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The Three Lions Escape Scrappy Switzerland Side in Penalties

England faced near-elimination in their previous vs Slovakia until the late-game heroics of Jude Bellingham in the 95th minute of added time saw the Three Lions keep their tournament hopes alive. Caption Harry Kane would eventually seal the game with a goal in extra time to take the 2-1 sending England to the quarterfinals. 

Switzerland led by Granit Xhaka, upset and eliminated reigning Euro champions Italy in the round of sixteen, 2-0 after goals from Remo Freuler and Ruben Vargas. Switzerland has only lost 1 of their last 10 games and is one of the most in-form teams in the whole tournament.

England came out with a change in formation, going to a 3-4-3 formation unlike the 4-2-3-1 they played with since the start of the tournament. The formation change now sees Kyle Walker slide into the back 3 as a center back. This allows England Manager Gareth Southgate to play Kieran Trippier and Bukayo Saka in the midfield as wingbacks to bring a much-needed attacking presence to a side that has only scored 4 goals all tournament.

Switzerland also playing a 3-4-3 formation is much more experienced with playing this way as they first started using the formation in 2023 which could be suggested as the key reason that the Switz have only lost 1 of their previous 10 games.

England came out the gate pressing more aggressively than they had in the previous games as the Three Lions forced lots of errors and misplaced passes. Bukayo Saka was a constant presence coming down the right as a wingback, a position which he began his career playing until optimally transitioning into just a winger position,  and he was undoubtedly England's best player for the Three Lions. Ezri Konsa was also a bright spot for England in the first half as he is starting in place of suspended Marc Guehi, settled very well into the game, and didn’t look out of place. As the half went on it seemed that the Switz was settling into the game and began to change the possession stats for the game to a more even showing as they began to invite the pressure from the Three Lions and looked to hit them on the counter. Both teams had their chances in the first half but neither team could find the back of the net as the half ended 0-0.

As the 2nd half kicked off, Switzerland looked like the more hungry side as they came out pressing and playing a more high back line to accommodate the press. The crowd began to build into the game as Switzerland supporters were rocking in their section encouraging their nation. Switzerland saw their early press pay off with Rodriguez getting a chance on target for the Switz but it was deflected by Kunsa and saved by Jordan Pickford. The Switz didn’t let the save affect them as they continued to apply the pressure. Then in the 75th minute, a cross by Ruben Vargas into the box saw the ball deflect off England center-back John Stones and fell kindly in front of Breel Embolo. The forward then tapped it into the back of the net, giving Switzerland the 1-0 lead.

Credit: Frank Augstein ASSOCIATED PRESS

Gareth Southgate with his team now facing elimination for the 2nd game in a row made three quick attack-minded subs bringing on Eberechi Eze, Luke Shaw, and Cole Palmer in the 78th minute. Now being forced to play more on the front foot England began to press Switzerland and saw them regain possession. In the 80th minute Bukayo Saka, who is now playing in more of a winger position with Luke Shaw in the game, cut in on his left foot after receiving a pass from his Arsenal teammate Declan Rice into a crowded box and fired a shot into the top right corner giving the Three Lions a goal on their first shot on target, which leveled the score after being down for only 5 minutes.

With neither side able to find the winning goal, the referee blew the full-time whistle and signaled for extra time. For the Three Lions, this meant that they would be playing their fourth Euro knockout round game in a row in which the game has gone to extra time dating back to their 2-1 semi-final win vs Demark in the 2020 Euros (played in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

In the first half of extra time, neither side looked to go for it as both nations knew at this stage of the game there was not a lot of time to make up for costly mistakes. When either team had possession they took their time a moved methodically up the field not forcing anything.

The second half of extra time was a much different story as in the 108 minutes a 50/50 tackle saw England's Captain and arguably the best penalty kick taker in the world Harry Kane pick up an injury and be forced to be taken off for Ivan Toney who himself is a good penalty kick taker. Switzerland in the final minutes of the half had two big chances to snatch the winner. First from a rare shot straight from a corner kick by Xherdan Shaqiri that caught Pickford sleeping but luckily for the Three Lions hit the post and second from Zeki Amdouni from 18 yards out that was punched away for a corner. The referee once again blew the full-time whistle this time signaling for penates.

Stepping up first for England was Cole Palmer who was 11/11 for the season from the spot. He stepped up and scored sending Yann Sommer the wrong way. Next up was Manuel Akanji for Switzerland who stepped up and was denied by Pickford keeping the shootout score 1-0. Next up was Jude Bellingham who stepped up with a slow stutter step run up and set Sommer the wrong way scoring making it 2-0 England. Next up was Fabian Schar who scored to make it 2-1. After scores from Saka, Toney, Shaqiri, and Amdouni to make the total shootout score 4-3, Trent Alexander-Arnold scored the winning penalty to give England the win and sending the Three Lions to the semi-finals of Euro 2024.

The Three Lions have now made it to three semi-finals out of the last four major international tournaments. They will now face the Netherlands in the semi-finals on Wednesday after a comeback win vs Turkey in a 2-1 win.

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