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    Watkins goal at Euro 2024 special – Southgate

    England manager Gareth Southgate said he was “chuffed” for match-winner Ollie Watkins and called his side’s late win over the Netherlands to reach the Uefa Euro 2024 final “special”.

    Watkins’ clinical 90th-minute strike came nine minutes after the Aston Villa forward had been introduced alongside Cole Palmer, who set up his goal with a perceptive pass.

    “The most important thing is that all of the squad are ready to come into the game,” Southgate told ITV Sport after England reached a second successive Euro final under his tenure.

    “We felt, energy-wise, that we were starting to lose a bit of pressure, and Harry [Kane] picked up a knock. Ollie can press well and get those runs in behind. We felt it was a good moment to try it. I’m so chuffed for Ollie to get his moment.”

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    Watkins goal ‘special’

    England’s previous two knockout-stage matches in Germany had required an additional 30 minutes in a gruelling campaign for Southgate’s side, making Watkins’ brilliance all the sweeter.

    Xavi Simons opened the scoring with a sensational finish, pinching possession from Declan Rice before rifling an emphatic finish beyond Jordan Pickford from outside the box after seven minutes.

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    Kane won and scored a penalty 11 minutes later, sending a precise strike under Brighton & Hove Albion goalkeeper Bart Verbruggen’s dive as the Three Lions restored parity.

    “We played so well,” said Southgate, who replaced Kieran Trippier with the fit-again Luke Shaw at the break in Dortmund.

    “It was a complicated game and we had to keep changing with how we were defensively, especially. We had to adapt all the time and the players made so many good decisions. The end is special for the squad and reward for what they are giving to the cause.”

    Euro 2024 final: England vs Spain

    England are now a game away from winning the title for the first time, although they face a foreboding task against a Spain side entering on six victories and buoyed by prodigious talents such as wingers Lamine Yamal and Nico Williams.

     

    They will meet the three-time champions, who beat France 2-1 in the first semi-final, at Berlin’s Olympiastadion on Sunday (20:00 BST).

    England will be significant underdogs but, even if they cannot cause an upset, Southgate has again overseen a campaign scaling the kind of success his country could only have dreamed of when he was appointed in November 2016.

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