Soccer Football – Euro 2024 – Quarter Final – England v Switzerland – Dusseldorf Arena, Dusseldorf, Germany – July 6, 2024 England’s Jude Bellingham, John Stones and Cole Palmer celebrate after winning the penalty shootout REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

England stepped back from the brink of a Euro 2024 exit again as they secured a semi-final place with victory over Switzerland on penalties in Dusseldorf.

Gareth Southgate’s side, who were rescued by Jude Bellingham’s spectacular late equaliser in the last 16 against Slovakia, were in trouble once more when Breel Embolo stole in at the far post to put Switzerland ahead with only 15 minutes left.

Bukayo Saka then produced a moment of individual brilliance of the sort England have relied on heavily throughout the tournament to equalise with a fierce low shot five minutes later.

Extra time failed to find a winner, England going through with a set of flawless penalties after goalkeeper Jordan Pickford saved Manuel Akanji’s first spot-kick.

Cole Palmer, Jude Bellingham, Saka and Ivan Toney were all successful before substitute Trent Alexander-Arnold hammered home the decisive penalty in front of England’s delirious supporters.

They can now look forward to a semi-final against the Netherlands in Dortmund on Wednesday at 20:00 BST. It will be the first time the two countries have faced each other at a major tournament since the group stage of Euro 96.

Escape artists find a way again

England have advanced to the Euro 2024 semi-finals almost by stealth, producing another indifferent performance for long periods here, then going behind again before digging themselves out of a hole to win.

Southgate was finally able to celebrate victory in his 100th game in charge but only after another agonising 120 minutes and an anxious period when it looked like England were going out.

England’s performances in Germany may not have hit high standards but there is no doubting their resilience and capacity to overcome adversity, as they proved again after Switzerland went in front.

It was a particularly sweet moment for Liverpool’s Alexander-Arnold to strike the decisive penalty, having been dropped from his experimental midfield role after their second game, against Denmark, then being overlooked when Southgate decided to use wing-backs.

England’s new three-at-the-back strategy looked more comfortable for the players but against the well-organised and confident Swiss, lacked threat just as much as Southgate’s previous plans.

As with Bellingham’s equaliser 86 seconds from the end of normal time against Slovakia, Saka’s shot to keep England alive was their first on target of the match.

England, ultimately, will not care as it was a case of job done but there is surely a limit to how often they can make life difficult for themselves before they get off the hook.

Saka’s goal was just reward for a man-of-the-match display, while Aston Villa’s Ezri Konsa was impeccable in defence as deputy for suspended Marc Guehi.

Kobbie Mainoo also excelled in midfield but it remains a mystery why an England side so packed with attacking riches looks so impotent for so long – something Southgate will have to solve before their semi-final.

For now, however, England can celebrate living on their nerves but staying alive at Euro 2024 as Southgate leads them into the last four of a major tournament once more.

Kesh Awefada

Kesh Awefada

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