England reporter said: England’s triumph in the shoot-out against Switzerland has reignited their spirits despite lingering challenges

England are riding high on renewed confidence following their thrilling victory over Switzerland in the Euro 2024 quarter-finals, secured via a tense penalty shootout. Sky Sports News’ Rob Dorsett reports that the win has injected a sense of positivity, Thapcamtv as they now look forward to a challenging semi-final clash against the Netherlands. Despite the boost in morale from their shoot-out triumph, England still faces ongoing challenges in terms of tactics and squad selection.

This England club is once again filled with joy

Throughout the majority of Gareth Southgate’s 100 matches in charge, a sense of joy has been ever-present—a feeling he has tirelessly cultivated. This joy seemed on the brink of fading during the dreary last-16 encounter against Slovakia, but now it has returned.

The team has consistently projected a positive front: “close-knit group,” “enjoy each other’s company,” “unfazed by external criticism,” “confidence at an all-time high.” From the moment they convened at their training base on May 28, almost six weeks ago, a steady stream of optimism and camaraderie has emanated from the squad.

However, up until this point, your belief in it was somewhat uncertain.

On the field, discontent is glaringly evident. John Stones and Kyle Walker have been bickering openly, while Jordan Pickford frequently vents frustration at his full-backs. Declan Rice gestures frantically at teammates, and Jude Bellingham often throws his arms up in despair.

Inside the Merkur Spiel-Arena in Dusseldorf, the atmosphere brimmed with unrestrained jubilation and harmony. Players intertwined in embraces, dancing and singing in unison with tens of thousands of English fans who flooded the stadium in a euphoric surge. The manager, now overseeing his 100th match with enduring vigor, also joined the celebration, reflecting on his resilient journey.

Just a fortnight ago, Southgate had to endure a barrage of plastic cups and insults hurled by disgruntled fans as he departed the Cologne pitch following a disappointing 0-0 draw against Slovenia. Yet today, the atmosphere was drastically different. He stood amidst the crowd, directing their cheers, exchanging applause for their unwavering support. What a transformation in mood it has been.

Let’s be clear – the challenges facing this England squad and their style of play are numerous. These challenges may well be starkly evident when they face a formidable Netherlands side in Dortmund on Wednesday. However, there’s a sense that this team has gathered a unique momentum, having endured setbacks that pushed them to the brink, yet managed to rebound, not once but twice.

The current generation of England players do not harbor the same apprehension towards penalties. This fact stands as a noteworthy assertion. England’s tumultuous relationship with penalty shootouts is deeply ingrained in our footballing culture. However, what transpired in Dusseldorf represented a stark departure. It was a moment of redemption in many respects, truly remarkable and unforgettable.

Captain Harry Kane himself acknowledged this reality during our post-match conversation. Despite being England’s premier penalty taker, he found himself in the same position as us spectators, helplessly watching from the sidelines.

Cole Palmer, who had yet to feature in a starting lineup throughout this tournament or any significant competition, took the initial responsibility. Cool as ice, Cole did not flinch.

Jordan Pickford drew upon his wealth of experience facing numerous penalties in the past. He mentioned afterward that the referee had warned him of a potential booking if he didn’t return to his goal line faster. Balancing on that tightrope. His infamous water bottle, containing a condensed encyclopedia of Swiss players’ shooting tendencies, proved accurate once again. According to it, Manuel Akanji would shoot to his left. True to the prediction, Pickford dove left, and England took the lead.

Jude Bellingham delivered as anticipated. Pure class. No theatrics or unexpected turns.

And then there came Bukayo Saka, embodying resilience and positivity within this England squad. A beacon of hope for our society in numerous respects. He shone brightest in the quarter-final, showcasing his skill with an exquisitely crafted curling equalizer. Once more, he demonstrated unwavering courage on the grandest stage, having faced devastating disappointment and abhorrent racist abuse following the last Euros shoot-out.

When he scored so boldly, the entire English media contingent around me rose in unison to celebrate him. Such scenes are rare and generally discouraged by UEFA. Journalists are expected to remain impartial, objective, and restrained. Witnessing every journalist in the press tribune cheer in unified approval and admiration for Saka—it felt like a moment of redemption. It felt truly exceptional.

Ivan Toney shared with me post-game that he experienced no greater nerves than during a penalty for Brentford. He locked eyes with the goalkeeper, anticipated Yann Sommer’s movement, and calmly struck the ball without glancing at it. Remarkable composure

Next was Trent Alexander-Arnold, who appeared devastated as he walked towards the England bus after being abruptly substituted just after half-time during the Denmark game. England’s finest striker of the ball, destined not to miss, right? Indeed. Game over.

Five flawless penalties and one magnificent save. England progressed to the next round.

Fatigued players, yet the 3-2-4-1 formation must remain unchanged

What happens next? The biggest challenge facing England now is their recovery. They’ve played two consecutive 120-minute matches, both physically and emotionally exhausting. Pickford acknowledged that England has endured significant hardships. They require time to recuperate, yet time is not on their side.

While England had six days to prepare for the quarter-final against Switzerland, they now have only three days before facing Netherlands in the semi-final—a significantly shorter period for recovery and preparation, just half the time they had before.

Fortunately, Southgate appears to have discovered a fresh approach that significantly elevated his players’ performance. Both the manager and his assistant, Steve Holland, deserve immense praise for this achievement. Within just three days, they discarded the tactical blueprint that had defined England’s strategy for nearly three years and boldly adopted a new formation and playing style. Their display against Switzerland was arguably the highlight of the tournament, showcasing the effectiveness of the 3-2-4-1 formation.

The extent of England’s dominance for the majority of the quarter-final, coupled with their failure to register a shot on target until Saka’s equalizer, remains deeply concerning and difficult to comprehend. Multiple times, Saka managed to outmaneuver Michel Aebischer and position himself in front of goal, but his crosses failed to find an England player on the receiving end.

Kane’s not quite there physically, I’m certain. If he were, he’d have capitalized on a couple of those crosses. Bellingham and Phil Foden need to step up their game when making runs into the box. Especially Foden, who needs to rediscover his scoring prowess from his Manchester City days if he wants to contribute to England’s Euro championship ambitions.

However, I was impressed by his ability to connect with teammates. In recent England matches, I haven’t seen him play poorly, and he seems to be gaining more influence. The synergy and communication between the two ‘number 10s’ were effective.

Southgate faces a dilemma with Shaw

Southgate faces a significant decision regarding Luke Shaw. Originally intending to ease him back with just 15 minutes on the pitch following a hamstring injury sidelining him since mid-February, Shaw ended up playing 45 minutes against Switzerland. The crucial question now is how this has impacted his physical condition. Has it strengthened or weakened him? Only Southgate and his medical team can accurately assess this. The next challenge for the manager is whether Shaw can handle starting in a high-stakes semi-final, given it’s only four days after his first appearance in almost five months. This would be an enormous demand on Shaw.

His presence with his left foot on the left side would be a significant advantage. Trippier’s consistency and adaptability have been remarkably impressive. He has been a mainstay throughout the Southgate era, despite being a natural right-back playing out of position on the left flank. I have a feeling he might retain his spot for the semi-final.

Monday and Tuesday will be crucial for the England team as they prepare for their upcoming match against the Netherlands. These are the sole training sessions available to refine their tactics. Typically, Monday serves as an orientation to coach Southgate and assistant Steve Holland’s strategic insights, with final adjustments and decisions made on Tuesday.

Even among England’s severest detractors – a group that seemed plentiful in their white jerseys, based on conversations I had in the lively bars of Dusseldorf before the quarter-final – one cannot help but acknowledge the remarkable courage and resilience displayed by this team. From a stunning 96th-minute overhead goal that secured their place in the tournament, to flawlessly executed penalty kicks in the quarter-final that propelled them forward, their performance commands respect.

Through sheer determination and grit, England have propelled themselves into a major semi-final, despite managing to win only one of their five matches within regular 90 minutes.

The resilience and unwavering determination of their character should not be overlooked. While it may not suffice alone to unsettle the Netherlands, it has brought them this close. With just one game remaining, they stand on the brink of a Euro final in Berlin.

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