England’s fans, who had been bored into silence in their previous three games, could barely believe what they were seeing and won the singing war despite being massively outnumbered. Foden, Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka were playing with the swagger that they showed all season for their clubs while the incredible 19-year-old Kobbie Mainoo was running the midfield like a veteran. It was a scarcely believable transformation as the team who barely mustered a shot against Slovenia, Slovakia and Switzerland sent in crosses high and low, attempted probing through balls and even a couple of backheels in the box while forcing Bart Verbruggen into three sprawling saves.

The Dutch threw on striker Wout Weghorst for the second half while England brought on Luke Shaw but England seemed to lose their energy, playing safely.

Substitute Ollie Watkins scores the winner for England.

Substitute Ollie Watkins scores the winner for England.Credit: Getty Images

For fans who saw the same pattern in the 2018 World Cup semi-final against Croatia and Euro 2020 final against Italy, where England were forced back after early dominance, it was a worry, but this time coach Gareth Southgate took dramatic action by removing Foden and Kane, bringing on Ollie Watkins and Cole Palmer after 80 minutes.

Saka did turn in a low Kyle Walker cross in a rare attack but it was ruled out for offside. However, Palmer, who has looked dangerous every time he has come on in the tournament, threaded a pass into the path of Watkins to cue bedlam.


“Unbelievable,” Watkins said. “I’ve been waiting for that moment for weeks, for weeks.

“It’s taken a lot of hard work to get to where I am today, and grateful that I got the opportunity and I’ve grabbed it with both hands and I’m delighted.

“I swear on my life … I said to Cole Palmer, we’re coming on today and you’re going to set me up and that’s why I was so happy with Coley.

“I knew as soon as he got the ball he was going to play me and you’ve got to be greedy, touch and finish and when I’ve seen it go in the bottom corner, it’s the best feeling ever.”

It was heartbreak for the Dutch, who have now lost four semi-finals since winning the title in 1988.

Southgate’s England side lost the final of Euro 2020 on home soil at Wembley. That penalty shootout defeat to Italy came more than half a century after their maiden final appearance at a major tournament – the victorious 1966 World Cup campaign, also in England.


Sports news, results and expert commentary. Sign up for our Sport newsletter.