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Tuesday July 23, 2024

England avoid shock as Spain ease into quarter-finals

By AFP
July 02, 2024
Englands forward #09 Harry Kane and Slovakias midfielder #22 Stanislav Lobotka fight for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2024 round of 16 football match between England and Slovakia at the Arena AufSchalke in Gelsenkirchen on June 30, 2024. — AFP
England's forward #09 Harry Kane and Slovakia's midfielder #22 Stanislav Lobotka fight for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2024 round of 16 football match between England and Slovakia at the Arena AufSchalke in Gelsenkirchen on June 30, 2024. — AFP

COLONGE, Germany: England escaped an embarrassing exit from Euro 2024 on Sunday as they came from behind to beat Slovakia in extra time and reach the quarter-finals, while Spain defeated surprise packages Georgia 4-1 to set up a mouthwatering quarter-final showdown with hosts Germany.

A Jude Bellingham overhead kick deep in injury time and a Harry Kane strike early in extra time allowed England to beat Slovakia 2-1 in their last-16 tie in Gelsenkirchen. It was very nearly another ignominious exit for England that would have rivalled their defeat by Iceland at the same stage of Euro 2016.

They fell behind to Ivan Schranz’s 25th-minute goal for Slovakia and were on their way out of the competition as a Phil Foden equaliser was disallowed for offside. But Bellingham’s moment of inspiration five minutes into stoppage time at the end of the game saved Gareth Southgate’s side, as the Real Madrid man acrobatically turned home Marc Guehi’s flick-on from a throw-in.

Slovakia’s resistance was broken, and England got what proved to be the winner a minute into the extra period. Substitute Ivan Toney headed Eberechi Eze’s mishit shot back across goal for Kane to power home his second goal of the tournament.

That set up a quarter-final meeting with Switzerland on Saturday in Duesseldorf. “That’s the desire and the attitude from the boys. It looked tough for a second there but you keep going,” said Kane. “Jude does what Jude does and what an unbelievable goal.”

“We want to be better,” admitted Southgate. “I’m not going to hide from that but the spirit and character was there for everybody to see and we’re still in there fighting.” Slovakia coach Francesco Calzona said he was proud of his team despite the defeat.

“My team showed a lot out there. They were great, gave away very little and came close to going through,” said the Italian. “And in extra time we were in their half for long periods, I’m very proud.”

There was also a scare for Spain in the late game in Cologne, as they fell behind against Georgia when Robin Le Normand put through his own net in the 18th minute. It was the eighth own goal scored at this year’s competition and the first time Spain had conceded at all after they registered three clean sheets during the group phase.

However, Spain had beaten Willy Sagnol’s Georgia side twice in qualifying, winning 7-1 away and 3-1 at home, and their class ultimately told on a rainy night. Rodri Hernandez stroked in the equaliser six minutes before half-time, and Fabian Ruiz headed in a Lamine Yamal cross to put Spain ahead on 51 minutes.

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia had come close to scoring from inside his own half for Georgia just before that, but Ruiz’s goal effectively ended their hopes of causing a monumental upset. Nico Williams ran from halfway to score a brilliant third goal for Spain on 75 minutes and substitute Dani Olmo wrapped up their victory seven minutes from time. Luis de la Fuente’s team, who missed a host of chances to win by a greater margin, will now go to Stuttgart for a clash with the host nation on Friday. That game is also a repeat of the Euro 2008 final which Spain won 1-0 to begin their golden era.

“We’re very happy because we know what it takes to be here. That’s been shown by what the other teams have gone through,” De la Fuente told Spanish television. No cold sweats before Spain Euros showdown, says Germany’s Raum

Euro 2024 hosts Germany are not feeling the heat ahead of Friday’s blockbuster quarter-final with Spain in Stuttgart, defender David Raum said on Monday. “I’m not breaking out in cold sweats and I don’t think anyone will be,” Raum told reporters, saying “we have to beat everyone if we want to achieve our big goal”.

“With Williams and Yamal, they have two dribblers who will give Jo (Kimmich) and me a real challenge - or whatever full-back the coach chooses. “But we will come up with a good plan and will try and find ways to keep them busy in defence.”

Kimmich called Spain “the most stable team” at Euro 2024. “They’ve won all of their games very confidently. They’re going to be a tough nut to crack,” he said. “If you want to win the tournament, there’s no way around Spain, but I don’t think the Spanish will be happy they’ve got us as opponents.”

Germany and Spain have each won three Euros titles, sharing the record for the most tournament wins. Coach Julian Nagelsmann selected Maximilian Mittelstaedt over Raum throughout 2024 but started the Leipzig left-back against Denmark after his last-minute assist for Niclas Fuellkrug’s equaliser in the 1-1 draw with Switzerland. Against Denmark, Raum won Germany a penalty early in the second half when his cross hit the hand of Joachim Andersen, allowing the hosts to break the deadlock.