Euro 2024 | England fans, pundits lurch from agony to ecstasy but still unconvinced after Slovakia win

Pundits and former players were horrified by England's lethargic first half, saying Southgate had to rip up his plan and make wholesale changes to start the second.
Last Updated : 01 July 2024, 10:49 IST

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Gelsenkirchen: Some 94 minutes into England's white-knuckled 2-1 victory over Slovakia in the European Championship's round of 16 on Sunday, fans and pundits were sharpening the knives. "Southgate Out" was trending on social media platform X.

But Jude Bellingham's 95th-minute bicycle kick and Harry Kane's winning header early in extra time saved England from an embarrassing exit, perhaps salvaged manager Gareth Southgate's job, and infused a sliver of optimism into fans in what has been a mediocre tournament for their team.

Prince William, who is also FA president, posted on X: "Emotional rollercoaster! Let's go England! Quarter finals here we come! W."

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak posted: "It's not over until it's over," while one fan likely summed up the feeling of many, writing: "My heart can't take another like that."

Pundits and former players were less kind.

They were horrified by England's lethargic first half, saying Southgate had to rip up his plan and make wholesale changes to start the second.

"Southgate could be out of a job in 45 minutes if he doesn't change something," former Manchester United captain Roy Keane said. "He needs to go out on his shield."

Former United defender Gary Neville compared the game to England's humiliating last-16 exit to minnows Iceland at the 2016 European Championship.

"I was sat on a bench in Nice eight years ago when England played Iceland -- this has got Iceland vibes written all over it," he said.

Southgate did not make a change until the 66th minute.

While England's jeers turned to cheers inside Arena AufSchalke by the final whistle, the pundits remained bleak in their assessment of England and their tournament hopes.

"Sweet Caroline doesn't sound very sweet," Neville said in reference to the Neil Diamond song that has become an anthem for England fans.

"Relief is the word of the day. We've been very, very lucky and we should thank our lucky stars because we were woeful and we've been woeful now for four games."

Former England forward Ian Wright said it was very difficult to feel confident about the team.

"But we've just shown that we've got two players that are capable of putting out fires," he added.

Neville stressed that England need to improve dramatically ahead of their quarter-final on Saturday against Switzerland, who beat reigning champions Italy in the round of 16.

"Gareth will realise that he was so close to the edge," he said.

England are 13 matches unbeaten against Switzerland dating back to 1981. They have won the last five including a 2-1 victory in a March 2022 friendly.

Published 01 July 2024, 10:49 IST

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