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HomeInternationalBellingham brilliance ensures England stumble on at Euro 2024

Bellingham brilliance ensures England stumble on at Euro 2024

It only takes a second to change a game of football. For 95 minutes of England’s clash with Slovakia on Sunday evening, that second did not look like coming. 

But it did. Jude Bellingham’s spectacular overhead kick equalised for England deep into added time, forcing extra time and shell-shocking a Slovakia side who had been on course for their greatest-ever competitive win.

 

Just a minute into extra time England had a second, as Harry Kane headed in from Ivan Toney’s flick to put the Three Lions into the quarter-finals. The latter part of that sentence is the important bit about England’s evening but this was far from a pleasant passage for Gareth Southgate and his side.

Southgate had claimed pre-match that the tournament started now but hopes that England would be able to overcome their group-stage woes at the flick of the switch proved painfully inaccurate. England lacked imagination, confidence, and energy, with flashes from Manchester United teenager Kobbie Mainoo the only real positivity as experienced names around the midfielder wilted.

Slovakia struck early in a goal England will feel was wholly avoidable. John Stones was beaten in an aerial duel, Kyle Walker positioned poorly, and Marc Guehi was sluggish in his recovery run. Ivan Schranz had not scored for Slovakia since November 2021 before this tournament. He ends it with three goals after an outside-of-the-boot finish past Jordan Pickford, and as the joint leader for the Golden Boot as things stand.

England toiled in their push to get back into the game. The full-back duo of Walker and Kieran Trippier offered little going forward, Declan Rice was conservative in his passing, and England’s front players again flitted on the fringes of the contest.

Southgate, surprisingly, made no changes at half-time. Phil Foden scored early after the restart but his goal was chalked off for offside. More frustration for England. On came Cole Palmer and Eberechi Eze in search of spark but when Rice drove an effort against the woodwork and Kane headed a good chance wide, it appeared England’s tournament was set to end in disaster.

Then, five minutes into stoppage time, their luck changed. A long throw-in from Walker was flicked on and there was Bellingham to acrobatically convert. A glorious goal at a crucial time – and England’s first shot on target of the entire contest.

A stunned Slovakia conceded a second just moments into the added period and England nervously held on to claim a fortuitous result. It wasn’t quite fortune favours the brave as Southgate’s caution again invoked groans, but the boos that arrived at half-time were replaced with cheers – or at the very least relief – when the final whistle blew.

England stumble, rather than march, on with Switzerland awaiting in the quarter-finals next weekend. Conquerers of holders Italy in the last 16, the Swiss will have no fear in taking on an England team who went 95 minutes before their first shot on target against a team ranked 45th in the world.

England can, and must, be better. Bellingham’s brilliance has rescued their Euro 2024 campaign and it’s on to Southgate’s side to not condemn it to footnote status in this tournament.

Read – Five free agent forwards Premier League clubs could target

See more – Five early transfer deals you might have missed across Europe

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