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    ‘You got it wrong’: Poms backflip over coach as ‘brave gamble’ shows ‘huge balls’ — UK View

    England took a long time to get going in Germany but march on to Berlin to face Spain in Monday morning’s [AEST] Euro 2024 final buoyed by more late drama and their best performance of the tournament to beat the Netherlands 2-1.

    Ollie Watkins was the unlikely hero for the Three Lions as the Aston Villa striker smashed in a stoppage-time winner in Dortmund, having only played 20 minutes in the previous five games.

    So often derided for his failure to change games from the bench despite the depth of talent at his disposal, England boss Gareth Southgate could drink in the acclaim in Dortmund as his bold substitutions made a decisive impact.

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    Clutch England secures Euros final | 00:52

    With the game slipping out of his side’s grasp after a dominant first half, Southgate replaced captain Harry Kane and Phil Foden with Watkins and Cole Palmer 10 minutes from time.

    The two subs combined as Watkins spun onto Palmer’s pass and fired low and hard into the far corner to send England into a first ever major tournament final on foreign soil.

    Former England striker Alan Shearer said on BBC Radio 5 Live that the changes Southgate made were “perfect”.

    “At times, yes Gareth Southgate has been criticised,” Shearer said.

    “But, in that first half tonight I thought it was magnificent, it was more like what we wanted – he deserves all the credit.”

    Roy Keane, meanwhile, said on ITV Sport that while Southgate has done a “brilliant job”, the focus now has to be on winning Monday’s final to secure the ultimate vindication.

    “He’s created an environment for players to go out and express themselves, there’s been a bit of luck but we all need that,” Keane said.

    “He’s made some big decisions before this tournament, with Grealish and Rashford [being left out]… but he’s got to go and finish it now.

    “His stats are fantastic and if he can get the trophy at the end, it’ll be amazing for him.”

    England’s head coach Gareth Southgate celebrates. (Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP)Source: AFP

    Jamie Carragher, meanwhile, wrote in a column for The Telegraph UK that “replacing Harry Kane with Ollie Watkins showed that the England manager has learned from his mistakes”.

    “Three years ago Gareth Southgate failed to make the change that could have won England the European championships,” he wrote.

    “On Wednesday night in Dortmund he made one that may reverberate through the country’s football history.

    “Southgate’s journey as England manager can be encapsulated by these two moments, the first when he failed to substitute Harry Kane and the second when he did.

    “There was a period during the semi-final when all I could think about was the 2021 final against Italy. That night at Wembley, one of the reasons England lost was because Southgate had to replace Kane with a striker with more pace and energy – what the modern coaches like to call a “finisher”.

    “Many people analysed the Italy game and argued the defeat was because of negativity. It wasn’t. England’s strategy was fine, but the personnel could not execute it because Kane was unable to expose Italy on the counterattack.

    “The echoes against the Dutch were eerie heading towards the climax. Before Ollie Watkins’ winner, the match was almost a mirror image.

    “On both occasions, England made the better start. On both occasions, the opposition manager was forced to rip up plan A and make a tactical change. On both occasions, the opposition’s changes were effective and it looked like Southgate was failing to react to the challenge of his coaching rival.

    “Then we saw the difference between the Southgate of 2021 and the Southgate of 2024.

    Watkins’ introduction won England the match.”

    The win clearly meant a lot. (Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP)Source: AFP

    Meanwhile, Oliver Holt of the Daily Mail described it as a “coaching masterclass”.

    “Maybe now, before it is too late, you are going to say that maybe you got it wrong with Gareth Southgate,” he wrote.

    “Maybe now that he has lead England to back-to-back European Championship finals, you are going to admit what he has done for football in this country.

    “Maybe now, it is time to stop throwing beer cups at him and ridiculing him and making him a stranger in his own land. Because at this football cathedral in the heartlands of the German game, Southgate provided a coaching masterclass on one of the biggest nights of his career.”

    Adam Bate of Sky Sports conceded there were “some underwhelming performances” on the way to the final.

    “They have not been as fluent as their final opponents, that is undeniable,” wrote Bate.

    “The tactical debates have been a feature of their time in Germany, but it is the culture created by Southgate that has carried them through. There is a unity within this group.”

    Getting over the final hump has often been something that has been an issue for Southgate, who guided England to the final in Euro 2020 only to fall short in penalties.

    England also lost 2-1 to France in the 2022 World Cup quarter-finals and went down in extra time to Croatia in the 2018 semi-final.

    Spain will be favourites for the final after their near flawless progress through the tough side of the draw, eliminating hosts Germany and France in the process.

    England’s route to the final has been far more winding and less pleasing on the eye.

    But after surviving thanks to late equalisers against Slovakia and Switzerland in the previous two rounds, England finally produced some substance to match their resilience against the Dutch.

    England is through to the final. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)Source: AFP

    Southgate said on the eve of the game his players’ mentality had changed from a fear of failure to being inspired by what could be by the end of this week.

    “The most important thing is that the whole squad are ready to come into the game,” he told ITV.

    “We spend a lot of time with those guys [the substitutes], and I’m so chuffed for Ollie [Watkins].

    “We felt, energy wise, we were starting to lose some pressure [second half]. Ollie can press well and make those runs in behind. We thought it was a good moment to try him.

    “We deserved to win tonight. We were very fluid in our formation, it wasn’t just a back three, we had to adapt all the time and the players made so many good decisions.”

    Southgate’s switch of system since the quarter-final to get both Foden and Jude Bellingham playing in the central roles they have thrived for Manchester City and Real Madrid has aid dividends.

    Foden has so far had to live in Bellingham’s shadow at the Euros, despite winning the Premier League player of the year accolade in City’s title triumph.

    This time Foden was the main man, tearing the Dutch defence to shreds with his subtle touches and piercing runs in behind.

    Dumfries denied him a first goal of the tournament by centimetres by clearing off the line after Foden nutmegged Verbruggen.

    The post then stood in Foden’s way as a dipping strike from distance just did not have the desired curl to find the top corner.

    England’s energy reserves after two bouts of extra time were tested in a far more sedate second half.

    But Southgate learned his lesson from defeat by Croatia in the 2018 World Cup semi-finals and the Euro 2020 final against Italy by injecting fresh energy from the bench.

    He was rewarded with a second consecutive Euros final and the chance to end 58 years of hurt for English football in Berlin.

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