England beat Swiss on penalties to head into last four

July 6 – England defeated Switzerland 5-3 from the penalty spot after a 1-1 draw to reach the last four of Euro 2024. 

In the end, England prevailed. Just about. They had fallen behind, clawed their way back into the match, hung on in the final minutes of extra time, and ultimately won, almost uncharacteristically, from the penalty spot.

It wasn’t the free flowing, excitement English fans had been calling for, but it was the win they wanted.

Jordan Pickford saved Manuel Akanji’s penalty, Switzerland’s first, and from the point they couldn’t keep up as the English hammered their five penalties home.

Southgate, in his 100th match for England, punched the air, and the fans rocked the stadium to the tunes of Freed from Desire. Suddenly, England are just 90 minutes away from a second consecutive European championship final.

England and Southgate had tricked everyone all week long, hinting at a back-three formation with Bukayo Saka in a wing-back role, but all the chatter about a formational switch was nothing but a smokescreen.

Breel Embolo, who scored first for Switzerland is challenged by Kobbie Mainoo 

The England manager reverted to type, fielding Ezri Konsa alongside John Stones at the heart of his defence. It seemed that Southgate still felt England didn’t need much of a left side.

Much of the week, England’s camp had spoken about Jude Bellingham’s goal being a turning point, but how Southgate wanted to improve his side with the same old formation was unclear. The inertia of the past four matches had been damning and yet England were still in the tournament.

There were some early signs of encouragement as England moved and attacked better. They got stuck in and perhaps enjoyed their best spell of the championship, controlled the game and Saka found some space in behind Rodriguez, but that did not translate into opportunities.

The Swiss never generated the pressing that had bamboozled the Italians in the round of 16, but even as Murat Yakin’s side struggled to get out of their own half, England’s pace was simply too pedestrian to hurt them.

Up front, Harry Kane looked lost, verging on the invisible. The striker was eventually taken off after he was sent sprawling into the England bench in extra time.

Saka turned Michel Abeischer and crossed for the infiltrating Kobbie Mainoo, but a last-ditch intervention from Swiss captain Granit Xhaka prevented Mainoo from getting his shot away. By half-time, neither side had managed an attempt on target. Perhaps, the Swiss were the happier side returning to the dressing room. Their low block had frustrated Southgate’s side.

Granit Xhaka of Switzerland runs with the ball whilst under pressure from Harry Kane 

England had shown glimpses of some of the likable Southgate teams of the past, but it was hard to call the first half an improvement on previous Euro 2024 performances. England were still living dangerously close to the great nothingness.

Not that Switzerland were menacing, but at least Breel Emobolo was responsible for the first attempt on target in the 51st minute with a weak ball on the turn that Jordan Pickford collected.

The striker then headed a ball straight into the arms of the England number one after good defending from Konsa. It was a good passage of play for Switzerland, who were enjoying their best spell of the game with possession in and around the English box. Dropping deeper, England lost what little initiative they had and in the 66th minute, Aebischer whistled a volley over.

But a calculated Switzerland got their reward when Embolo got in front of Kyle Walker to prod home from a yard out at the far post in the 75th minute. It was the most mundane of goals to concede and symbolic of how despondent everything around this English team at this tournament had been.

Both substitutes Steven Zuber and Silvan Widmar, back from suspension, had been involved in the build-up play.

Southgate reacted with the introduction of Eberechi Eze, Luke Shaw and Cole Palmer, reinforcing the left side with plyers who actually play every week on the left. But England’s salvation came from the right where Saka, with ten minutes left on the clock, scored a classic Saka goal, cutting inside and curling the ball past Yann Sommer.

Jordan Pickford of England saved the first penalty from Manuel Akanji 

England’s moments of brilliance come in small packages and

In extra time, Declan Rice let fly a great curl that Sommer did well to keep out. Yakin brought Denis Zakaria on for Dan Ndoye to shore up his team as Switzerland came under pressure.

With the exit of Embolo for Xherdan Shaqiri in the final stanza of extra time, Switzerland had less opportunity to break, but Widmer posed all sorts of questions of Luke Shaw. From a corner kick, Shaqiri rattled the woodwork with Pickford – dressed like he had turned up for the Christmas panto – left scrambling like the pantomime cow. Switzerland didn’t seem to care much for the fine margins that come with extra time and kept pouring forward. Pickford produced a good save from substitute Zeki Amdouni’s bullet. On the backfoot, England just about held on.

In the shootout, England kept their cool. All five England players converted, with Trent-Alexander Arnold getting the fifth,.

England’s brand of conservatism – no longer popular at home after this week’s election – is nevertheless proving successful in Germany. They dulled the senses for long periods again – in the vein of Didier Deschamps and Les Bleus. But ultimately good players are good players and while their football – stripped naked, to the bare bones – is difficult to watch or appreciate, England grind on and might just get there.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1721222688labto1721222688ofdlr1721222688owedi1721222688sni@i1721222688tnuk.1721222688ardni1721222688mas1721222688