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England Reaches Second Consecutive European Championship Final with Dramatic Victory Over Netherlands

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DORTMUND, Germany — England secured their place in a second consecutive European Championship final by defeating the Netherlands 2-1 on Wednesday, thanks to a stoppage-time goal by substitute Ollie Watkins.

Watkins, brought on for captain Harry Kane in a bold move by coach Gareth Southgate, scored a spectacular goal in the first minute of added time, turning and smashing a fierce shot into the bottom corner.

England will face Lamine Yamal and Spain in Sunday’s final in Berlin, marking the nation’s first title match on foreign soil. England previously won the World Cup in 1966 and lost to Italy in the Euro 2020 final, both held at Wembley Stadium.

The match began with an open first half, where Xavi Simons’ brilliant seventh-minute goal for the Dutch was equalized by Kane’s 18th-minute penalty.

Watkins, who had only made one previous appearance at Euro 2024 as a substitute in the group game against Denmark, was a surprise choice for such a crucial match. However, Southgate’s gamble paid off.

“Unbelievable — I’ve been waiting for that moment for weeks,” said Watkins, the Aston Villa striker who was the fourth top scorer in the Premier League last season. “It’s taken a lot of hard work to get to where I am today. I got the opportunity and took it with both hands.”

The goal was set up by Cole Palmer, another substitute, which delighted Southgate. “I said to [Palmer], ‘We’re going to come on and you’re going to set me up,’” Watkins shared. “I knew, as soon as he got the ball, he was going to play me in. When it went in the bottom corner, it was the best feeling ever.”

The sea of orange in the giant South Stand at Westfalenstadion fell silent. Dutch supporters, who had dominated the city center and marched en masse to the stadium, were left stunned. Police reported three separate clashes between fans from both countries in the city.

The match felt like a home game for the Dutch, and England, which had come from behind to advance in both the last 16 and quarterfinals, faced an even tougher challenge when the 21-year-old Simons became the second youngest scorer for the Netherlands at a Euros. The Paris Saint-Germain midfielder dispossessed Declan Rice about 40 meters out, drove forward, and unleashed a shot into the far corner from outside the area.

Kane, a veteran of many big moments at major tournaments, had another when he slotted home a penalty after Denzel Dumfries’ outstretched leg made contact with his foot as he attempted a shot. This goal made Kane the sixth player to score three goals in the tournament.

The second half was tight and tense, with limited chances. Bukayo Saka had a goal ruled out for a narrow offside before Kane was replaced by Watkins in what might rank as Southgate’s best decision in his eight-year tenure as England manager.

“It’s going to be unbelievably tough – a really difficult game,” Kane said of the final against Spain, widely regarded as having played the best soccer in the tournament. “One more game to make history.”

Source: AP