Euro 2024: Gareth Southgate hails England's 'best performance' of tournament after beating Switzerland to reach semi-finals (2024)

Gareth Southgate hailed England's character after what he described as their best performance of Euro 2024 in the quarter-final penalty shoot-out win against Switzerland.

Bukayo Saka cancelled out Breel Embolo's opener to take the game to extra-time and onto penalties where Cole Palmer, Jude Bellingham, Saka, Ivan Toney and Trent Alexander-Arnold all scored and Jordan Pickford saved Manuel Akanji's opening effort for the Swiss as England reached the semi-finals.

It was a dramatic end to an edgy encounter and England's first shoot-out win since beating the Swiss in the Nations League third-placed play-off five years ago in Portugal.

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"I just thought the players were brilliant. It's the best we have played," Southgate told the BBC after the win.

Euro 2024: Gareth Southgate hails England's 'best performance' of tournament after beating Switzerland to reach semi-finals (1)

"I thought we caused them a lot of problems. They are a really good side. They are hard to press, they are hard to defend against, their movement is good.

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"To come from behind again and show the character and resilience we did, talking to the players about that, winning tournaments isn't just about playing well. It's not just about that. You've got to show other attributes to win and we showed them all tonight.

Euro 2024: Gareth Southgate hails England's 'best performance' of tournament after beating Switzerland to reach semi-finals (2)

"We played well today and we had to be tactically spot on. I don't know what people think of us but we are in a third semi-final, so that says a lot about the group.

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"We knew we needed to get pressure on their back three and that's not easy without changing the shape. I thought the players were disciplined with it.

"I thought Phil was a real problem for them to pick up, Kobbie and Jude were finding those gaps on the side of their block. I thought we had good control. For some of the balls into the box, we probably needed more men in the box, but l thought it was the best that we have played."

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Southgate: No doubting Saka would take a pen

Saka missed the decisive penalty in the final of the last Euros against Italy at Wembley Stadium in 2021 as England fell just short in this competition last time around.

On Saka stepping up to take a penalty in the shoot-out and scoring this time, Southgate said: "So brave. He is one of our best, so we were never in any question that he was going to take one. But we all know what he went through.

Euro 2024: Gareth Southgate hails England's 'best performance' of tournament after beating Switzerland to reach semi-finals (4)

"To deliver as he did…. But not just him, Trent and Ivan, to come on and take them as they did; Cole, he's like an old man in the way he is fearless. So a huge result for us, a huge performance, and we're still in it.

"We played well today and we had to be tactically spot on. I don't know what people think of us but we are in a third semi-final, so that says a lot about the group."

Analysis: Saka shows his mettle and quality

Euro 2024: Gareth Southgate hails England's 'best performance' of tournament after beating Switzerland to reach semi-finals (5)

Sky Sports' Nick Wright:

England would not be celebrating a place in the last four without Bukayo Saka. The Arsenal forward, England's most dangerous player, even playing as a wing-back, scored a stunning equaliser during a player-of-the-match performance in Dusseldorf.

Even more impressive, though, was his willingness to then step up and take one of England's penalties in the shoot-out, only three years after the miss that proved so costly in the final of Euro 2020. Not only that, he converted it too, demonstrating his quality and mettle to help England get over the line.

"I'm going to put it up there," Saka said to BBC when asked where the win ranked for him afterwards. "It was special, special for how we fought back and to go to penalties as well.

"The last time we took a penalty shoot-out at the Euros, we all know what happened. I'm so proud of everyone that we got over the line.

"I have faith in God. To come back from something like that was really difficult but I used it to make me stronger and today I took the chance, so I'm happy."

'Under pressure': Southgate's effective England hold nerve

Sky Sports News chief news reporter Kaveh Solhekol:

Just before penalties, someone at the Dusseldorf Arena thought it was a good idea to play Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie over the PA system.

As England prepared for the shootout, Bowie and Freddie Mercury were singing about the "terror of knowing what this world is about".

As it turned out, England held their nerve to make it to the semi-finals thanks to five perfect penalties and Jordan Pickford's save.

The hard work had been done before the drama of penalties. Gareth Southgate's decision to change formation was rewarded with an improved performance from an England side who finally showed they might just be good enough to win the Euros.

Bukayo Saka was the best player on the pitch but there were eye-catching performances from plenty of other England players. Sometimes when you watch a game on TV, with the cameras following the ball, it is difficult to appreciate exactly how hard a team is working.

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Euro 2024: Gareth Southgate hails England's 'best performance' of tournament after beating Switzerland to reach semi-finals (6)

England may not have created many chances but they had to be patient and disciplined against a dangerous Switzerland side who are very hard to beat.

Under Southgate, England have become a very good tournament team. He has only ever lost one Euros game and that was on penalties in a final.

Critics say England's performances in Germany have not been good enough. They want more entertaining football. If you want to be entertained go to the cinema. Tournament football isn't show business, it's a results business.

How many teams have won major trophies by playing dazzling football? Argentina won the last World Cup after losing their opening game to Saudi Arabia. Portugal won the Euros in 2016 even though they didn't win a game in 90 minutes until the semi-finals. France have reached the semi-finals of this Euros without scoring a goal in open play (one penalty and two own goals). Brazil were knocked out of the Copa America by Uruguay last night after a goalless draw and penalties.

Watching Southgate's team may not be a thrilling experience at the moment but the football they are playing is effective and England are now two wins away from becoming European champions for the first time.

Anything else will not be good enough for Southgate's critics. "This is our last dance. Under pressure."

Euro 2024: Gareth Southgate hails England's 'best performance' of tournament after beating Switzerland to reach semi-finals (2024)
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