Home » Five takeaways from England’s Euro 2024 quarter-final win over Switzerland

Five takeaways from England’s Euro 2024 quarter-final win over Switzerland

Five takeaways from England’s Euro 2024 quarter-final win over Switzerland

DUSSELDORF — Waking up after the night before. And what a night it was.

England into a European Championship semi-final. Gareth Southgate leading the nation to a third semi-final in four tournaments. A mouth-watering knockout game against the Netherlands awaits.

But how tantalising actually is that prospect, after England’s five games at Euro 2024?

It is hard to ignore the brutal reality that England have been bailed out by two wonder goals in two knockout games. Jude Bellingham’s iconic bicycle kick against Slovakia in stoppage time and Bukayo Saka’s long-range effort against Switzerland with only 10 minutes remaining.

It is hard to ignore that, for a second game in a row, England had only one shot on target in 90 minutes — and not against a Germany or a France, but against Slovakia and Switzerland.

It is hard to ignore that had Xherdan Shaqiri’s cheeky corner in extra-time crept another foot past the post then England were out.

Yes, these are the fine margins of tournament football, but fine margins have sharp edges and on both occasions the knives were readied to slaughter England’s performance at the tournament.

England still require fixing ahead of the semi-final against a country who represent a major step up in opposition.

Shaw-shank redemption

Luke Shaw simply has to start, if his body can handle it.

There was one simple moment in extra time that showed why. England had the ball on the left-hand side, near to the corner of Switzerland’s penalty area, and Shaw made the overlapping run.

It didn’t even matter that the ball wasn’t played to him. The quick dart forced the defender to go with him, opened up space, allowed for a better cross. Even more than that, it would’ve sent a little fear and anxiety through Switzerland’s defence — the tiny ripples that force a mistake, break concentrations, that lead to goals.

Kieran Trippier has worked hard for the team, but he just doesn’t offer this. His inclusion destabilises England’s attacks. England looked a different team with Shaw on the pitch.

Southgate said Shaw was fit to start the game but wasn’t sure how long his body would last. Hopefully now they have a better idea and that the prognosis is that he can make the 90 minutes.

Back three not four

England deployed a back three in the Euro 2024 quarter-final against Switzerland (Photo: Getty)

England looked so much better in a back three. There were still some very hairy moments, but there were plenty of those in the 4-2-3-1 formation that Southgate persisted with for the first four games.

The tactical shift still didn’t translate into that many chances created, but there was, nonetheless, a buzz to the play, faint hints of urgency, the ball popping around with at least a vague attacking intent. It felt as though England were only a proper left-sided wing-back on the pitch to breaking Switzerland down.

And a back three means…

Stick with saviour Saka at right wing-back

Bukayo Saka doesn’t want to play in a defensive position. It’s fair enough — he scored 20 goals for Arsenal last season.

The problem is, Saka is so damn good at football. Not just certain elements for a set position, but all of it. You could stick him in goal for England in the semi-finals and he’d probably keep a clean sheet.

“I would go as far as to say that Bukayo Saka is the most important England player,” Rio Ferdinand said.

So, Saka doesn’t really want to play at wing-back, he wants to play on the right wing, but the country needs him to. With Saka and Shaw flying down either side, England are balanced, they stretch the game, they are formidable.

Sorry, Saka. You’re just too good at the game to play in one position, the country needs you everywhere.

Too much main character energy

The Harry Kane – Bellingham – Phil Foden triumvirate isn’t working. It hasn’t functioned well for five games now, in various guises. They all want to play in the same position. It’s too much main character energy for one team.

The only conceivable way to keep them on the pitch is to move Bellingham back, next to Declan Rice. It would mean sacrificing Kobbie Mainoo, which is a shame, because he has been brilliant.

But it also makes room for Cole Palmer. With that gloriously erratic style, the way the ball seems to wander away from him yet still be under control, he possesses the unpredictability that will scare opponents, which might open a tiny bit of space for one of the others.

And any 22-year-old, after only one proper season in the Premier League, only two England starts, none at Euro 2024, who steps up to take the first penalty in a quarter-final has shown they have the temperament to deal with any pressure.

On your Marcs

In the build-up to the tournament, everyone was panicking about England’s iffy defence and the injury to Harry Maguire that ruled him out. Turns out, that was the least of England’s worries.

Marc Guehi stepped into void next to John Stones and showed England have at least one world-leading centre-back for the years ahead. And then when Guehi was suspended, in stepped Ezri Konsa against the Swiss to show that, in fact, England had two back-up players more than capable.

Konsa was excellent against Switzerland, but Guehi has been one of the defenders of the tournament and surely comes back in for the semi-final.