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England route to the Euro 2024 final: Who will Three Lions face in final?

By Andrew Francis

England route to the Euro 2024 final: Who will Three Lions face in final?

Published: 22:35, 10 July 2024

England are through to the Euro 2024 final, so let’s take a look at how they got there.

The Three Lions entered Euro 2024 as favourites having finished qualifying unbeaten in Group C. They were placed in Euro 2024 Group C alongside Serbia, Denmark and Slovenia.

England started the group with a nervy 1-0 win over Serbia and had the chance to qualify top after two games. However, they drew with Denmark and Slovenia, finishing the group stage with the third-lowest xG (2.19) ahead of only Serbia (2.11) and Scotland (0.95), both of whom were knocked out.

The performance wasn’t much better in the last 16 with England needing an extremely late equaliser and then extra-time to beat Slovakia. A second game went all the way as England needed penalties to beat Switzerland. But the Three Lions then beat Netherlands 2-1 in normal time to secure a second consecutive European Championship final.

So, who could Southgate’s men take on if they progress through the next round of the Euro 2024 knock-out stage?

England’s route to Euro 2024 final

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England’s route as Group C winners

Last 16: England were made to wait for their last 16 opponents, eventually being pit against Group E’s third-placed side Slovakia. And they were seconds away from dumping England out until Jude Bellingham’s incredible 95th-minute leveller. Harry Kane secured victory early into extra-time.

Quarter-finals: England beat Switzerland, who eliminated Italy in their own last-16 clash, on penalties after goals from Breel Embolo and Bukayo Saka set the score at 1-1 after extra time.

Semi-finals: Awaiting England in the semi-finals were Netherlands — who England avoided in the last 16. England went behind in just the seventh minute but a Harry Kane penalty and Ollie Watkins’ 90th-minute winner secured the spot in the final.

Final: England will play Spain who beat France in the first semi-final.

England’s Group C results

1-0 vs Serbia – It wasn’t a scintillating performance from The Three Lions, but very much job done in their group opener. An early goal from Jude Bellingham proved enough in a 1-0 victory and, in truth, England were never really troubled. There were whispers of discontent that England allowed Serbia to play themselves back into the game but if they can grow into the tournament, it could be a vital three points on their route to the final in Berlin.

1-1 vs Denmark – As with their game against Serbia, England started well and took the lead, this time through Harry Kane. But unlike against Serbia, Denmark actually equalised and looked the more likely to take the win. It was a game that flattened a lot of the optimism surrounding this England team, and meant they had to turn up against Slovenia.

0-0 Slovenia  – On paper, this was the easiest game of the group for England and one they would have welcomed as their final group game. England had 74% possession but managed just four shots on target and obviously failed to score. That said, Slovenia were on an nine-game unbeaten run, during which they also stood firm against Portugal. Plus Southgate’s substitutes produced a spark of excitement. Cole Palmer in particular, of whom Roy Keane said, “I wouldn’t want to play against him.”

England’s reasons for optimism

Pre-tournament the quality of Harry Kane, Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka should all fill England fans with dreams of glory this summer. Then they scored two goals between them in a group England were expected to dominate.

However, at the back England have been pretty secure. They’ve conceded the lowest xG total at the tournament, and the introduction of Kobbie Mainoo and (later) Cole Palmer led to more dynamism against Slovenia. England also avoided the side of the draw that could have put them up against Germany, Spain, Portugal or France before the final.

And the Three Lions have shown a never-say-die attitude. There’s been a 95th-minute equaliser from Jude Bellingham against Slovakia, an equaliser against Switzerland an Watkins’ 90th-minute winner in the semi-final.

England’s potential roadblocks

The creativity – as mentioned above – has been inferior to the likes of Georgia and Albania. It all seems to stem from the fact Southgate doesn’t yet know what England’s best system is.

It is also true that while England may have progressed to the latter stages in recent tournaments, when it’s come to the biggest games they have been found wanting. The 2018 World Cup semi-final saw Croatia come from behind to win the match and it was a similar story in the Euro 2020 final, where Southgate wasn’t able to see his side hold onto the lead against Italy, losing on penalties. The 2022 World Cup saw England fall to France at the quarter final stage, making it the third tournament in a row that England were unable to defeat nations that sit around them in the FIFA world rankings. This summer will be another test as to whether England have the ability to break out from the pack and become the elite national side that many believe they can, facing Spain in the final.

All three of those defeats in recent years have fallen at the feet of Southgate, with many England fans blaming the coach for tactical mistakes or substitutions that were ill-judged or mistimed. With Southgate’s future still under question following Euro 2024, this could be his last chance to prove that he can get the small things right and lead England to European glory.

Gareth Southgate tactical insights

Gareth Southgate had been very faithful to his 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 during England’s first four games, keeping keeping Phil Foden on the left wing where he hasn’t been as effective.

But against Switzerland and Netherlands he switched to a back three, allowing England to look more comfortable when sitting back. In this formation, Bukayo Saka drops to right wing-back, with Kieran Trippier staying on the left. Foden and Jude Bellingham have played behind Harry Kane as two No.10s.

In the second half against Netherlands, Luke Shaw came off the bench and looked much more comfortable, though the system did change slightly.

Fan and media perspectives

The quiet pre-tournament optimism among England fans is diminished and tense exchanges between players and pundits have played out in press conferences. The media can be the England squad’s best friend or worst enemy and this summer is proving to be no different. ‘Three Lions’ hasn’t been as popular as it was in 2018 and 2021, despite pre-tournament banners claiming ‘we know it was then, but it could be again’.

How England qualified for Euro 2024

European Championship Qualification – Group C
Position Team Played Won Drawn Lost GF GA Points
1 England 8 6 2 0 22 4 20
2 Italy 8 4 2 2 16 9 14
3 Ukraine 8 4 2 2 11 8 14
4 North Macedonia 8 2 2 4 10 20 8
5 Malta 8 0 0 8 2 20 0