England beat Slovakia to Enter Euro 2024 Quarter-Finals

Jude Bellingham and Harry Kane celebrating after scoring for England in Euro 2024.

In a nail-biting encounter in Gelsenkirchen, England secured their place in the Euro 2024 quarter-finals with a dramatic 2-1 victory over Slovakia. Jude Bellingham, celebrating his 21st birthday, emerged as the hero with a stunning overhead kick that salvaged England’s campaign and sent shockwaves through the footballing world.

Slovakia’s Early Dominance

From the first whistle, Slovakia showcased their intent. They pressed high and disrupted England’s rhythm, culminating in Ivan Schranz’s well-taken goal in the 25th minute. Schranz capitalized on a defensive lapse, racing into the box to slot a low finish past England keeper Jordan Pickford. The goal silenced the English supporters and put Slovakia in a commanding position.

England’s Struggles and Southgate’s Tactical Decisions

A lack of cohesion and creativity marked England’s first half. Manager Gareth Southgate’s decision to start Kobbie Mainoo over the impressive Cole Palmer raised eyebrows. The midfield struggled to link up with the attack, leaving Harry Kane isolated and frustrated. Kane’s missed header and Declan Rice’s shot off the post highlighted England’s inefficiency in front of goal.

Bellingham’s Moment of Genius

As the clock ticked down, England’s hopes seemed to be fading. However, Jude Bellingham, who had faced criticism for his previous performances, rose to the occasion. In the dying seconds, Bellingham executed a stunning overhead kick, converting Marc Guehi’s headed flick into a spectacular goal. The strike was England’s first effort on target and injected new life into the team and their supporters.

Kane Completes the Turnaround

Buoyed by Bellingham’s brilliance, England carried their momentum into extra time. Just a minute in, Harry Kane showcased his poacher’s instinct, heading home from close range to complete the comeback. Slovakia, who had defended bravely for much of the match, were left stunned by England’s sudden resurgence.

Defensive Concerns and Guehi’s Suspension

Despite the victory, England’s defensive frailties were evident. Marc Guehi, who has been a pillar of strength at the back, will miss the quarter-final against Switzerland due to a second yellow card. His absence will be keenly felt, especially given his crucial interventions and composed presence alongside John Stones.

England’s performance, while ultimately successful, leaves much to be desired. Southgate and his team must address their early vulnerabilities and improve their attacking cohesion. The introduction of Cole Palmer provided a spark, raising questions about his exclusion from the starting lineup. With Switzerland awaiting in the quarter-finals, England will need to find a balance between defensive solidity and offensive creativity.

Also Read: England’s Route to Euro 2024 Final: Fixtures, Dates & Times