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‘We came here to make history’: Southgate eyes glory after England make Euro final

A last gasp goal from substitute Ollie Watkins earned the Three Lions at dramatic 2-1 win over the Netherlands in the semi-final last night.

England will now face Spain in Sunday’s final in Berlin after their best performance of the tournament so far.

Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate will receive much of the praise after the winning goal was created and scored by two substitutes he brought on with around 10 minutes left to play.

Cole Palmer, who replaced Man City star Phil Foden, picked up the ball in midfield before slotting it to Watkins on the edge of the area.

Watkins took a touch before firing the ball into the bottom left corner of the Dutch goal.

England reach Euros final: As it happened

The Aston Villa striker quickly silenced any critics who may have had their doubts when he replaced captain Harry Kane as the game looked set to be going into extra time.

Asked about his decision to take off Kane at such a crucial moment, Southgate told a news conference after the match: “Harry took quite a big knock when he won the penalty so we weren’t sure how long he would be able to play on for.

“Him and Phil (Foden) were playing well, but we were losing a little bit of energy… Certainly we weren’t taking Phil off because of his performance, but we have got good players on the bench with freshness we felt could help us.

“And you know, we wanted to make that gamble in normal time rather than wait until extra time.”

Read more:
How celebs celebrated England’s dramatic semi-final win
From non-league football to England hero: The rise of Ollie Watkins

The King was one of the first to congratulate the team and wish them luck ahead of the final, before adding in a tongue-in-cheek manner: “If I may encourage you to secure victory before the need for any last minute wonder-goals or another penalties drama, I am sure the stresses on the nation’s collective heart rate and blood pressure would be greatly alleviated!”

The England men’s team have never won the Euros and success on Sunday night would see them lift their first trophy since the World Cup in 1966.

The Three Lions survived a scare in the 64th minute of Wednesday night’s semi-final when keeper Jordan Pickford was forced to make a good save following an effort from Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk.

The Netherlands had the initiative in the minutes that followed as another Liverpool player, this time forward Cody Gakpo, swept in a menacing cross that forced Pickford to guide the ball out for a corner.

Three Lions impress in entertaining first half

The game had started badly for England after Declan Rice was dispossessed in midfield before a wonder strike from Xavi Simons from outside the area put the Dutch 1 – 0 up after just seven minutes.

England responded brightly, but many will feel they were fortunate to be awarded a penalty following a challenge from Dutch defender Denzel Dumfries on Kane.

The England captain, who had been criticised for his performances in the tournament so far, struck the ball into the bottom left corner to level the score after 18 minutes.

England were unlucky to go ahead minutes later when Foden slotted the ball through the Dutch keeper’s legs only for his effort to be cleared off the line by Dumfries.

The Dutch defender was at the centre of the action for a third time when his headed effort struck the England crossbar minutes later.

In an entertaining first half, Foden then struck the post with a superb long range effort down the other end.

England will now play an impressive Spain side in Sunday’s final in the German capital.

Southgate says facing arguably the best team of the tournament so far, with a day less preparation than their opponents, will be a “huge task.”

“We’ve come here to win, we play the team that’s been the best team in the tournament. We have a day less to prepare, so it’s a huge task. But we’re still here and we’re fighting,” he said.

“It’s not as simple as us having the ball and making them run. They press very, very well so we’re going to have to be exceptional with the ball and we’re going to have to be exceptional without it. It’s a final so you expect it to be that way.

“They’ve been the best team. We’re starting to show a better version of ourselves.”

Spain have won every one of their games in the tournament so far – knocking out European giants France, Italy and Germany.

All eyes will be on 16-year-old wonderkid Lamine Yamal in the tournament’s closing fixture – with the teenager scoring a sensational goal to help his side overcome France in Tuesday’s semi-final.

It was Yamal’s finest moment in a tournament where his ability to take on players and create chances had already seen him emerge as a breakout star.

London is already gearing up for the weekend’s final with Sadiq Khan, London mayor, announcing that the O2 Arena in Greenwich will be hosting “the capital’s largest screening” of the match.

Tickets for the event will be given away through a ballot which opens at 10am on Thursday on the City Hall website.

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