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Southgate lauds England´s battle as Euro 2024 not ´just about playing well´

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 6 Jul 2024

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Gareth Southgate insists Euro 2024 is not just about England “playing well” as the Three Lions manager lauded the character shown in their penalty shoot-out victory over Switzerland in the last eight.

England were once again unconvincing in Dusseldorf and fell behind to Breel Embolo’s 75th-minute opener, only for Bukayo Saka to level shortly after on Saturday.

Penalties followed at Dusseldorf Arena as Jordan Pickford denied Switzerland’s first spot-kick from Manuel Akanji, before Trent Alexander-Arnold coolly slotted in the winning effort to seal a last-four place.

Since Euro 1996, England have played 11 knockout matches at the European Championship and eight of those have gone to extra-time, including the last four in a row.

That may be apportioned to their battling nature, an aspect manager Southgate referenced after a nervy victory in his 100th national game in charge of the senior side.

“I thought the players were brilliant, it is the best we have played,” Southgate said on BBC One. “To come from behind and show character and resilience we did… it isn’t just about playing well.

“Huge performance, huge result and we are still in it. We had to be tactically spot on. We are in a third semi-final and it says a lot about the whole group. I thought we had good control.”

England had lost more shoot-outs than any other nation across the World Cup and Euros (seven), but responded emphatically by converting all five attempts at this edition of UEFA’s top tournament.

Saka knows all too well about spot-kick heartbreak, having missed in the Euro 2020 final against Italy, and Southgate lauded his response after firing past Yann Sommer in the shoot-out.

“It was so brave from Bukayo, he is one of our best and we were never in question he would take one. But we all knew what he went through,” Southgate continued.

England scored every single one of their penalties in the shoot-out (5/5), also doing so against Spain at Euro 1996 (4/4), for just the second time in their 10th penalty shoot-out at major tournaments.

“We have done a lot of work on it. We’ve won three out of four shootouts now,” Southgate added, in quotes published by UEFA’s official website.

“In the end the players have to do it and deliver. For players to come into the game and do what they did, for someone like Bukayo having been what he’s been through to go through that pressure [is great].”

Harry Kane endured another quiet outing, failing to register a shot on target before being removed in extra time, though the England captain has faith in whoever Southgate selects.

“Another tough game and first of all great resilience from the lads to turn it up again,” Kane told BBC One.

“To get the goal, a fantastic finish from Bukayo Saka. Penalties are penalties, but I felt prepared – I was on the side, but I felt comfortable in the lads. Five out of five and a save from Picks!

“We trust in whoever is on the pitch and the difference this year compared to past years is we have proven penalty takers – we have a lot more experience and we showed it out there.”

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