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Until Saka I was never happy

Is England’s name on the trophy? Let’s not jinx it. But despite everything, they’re two wins away from it coming home.

The team needed changing on Staurday, it had to be changed, and Southgate was forced into at least one change by Guehi’s suspension, which he dealt with by switching to three at the back with wing backs. ‘Why the FUCK is he playing Trippier ahead of Alexander-Arnold at right wing-back?’ Except he wasn’t. He was playing Saka, who has a great left foot and played at left-back at youth level, at right wing-back, and Trippier, whose left foot is only good for standing on, at left wing-back. To quote John 11:35, Jesus wept.

It was a better first half than the Slovakia game but fucking HELL the bar was low. Saka (who was clearly MOTM) was doing a cracking job making runs down the right, but there was never anyone in the box for him to cross to. Kane clearly isn’t fully fit, and if he’s going to play, we should be playing another striker to make runs off him. Y’know, maybe someone like the striker who came on in the 94th minute vs Slovakia when we were 1-0 down and prompted England to score twice in about two minutes? Just a fucking thought.

It looked like England’s luck had finally run out when Embolo got ahead of Walker to poke in a horrible scrappy goal with 15 minutes left. Once again, there was a reactive triple substitution after the horse had bolted. I guess we’ll never know whether putting up number 10 on the board was a genuine mistake or whether Bellingham just refused to come off. Either way, it made more sense to bring off Konsa. It would have made sense to bring on a second striker to do the running for the increasingly immobile Kane, but hey.

Thank God (and he would want you to thank God, not him) for Bukayo Saka. Beautiful, angelic Bukayo Saka. In the 80th minute, he got sick of waiting for someone to get on the end of his crosses and took matters into his own hands, curling a beautiful shot from outside the box in off the far post. It was England’s first shot on target.

It was always unlikely that England would go all out attack to chase for a winner in extra time. Given Kane’s lack of movement, it was hugely frustrating to see him repeatedly tracking back. Channel your inner Lineker and stay up top, I do NOT want to see you in your own penalty area. Rice forced a good save from the Swiss keeper but Switzerland came closest to winning it when Shaqiri hit the bar directly from a corner, which Pickford reacted to by pointing at him as if to say “ahaaaaaa top bantz lad, you nearly got me there”.

Having waited until the 94th minute to bring Toney on v Slovakia, Southgate outdid himself by not bringing him on until the 109th minute on Saturday, and then only because Kane hilariously injured himself by two-footing his manager.

‘Anything but penalties. Please God anything but penalties. If it’s 1-1 in the 120th minute, I hope Pickford throws the ball into his own net.’ Which is always a possibility with Pickford, the mad bastard. I’m very glad he didn’t though. I do not recommend drinking 6 vodka and diet cokes before penalties, by the way. The vodka wasn’t the problem, it was WAY too much caffeine. Thought my heart was going to come out of my chest.

We should probably get over the idea that England men are useless at penalties, because under Southgate they've become quite good at them, and it was something of a masterclass against Switzerland. Palmer got the shootout off to a confident start, then Jordan Pickford made the crucial intervention by doing Jordan Pickford things, wandering around and fannying about to keep Akanji waiting until the fourth official told him to pack it in and get back on his line. It worked, with Akanji hitting a less than convincing shot which Pickford saved to give England the advantage. Gwan Jordan lad. Get the rave on.

Jordan Lee Pickford's actual fucking boots

Bellingham’s pen was as confident as you’d expect, and hero of the day Saka showed huge courage to step up, put the horror of three years ago out of his mind, and coolly slot it low into the right corner. And bless him, it was lovely to see him so happy. Toney did a brilliant job of giving the keeper the eyes, burying his penalty without looking at the ball. And then Alexander-Arnold put England into the semi-final, and I had to text my brother and concede that TAA is not a bad wool after all.

England's potential opponents in the final are Spain, and deservedly so. France's early goal was nullified by a stunning goal in the top right corner that no keeper would have saved by 16 year old wunderkind Lamine Yamal. When I was 16, I was cleaning peacock shit off the tables at Knowsley Safari Park. The winning goal was credited to Dani Olmo, but I'm convinced his shot wasn't on target and it's funnier if we say it was an own goal. Mbappe, who never quite got going in the competition (not helped by having his nose smashed all over his face), capped off a miserable campaign by blazing the ball miles over the bar late on.

It hasn’t been pretty. It hasn’t been entertaining. But somehow, we’re in the last four. It’s been that kind of a tournament though – France made it to the semis without scoring a goal in open play. (Maybe finally scoring from open play was their downfall.) Whisper it, but maybe we’re shithousing our way to victory. KTMFF.

Written by Arlene Finnigan


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