Southgate says Saka, England stars ‘made so many good decisions on the field’, hails ‘phenomenal’ Trippier

Matt Stead
England player Bukayo Saka celebrates with manager Gareth Southgate
Bukayo Saka is definitely Gareth Southgate's favourite England player

Gareth Southgate praised one “soldier” and said Arsenal star Bukayo Saka summed up how his England heroes had to make “so many good decisions on the field”.

England reached their second consecutive European Championship final with a win from behind against the Netherlands in Dortmund, setting up a clash with Spain on Sunday.

Harry Kane equalised from the spot 11 minutes after Xavi Simons’ opener, with Virgil van Dijk and Ronald Koeman raging against a referee which “destroys football”.

England and Netherlands were fairly evenly matched thereafter until Ollie Watkins scored a stunning winner in the 90th minute to send Southgate’s side through.

The manager’s substitutions were crucial, with Watkins and Cole Palmer combining for the winning goal 10 minutes after coming on together to replace Kane and the impressive Phil Foden.

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Southgate also brought on Ezri Konsa and Conor Gallagher to see out the victory in stoppage time, while Luke Shaw replaced Kieran Trippier at half-time as the Newcastle defender continues to manage a groin injury.

“We didn’t want to take any chances,” Southgate said. “We had it in our minds bringing Luke into the game at some point and still deciding how long for.

“But we thought finish with the balance was better than starting it. We’ll see how Tripps is, but he has been a soldier.

“The level of performance on the wrong side of the pitch has been phenomenal.”

Southgate went on to specifically hail England’s “character”, adding: “I think definitely tonight we didn’t deserve to be behind.

“We had started really well, we caused a lot of problems it was a very complicated game, they kept changing the way we were building up, so we had to change the way we were defending. But in the end, the players made so many good decisions on the field.

“People like Bukayo Saka, he had to go into midfield to defend and then defend as a winger. It will be a long time since an England team had 60 percent of the ball against the Netherlands so it shows the modern England way but also the resilience.

“Ollie Watkins has trained like that every day, he has been ready for his moment and the whole group has been and it is a group with a lot of new players, half of them had never been to a tournament but they have bonded so well and tonight is a great example.”

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By his own admission, Foden had produced “probably my best game in an England shirt” before he was taken off.

“The last two games have been improvements and the position’s helping me to get on the ball in dangerous areas,” he said.

“I looked more like myself, like I do for [Manchester] City – on the edge of the box, getting shots away.

“The main thing was the team winning but I feel like tonight was probably my best game in an England shirt. I’m delighted.

“It means everything. It’s going to be the biggest game in my career. You can see the smile on my face – I’m just looking forward to it.

“We believe in our ability. We know Spain’s a fantastic team, with the way they keep the ball, but we know our own strengths. It could change all our lives.”

Perhaps Southgate subbed him with penalties in mind.

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