England 1-1 Switzerland [AET; 5-3 on pens]: Three Lions win shootout to reach semifinal

England have done it. They’ve not only reached the EURO2024 semifinals – they’ve won a penalty shootout in the process, with Trent Alexander-Arnold bundling home the decisive effort after Manuel Akanji was denied by Jordan Pickford.

Victory in Düsseldorf was far from easy, and England looked set to be crashing out when Breel Embolo tucked home the opener with just fifteen minutes remaining. Bukayo Saka responded swiftly, restoring parity and forcing thirty additional minutes in North Rhine-Westphalia.

England will face the Netherlands or Türkiye in Dortmund on July 10, with those two aforementioned teams facing off in Berlin later this evening.

(Photo by Matt McNulty – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

As it happened

When a changed England side took to the field in Düsseldorf on Saturday, the outcome of this third quarterfinal clash was too close to call. Would England’s tweaked system prove to be the key, or would Murat Yakin’s structurally disciplined Switzerland continue to impress?

The early signs looked to point towards an England victory. Operating on the right flank, Bukayo Saka consistently terrorised Michel Aebischer – but shots on target were hard to come by, and the half-hour mark rolled around before any real chances worth noting.

Kobbie Mainoo came the closest to finding a first-half opener after Saka danced past Rubén Vargas and then Aebischer on the right before laying the ball off for the young midfielder, though his fearsome effort was put behind for a corner by a well-timed Granit Xhaka challenge.

As the hour mark approached, the momentum fell for Switzerland. Ricardo Rodríguez’s cross was whipped in beautifully for Breel Embolo; his diving header was deflected away from danger by Ezri Konsa to allow Jordan Pickford an easy save.

Fifteen minutes later, however, he’d be successful. Fabian Schär picked out Vargas with a well-placed forward pass, and the resulting first-time cross was flicked away from goal by John Stones – but only as far as the arriving Embolo at the back post.

“I de Nati, de Schwizer Nati, do isch de Breel dihei, oh Embolo, oh Embolo,” sang the Swiss fans, with their adaptation of The Lion Sleeps Tonight seemingly set to provide the soundtrack of the final quarter-hour in Düsseldorf.

(Photo by Cathrin Mueller – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

Bukayo Saka had a different idea. When all else fails, it’s a moment of individual brilliance that can define matches – and the Arsenal man was desperate to be that individual. Played in by Declan Rice on the right, the 22-year-old cut inside, past Aebischer and Steven Zuber, unleashing a curling strike that deflected in via the far post. England were back in it.

But just as the referee looked destined to announce an additional thirty minutes, a slight touch from Embolo ended Switzerland’s hopes of a late winner. Schär’s cross looked to be falling perfectly for the goalscorer but under pressure from Kyle Walker, he merely scuffed his attempt and the change of flight reduced Dan Ndoye’s chances of picking up the pieces to zero.

England looked to record the brighter start in extra time, forcing Yann Sommer into action after just five minutes to push Rice’s long-range drive wide of the post – but it was Switzerland that would go on to force the better chances, with Silvan Widmer’s cross for Denis Zakaria hooked away by John Stones at the last minute.

Xherdan Shaqiri struck the post too with just three minutes remaining, and Pickford was forced to work to punch away Zeki Amdouni’s effort from the edge of the box, but England somehow clung on to force a shootout.

Pickford demonstrated impeccable composure to deny Manuel Akanji after Cole Palmer had opened the scoring – and following successful efforts from Jude Bellingham, Saka and Ivan Toney, Trent Alexander-Arnold’s fifth attempt ensured the Three Lions reach the semifinals, and Gareth Southgate’s England tenure will extend past the 100-match milestone.

The lineups

ENG: Pickford; Konsa, Stones, Walker; Trippier, Rice, Mainoo, Saka; Bellingham, Foden; Kane

SUI: Sommer; Rodríguez, Akanji, Schär; Aebischer, Xhaka, Freuler, Ndoye; Vargas, Rieder; Embolo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *