Two second-half substitutions combined to give England another come-from-behind victory at Euro 2024. This time, it was to propel the Three Lions of England and Gareth Southgate into the Euro Final. The England head coach has long faced criticism from England fans for a myriad of reasons. Among those were lack of creativity, unwillingness to push forward and reliance on some players more than others. Yet, the one that most fans took exception to in-game was his lack of substitutions.

Oftentimes, Southgate would wait until it was too late to make meaningful substitutions. Against the Netherlands, he made one substitution before the 80th minute, which raised the concerns once again. However, with 10 minutes to play, Southgate brought on Cole Palmer and Ollie Watkins. The Dutch had control of the ball for much of the second half, but it took one opportunity for those two players to make a difference.

Declan Rice found Cole Palmer on the right side. The Chelsea winger carried the ball forward and played the ball into Watkins. Stefan de Vrij attempted to shield Watkins away, but Watkins turned onto his right foot. A delightful shot along the ground flew into the bottom left corner between the legs of de Vrij. Bart Verbruggen, the goalkeeper for the Netherlands, was helpless as the ball sailed in.

The goal came as the 90 minutes expired. With just two minutes of stoppage time to play, the Netherlands had no time to equalize. Gareth Southgate’s two second-half substitutions were the difference, and the tactics the manager used were effective.

Gareth Southgate delivering Euro success to England despite the critics

With this win over the Netherlands, England has now reached consecutive European Championship Finals. That goes along with a semifinal appearance at the 2018 World Cup and a narrow loss against eventual finalist France at the 2022 World Cup. Say what one will about Gareth Southgate’s avoidance of excitement. These are results, and England has collectively ushered in the best six years in its history at international competition. Before Southgate, England had never reached a European Championship Final. Moreover, it had won six knockout-stage games in its history. That includes the World Cup and the Euros.

With Southgate at the helm, England has advanced in the knockout rounds nine times following its triumph against the Netherlands. No one will look back at England’s recent run of success and question why Southgate did not bring on Cole Palmer sooner. Nor will they say England fluked its way to more success in international tournaments. Southgate’s pragmatic coaching has bonafide results, and England fans should not care about the form it comes in.

That will face an even stiffer test on Sunday when England plays Spain. Luis de la Fuente’s side has been by far the best team in the competition. Officially, Spain has won five of its six games, with the success against Germany in the quarterfinals coming in extra time. Looking at the results Spain had, no other side can boast as strong of a resume. It defeated both Croatia and Italy in the group stage before knocking out host nation Germany before France in the semifinals.

Pragmatism may not succeed as well against flashy and fast wingers like Lamine Yamal and Nico Williams. The midfield of Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham, Kobbie Mainoo and Phil Foden is assuredly talented, but their defensive duties are mandatory against a composed midfield like Spain. If the Final is as good as the two semifinals, fans are in for a treat. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET with coverage available on FOX for those in the United States.


Euro 2024

Here are some resources to get you ready for Euros!
Euro Bracket: Download a free PDF bracket for the tournament
Euro 2024 Schedule: Full schedule of all games for the 2024 tournament
How to watch: Information on where to find the games on TV and streaming
How to Stream Learn how you can stream Euro games live in 2024
2024 Soccer Calendar: Get the lowdown on what will be a busy year in soccer