Euro 2024: Watkins, who scored the winner against England, swears the goal was planned

England player Ollie Watkins swore on his life that he masterminded Cole Palmer’s decisive goal from the bench before coming on as a substitute in the 2-1 win over the Netherlands at the European Championship on Wednesday.

With the match tied 1-1, Watkins and Palmer entered the game in the 80th minute and connected on a goal that will go down in English history as the Aston Villa striker beat Dutch goalkeeper Bart Verbruggen in second-half stoppage time to send the Three Lions into a second successive Euro final.

“Unbelievable. I’ve been waiting for that moment for weeks,” Watkins said after the match. “It’s taken a lot of hard work to get to where I am today, and I’m grateful that I got the opportunity and I’ve taken it with both hands and I’m thrilled.”

“I swear on my life. I told Cole Palmer, ‘You’re going to come in here today and you’re going to set me up,’ and that’s why I was so happy with Coley.

“I knew as soon as he got the ball he was going to play me and you have to be ambitious, touch it and finish, and when I saw it go into the bottom corner, it was the best feeling I’ve ever had.”

It was a sweet victory for England and Gareth Southgate, who have come under heavy criticism from fans for the lacklustre nature with which they navigated their way through this year’s tournament in Germany.

But criticism aside, Southgate, who took charge in 2016, has led the team to at least the quarter-finals in the last four major tournaments, the only European team to achieve this feat.

They lost to Italy on penalties in the Euro 2020 final but now have the chance to overcome Spain in Sunday’s match in Berlin and win England’s first major men’s trophy since the 1966 World Cup.

“It shows England’s more modern way of playing, but also the resilience and character of the group,” Southgate said after the match. “Ollie Watkins has trained like this every day. He has trained for his moment no matter how frustrated he was.”

“(The players) supported each other, they connected very well and tonight was an example of that.”

England had needed penalties to overcome Switzerland in each of their last eight games before Wednesday’s winner and Southgate said his side had learned from knockout games since the 2018 World Cup in Russia, where they lost in the semi-finals to Croatia.

“We’re approaching knockout games with a bit more confidence. We hadn’t won a knockout game in Russia for 10 years,” Southgate said. “I’m immensely proud to have been able to lead the team to its first ever final abroad.”

England won the 1966 World Cup on home soil, while the Euro 2020 final was also held at Wembley. This final will be the first for an English team away from home, with opponents Spain being the team in the best form at Euro 2024 so far.

“We’ll have to get the ball off them first,” Southgate said of their next opponents. “It’s not as simple as just having the ball and making them run. We have to be exceptional with the ball and without it. They’ve been the better team.”

Spain is listed as the favorite in the final, according to ESPN BET, with La Roja at -155 and England at +120 to win the tournament.

Information from Reuters was used in this story.

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