They have been pilloried, questioned and insulted, but it’s England in the final | Barney Ronay

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Put retired much flags. Dig retired nan George Cross jester’s hat. Prepare to propulsion what remains of your integrative brew solid successful nan air. England’s footballers will now title nan last of Euro 2024 successful Berlin this Sunday aft yet different thrilling infinitesimal of precocious play successful Dortmund.

The Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins was nan precocious hero, playing astatine his first tournament, and a precocious sub for Harry Kane pinch nan crippled poised astatine 1-1. England and nan Netherlands were already staring balefully astatine nan imaginable of other clip erstwhile Watkins took a walk from Cole Palmer, different Southgate substitute, turned swiftly, didn’t look up, and simply hammered nan shot debased into nan acold corner.

The BVB Stadion is different of nan Rhineland’s immense lankly business metallic shot hangars. In that infinitesimal nan crushed conscionable exploded, a immense activity of sound barrelling down from England end, nan England chair emptying connected to nan transportation and leaping and frolicking.

England, who person been pilloried, questioned and insulted by influential broadcasters, will now play successful their 2nd consecutive last successful this tournament. And they did it not conscionable by winning late, but by playing good too, producing their champion capacity of nan summertime truthful far.

From nan commencement nan full juncture felt big, epic, retro, and ever someway somewhat retired of power connected nan affectional scale. Dortmund was thronging each day pinch orangish shirts, crackling pinch surgery solid nether foot, its winding shopping streets haunted by England songs, England wails and drones and chants. Don’t Take Me Home. Phil Foden’s On Fire, and caller summation to nan canon Stop nan Boats Nigel Farage, heard present echoing astir Dusseldorf Hauptbahnhof.

Denzel Dumfries fouls Harry Kane to springiness distant nan punishment from which Kane equalised successful nan 18th minute.
Denzel Dumfries fouls Harry Kane to springiness distant nan punishment from which Kane equalised successful nan 18th minute. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

For a while moreover nan rainfall was monolithic and relentless, drenching nan heavy greenish turf, creeping successful done nan holes successful nan corrugated roof, cooling nan clammy air.

The Dutch fans had turned Dortmund’s immense yellowish wall into a roiling orangish mass. England had nan different extremity and astir of nan in-between, tiers decked retired pinch nan accustomed pageantry of flags, a acquainted circuit of nan state from Bristol to Carlisle to Bermondsey.

The talk astatine this tournament, moreover arsenic England progressed to this precocious stage, had been astir gaps. Gaps successful nan team. Gaps betwixt nan manager, fans, media. But location was a model of ray successful this game. For half an hr successful nan first half, England’s young midfielders played for illustration princelings.

England fielded their comfortable armchair statement again, nan Southgate information truss, 3 astatine nan back, pinch nan hugely composed Marc Guéhi returning aft suspension. They look happier pinch that other protect body, nan container of achromatic shirts tighter. Southgate-ism is power and security, nan footballing balanced of a pensive and reassuring frown.

England played good for 7 minutes. And past abruptly nan Dutch scored from a speedy turnover. The sound came successful an bonzer slingshot from that end, immense rolling waves of sound arsenic nan Dutch players ran to nan ziggurat of orange.

No matter. England were, of each things, playing rather well. They looked perky, fresh, unafraid. They had, of each things, a bid of coherent attacks, fluent movements, runs into difficult spaces, passing angles, shots astatine goal. They were awarded a punishment pinch 16 minutes gone, made by Bukayo Saka’s intricate, slaloming run, and a reckless situation from Denzel Dumfries, almost kicking Kane’s airborne ft cleanable disconnected his ankle arsenic he went to shoot. Kane buried nan kick. 1-1. This spot was perfectly throbbing, sound moving crossed nan transportation successful swirls, nan players gripped pinch it.

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The Dutch head Ronald Koeman sank into his chair, flaring his jowls, past did thing that changed nan game. The injured Memphis Depay, an attacker, was replaced by a midfielder, Joey Veerman, reinforcing nan Dutch precisely wherever England were creating nan overloads. The hostility shifted. The Netherlands braced and held connected to nan 1-1 scoreline to half-time. This is what Southgate often fails to do, nan manus of nan head reaching connected to nan pitch, tugging astatine nan parts, fixing, tightening, altering nan flow.

Kobbie Mainoo
Kobbie Mainoo excelled successful his midfield domiciled alongside Declan Rice, belying his property of conscionable 19. Photograph: Andre Weening/Orange Pictures/Shutterstock

Beyond nan immense yellowish spaceship doors clamped connected to nan tile of nan main stand, nan entity crossed nan metropolis had turned a beautiful Martian red. And for a while Foden, Kobbie Mainoo and Saka had nan shot connected a string, conscionable zipping about, making things up. This is what this point is expected to look like. At 1 constituent Mainoo recovered Foden pinch drag-back flick, a punctual for a curling changeable that almost crept into nan corner. They tin play, these boys. It was nan nicest, sunniest astir liberated half an hr of their clip truthful acold successful Germany.

Half-time conscionable seemed to tie nan life retired of nan game. Southgate will beryllium blamed, because Southgate must beryllium blamed. But nan Netherlands group themselves defensively to lucifer England, a benignant of wide orange-shirted embrace. England became much cautious successful their movements, stayed successful their lanes. The crippled became an workout successful feints and misdirection, not truthful overmuch a crippled of chess arsenic a really cautious and rather soporific crippled of chess.

Southgate appeared connected his touchline successful an cognition of concern. The waistcoat is agelong gone now, glimpsed only successful nan retro cardboard cutouts brandished by England’s supporters successful bars astir nan town, for illustration a stag do memento. At these Euros, Southgate has gone kindness pro-am play play chic, nan lattice-weave pick polo garment and skinny achromatic slacks. He stood and frowned. Passivity has been a strength, a virtue, an progressive and deliberate method pinch England. They support winning, slowly. Is it nan only measurement to do this? Apparently so. England will ever return it deep, but they rotation connected now to Berlin.

Source theguardian