Southgate hails ‘tight’ squad as England boss ranks Netherlands win among Three Lions achievements

Will Ford
Gareth Southgate celebrates England win over the Netherlands.
Gareth Southgate celebrates with the England fans

Gareth Southgate believes reaching the final of Euro 2024 is the greatest achievement of his England tenure after Ollie Watkins’ dramatic late strike set up a showdown against Spain on Sunday.

Watkins struck as extra-time loomed to secure a 2-1 win over the Netherlands after Harry Kane’s controversial first-half penalty had cancelled out Xavi Simons’ early goal.

The win means England are through to the final of a major tournament on foreign soil for the first time.

And asked where that ranked for him personally, Southgate said on ITV: “I think it has to be the best, it’s another landmark, but we played well through the game.

“It was a complicated game. They kept changing, we had to keep changing how we were defensively especially but I thought we caused problems all night and the end is so special for the squad. It’s an example of what this squad are giving to the cause.”

Southgate had turned to his bench with 10 minutes of the match to go, replacing Kane and Phil Foden with Watkins and Cole Palmer, and it was the two substitutes who combined for the winning goal.

“Sometimes (substitutions) can work that way,” Southgate added. “The most important thing is all the squad are ready to come into the game, we’ve kept tight, it’s hard with 26 – you disappoint 15 every time but you spend a lot of time with those guys, their attitude has been exemplary.

“I’m so chuffed for Ollie to get his moment. We just felt energy-wise we were starting to lose a bit and Harry got a knock in the first half of course. Ollie presses well, he makes runs behind and we thought it was a good moment to try it.”

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England’s 18th-minute penalty was dubious – awarded following the intervention of the VAR after Kane was caught by Denzel Dumfries, who had been trying to block a shot from the England captain.

However, Southgate said his side deserved victory on the balance of play.

“We also had Phil’s shot cleared off the line, the disallowed goal was inches again, so I think we deserved the win tonight,” he said.

“The opponent gave us a little bit more space. In the early games we didn’t have any space to play. We were very fluid, Bukayo (Saka) did a brilliant job to cover inside. We had to adapt but all the players made so many good decisions on the pitch.”