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Jude Bellingham of England, scores his team’s first goal with a acrobatic kick during the UEFA EURO 2024 round of 16 match between England and Slovakia at Arena AufSchalke on June 30, 2024 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Euro

Real escape to victory for England but Spain are on cruise control

Jude Bellingham has played one season at Real Madrid. In that time, along with trophies and prizes, he has imbibed an ethos that no match is ever lost, no matter how deep into stoppage time. Bellingham, 21 on Saturday, injected that confidence with his class and talent for the rescue act which led, ultimately, to England reaching the quarter-finals of UEFA Euro 2024.

England will face Switzerland in the quarter-finals on Saturday after overcoming Slovakia 2-1 after extra time in Gelsenkirchen; Spain, who have replaced England as favourites, will play hosts Germany on Friday after overwhelming tournament new boys Georgia 4-1 in Cologne.

DRAMA

All the drama was in the Arena AufSchalke where England, having crawled miserably out of the gloom of the group stage, continued initially to betray their fans’ expectations and their acknowledged attacking talent.

Slovakia, ranked 45 in the world, strode to the brink of the quarter-finals themselves with a solid, disciplined team performance, working hard both as a block and for each other. Nothing brilliant but it did not need to be against this incoherent England.

They embarrassed England from the start, twice going close before finally taking the lead in the 24th minute.

Marc Guehi and John Stones attacked the same lob and the ball bounced free so David Strelec could send in Ivan Schranz to stab home his third goal of the finals.

For the fourth successive tie, Slovakia had struck first.

BOOED OFF

Harry Kane & Co were booed off at the interval but manager Gareth Southgate refused to be rushed into panic substitutions.

Even when they did create any chances Kane headed wide of a gaping goal and Declan Rice shot against a post.

One minute remained of the six in stoppage time – with Southgate almost out of job – when Bellingham drew on all his brilliance to equalise with a dramatic overhead bicycle kick.

Slovakia, distraught at being taken to extra time, lost their focus and Kane immediately punished them by heading his 48th goal of the season.

LOADS OF PROBLEMS

Southgate admitted his team have had “loads of problems” still but added: “The one thing that can’t be questioned is the commitment and desire.”

Kane said: “We could have been better but this is a results business.”

SPAIN STAY UNBEATEN

Spain know all about results. They have won all four of their matches in Germany although their commitment to all-out attack left them vulnerable to the 18th-minute counter-attack from which Georgia opened the score courtesy of own goal by Robin Le Normand under pressure from Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.

This was the first goal Spain had conceded in the finals, their best start since 2008 when they went on to win the tournament. They refused to be put off their technique and pace-based attacking game and equalised after 39 minutes when Nico Williams set up midfielder Rodri.

Six minutes after the break a cross from the outstanding Lamine Yamal was headed home by Fabian Ruiz.

Georgia, 2-1 down, now had to chase the game, were exposed in defence and punished by further fine Spanish goals from Williams and substitute Dani Olmo.

Round of 16:

Monday: France v Belgium; Portugal v Romania.

Tuesday: Romania v Netherlands; Austria v Turkey.

Quarter-finals:

Friday: Germany v Spain.

Saturday: Switzerland v England.

Credit: AIPS Media

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