England beat Switzerland on penalties, reach semi-finals

England march on despite another in a string of underwhelming performances from Gareth Southgate’s men [Getty]

England‘s quest for a first major tournament win in 58 years remained alive after another late fightback before beating Switzerland 5-3 on penalties to book their place in the Euro 2024 semi-finals on Saturday.

After the 120 minutes finished level at 1-1, goalkeeper Jordan Pickford was the Three Lions’ hero in the shoot-out as he saved Switzerland’s first spot-kick from Manuel Akanji.

Cole Palmer, Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka, Ivan Toney and Trent Alexander-Arnold converted their penalties to send England into a semi-final meeting with Turkey or the Netherlands in Dortmund on Wednesday.

After needing Bellingham’s 95th-minute equaliser before going on to beat Slovakia in extra time in the last 16, England were again staring at defeat with 10 minutes to go.

A dreary encounter for the first 75 minutes came to life after Breel Embolo put Switzerland in front.

Saka’s fine strike from outside the box levelled with England’s first shot on target five minutes later.

Manchester City defender Akanji was then the unfortunate penalty villain as Switzerland’s horrible record in major tournament quarter-finals goes on.

They have now lost five without ever reaching a semi-final.

By contrast, England march on despite another in a string of underwhelming performances from Gareth Southgate’s men.

“We know there are two more games, we can change our lives and make more history that’s not been done before,” said man-of-the-match Saka.

In his 100th match in charge of his country, Southgate again resisted calls for mass changes in personnel but did alter his system.

Ezri Konsa made his first ever competitive international start in place of the suspended Marc Guehi as England switched to a back three.

However, contrary to expectation, Saka remained on the right in what proved to be an inspired decision by Southgate.

The Arsenal winger was by far the biggest threat of a first half in which neither side managed a shot on target.

Saka was skipping beyond Michel Aebischer at will and created the best chance of the first period when Kobbie Mainoo saw an effort deflected behind just before the half-time whistle.

The game continued at the same laboured pace from both sides into the second half.

Southgate has been repeatedly criticised for being too slow to influence games with his substitutions.

England make belated changes

Despite having one of the most richly-talented squads at the tournament, it took until they fell behind for the England boss to shake things up.

England looked headed for a meek exit when Embolo pounced at the far post to turn in Dan Ndoye’s deflected cross at the back post.

Southgate reacted immediately with Palmer, Eberechi Eze and Luke Shaw, making his first appearance since February, sent on.

Within five minutes they were level as Saka cut inside and fired low and hard in off the far post.

Switzerland were indebted to a brilliant save from Yann Sommer to deny Declan Rice a second for England early in extra time.

Harry Kane was then forced off injured after a nasty fall into the England dugout.

And it was Switzerland who came closest in the second half of extra time as Xherdan Shaqiri’s corner came back off the woodwork before Pickford parried Zeki Amdouni’s powerful strike from distance.

England had won only one of five previous penalty shoot-outs at the Euros, including defeat by Italy in the final three years ago.

But they were perfect from the spot as Saka erased some of the pain from his decisive miss in the Euro 2020 final.

“For me it is something I embrace,” added Saka. “You can fail once but you have a choice whether to put yourself in that position again.

“I believe we have some of the best takers in the Premier League and in the world.

“We were pretty confident if it came to penalties and showed that today. We scored five out of five and into the next round.”

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