GELSENKIRCHEN: England manager Gareth Southgate did not believe England would exit Euro 2024 on Sunday evening despite needing extra time to beat Slovakia after a late equaliser.

Jude Bellingham’s stunning overhead kick in the dying seconds of normal time equalised for the Three Lions after Ivan Schranz gave Slovakia a first half lead.

Then, 50 seconds into extra time, Harry Kane nodded home his second goal of the tournament to ultimately see England through with a 2-1 win.

There were questions again regarding England’s overall performance as they were perilously close to being unceremoniously dumped out in the last 16 but Southgate was never concerned.

He said: “Even with the long throw [from Kyle Walker], you felt there was hope. We can cause some chaos and something might drop. I didn’t think the finish would be quite what it was. With 15 minutes to go, you’re thinking Jude is out on he’s feet and should we take him off and put fresh legs on.

“But you know the sort of impact he can have on a game and those moments are why you stick with him at that time. The top players affect the big games in the moments when you need them. It’s that mentality that he has.”

Southgate also explained why England were, at times, lacklustre again Slovakia, but sees the ‘togetherness’ coming together with his squad.

He said: “I think it’s one of those classic England nights where we put everybody through the mill. They’re a good team, it took us a long time to work out how to get through their pressure and you’ve got to be patient to do that. There’s anxiety in the stadium when you’re behind too.

“In the second half, we did that better and we were probing and kept being patient. The players that came in had an impact, but in the end, we were relying on a long throw to be the moment.

“But when you’ve pushed as much as you have and the opponents out on their feet, then those moments can happen and you’ve got to keep the belief.

“He went on to tell a press conference: “”As the manager, you build on the spirit they’ve shown and the belief they will have gained from that.

“I don’t think you can ever really be thinking about it being gone, you’ve got to think about the moment that you’re in and doing everything that that moment calls for. In that moment he [Bellingham] scores an overhead kick.

“We know that we can play better at times but I feel like that the mentality and the belief to come back in that fashion, to perform how we performed is something that you can’t speak highly enough of, so it’s big for us.”

“We’re not naïve, we’re going to play a team who have looked outstanding not only in this tournament but for quite a while as well.

“That’s going to be a big tactical challenge for us, we know the level of our game will have to be higher.
“But there was a spirit and togetherness which has been building. We’ve had a lot of problems to solve through the whole lead into the camp, through the tournament.

“We’re putting a plaster over different things, giving young players opportunities, and somehow finding a way.

“I can imagine how everyone’s going to react to that, even though we’ve won. But we’re still in there, and the one thing that can’t be questioned is the desire, commitment and character.”

Bellingham said his stunning equaliser was ‘right up there’ in terms of the best goals he has scored.

He went on to say in his man-of-the-match press conference: “There’s a few nice ones, ones that mean a lot to me personally, but his one was so important, both for today and the mood change if it doesn’t happen.

“It’s 20 or 30 seconds until we’re out of the European Championship and the mood now is a massive difference, and what it can do for the team going forward. It’s a massive moment, but it’s a long tournament and we’ll only know it if we go on to win the cup. We’ll decide in the next two weeks how important it is.

“Playing for England is a great thing, but it’s a lot of pressure as well. Being on the pitch and scoring goals for me is a release, it’s a very happy moment.”

Kane also found the net in Gelsenkirchen, but credited Bellingham for keeping England’s hopes of glory at Euro 2024 alive.

He said: “That’s the desire and attitude of the boys and everyone involved. It looked tough for a second there but you keep going.

“We work on so many details throughout the week, we put in a long throw a couple of days ago. We said ‘we might need it, be prepared for anything’, and Jude does what Jude does. What an unbelievable goal. It’s kept our tournament alive.

“It’s one of the best in our country’s history, I reckon. What a player he is. He works so hard for the team, there’s been a lot of talk about him over the last couple of days, but he’s showed what he can do.

“In the big moments, he’s stepped up and that’s what we need. We know we’ll do whatever it takes [to win games]. If we have another game like this in the quarter-final, then so be it. This team knows how to dig deep and that’s what we did today.

“We could have been better, but ultimately it’s a results business and that’s all we care about. We can enjoy this and hopefully take that momentum into the rest of the tournament.”

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