’s headed flick past Martin Dubravka with a stunning overhead kick.

With the game heading into extra-time, England skipper Harry Kane headed home from close range as Southgate’s men somehow managed to avoid what would have been one of the biggest upsets in European history.

Although Slovakia might have gained a string of plaudits from across the continent following what was a dominant display here, the Falcons will take some time to recover from what was the most painful of EURO 24 heartbreak.

Just about dragging themselves over the finishing line at the Veltins Arena, the Three Lions will now turn their attention to what will be a stern quarter-final challenge when they meet Switzerland on Saturday evening.

On a night when England just about managed to avoid what would have been one of the most infamous defeats in their history, we have taken a look at the key talking points.

King Jude saves England & Southgate

Just seconds away from suffering a major tournament exit that would have surpassed their infamous 2016 exit at the hands of Iceland, it was only one man who saved both England and Southgate on Saturday.

Producing one of the most iconic moments in Three Lions history thanks to his sensational bicycle kick late in stoppage time, Bellingham firmly has the weight of a nation on his shoulders.

Dragging Southgate’s struggling squad over the finishing line and only further cementing his spot as England’s new poster boy, the Real Madrid superstar certainly stole all of the Whites’ headlines here.

Guiding Los Blancos to a famous double-winning campaign last season and also crowned as a Champions League winner at Wembley on June 1st, the former Birmingham starlet has arguably been England’s only positive so far this summer.

Unveiled as Spain’s Player of the Season last season and notching two EURO 24 goals so far this summer following his open weekend strike against Serbia, Bellingham will once again have to play a leading role as England meet Switzerland this weekend for their tricky quarter-final showdown.

The pressure on Southgate’s shoulders reaches a boiling point

Crashing out of the World Cup at the quarter-final stage out in Qatar 18 months ago following a 2-1 loss against France, many had speculated that Southgate would be replaced in the dugout ahead of this summer’s European Championships.

However, although the FA might have made it clear that they were backing Southgate to lead the Three Lions over in Germany this summer, the European giants have drastically struggled to find any kind of fluidity and Southgate has a tremendous amount of pressure on his shoulders.

Signing off their downbeat Group C adventure with a 0-0 stalemate against Slovenia earlier in the week, the former Middlesbrough boss has serious questions that need answering ahead of Saturday’s final eight battle against Switzerland.

With Southgate clearly still not sure what his best starting XI is and constantly tinkering with his midfield options, there are now mounting sections of England’s fanbase that believe that a more attacking minded manager is needed.

Although Southgate might have a real golden generation on his hands and some of Europe’s biggest names at his disposal, the 53-year-old’s negative approach is not what the Three Lions need or want.

The most painful heartbreak for Slovakia

Seconds away from completing what would have been regarded as one of Europe’s biggest upsets on Saturday, there is no doubt that Slovakia will take some time to recover from what was the most painful of heartbreak here.

Opening their EURO 24 adventure with an iconic performance on June 17th as they secured a famous 1-0 win against European heavyweights Belgium, the Falcons have certainly gained a string of plaudits this summer.

Booking a maiden knockout stage ticket and always relishing what was billed as a monumental challenge here, Francesco Calzona’s men caused England a string of problems and were certainly the better side for large spells.

By far the better team with possession and coming close to doubling their advantage on either side of the half-time break, the Blues will still believe that they had done enough to come out on top here.

Although Slovakia might have eventually missed out on the chance to book what would have been an iconic quarter-final showdown against Switzerland, they must find a way to take positives from this summer’s tournament.

Match Report

England: Pickford, Trippier, Guehi, Stones, Walker, Rice, Mainoo, Foden, Bellingham, Saka, Kane

Subs: Palmer, Eze, Toney, Konsa, Gallagher

Slovakia: Dubravka, Hancko, Skriniar, Vavro, Pekarik, Duda, Lobotka, Kucka, Haraslin, Strelec, Schranz

Subs: Bero, Suslov, Bozenik, Gyomber, Tupta, Benes

Goals: England: Bellingham (90+5’), Kane (91’ ET) – Slovakia: Schranz (25’)

Yellow Cards: England: Guehi, Mainoo, Bellingham – Slovakia: Kucka, Vavro, Skriniar, Gyomber, Suslov

Red Cards: N/A

Referee: Umut Meler

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Dunstan


Formerly of The Independent, Tom has spent the past six years as one of our senior writers and betting experts. Alongside working with numerous publications from across the globe, Tom also graduated from the University of Falmouth in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Digital Media.
Spending almost the past decade working in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, he has also spent time featuring in sports radio. Tom can be followed on Instagram - @iamtomdunstan

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