KEIR RADNEDGE in DUSSELDORF: England manager Gareth Southgate praised the character, resilience and composure of his team after their shootout victory over Switzerland here in the quarter-finals of the 2024 UEFA European Championship.

England fell a goal behind to Breel Embolo in the 75th minute then equalised through Bukayo Saka five minutes later before winning 5-3 after a flawless exhibition of penalties, three years after losing the last Euro final on spotkicks to Italy at Wembley.

Southgate said: “I thought we played well all night. we had to be so good both with and without the ball. We had to defend with discipline. These players are showing unbelievable qualities of character and resilience, dealing with everything around us, twice coming from behind and then a penalty shootout where their composure was impeccable. I was proud of them.”

He added: “We’ve been in four shootouts and won three. we got crucified for the one we lost [against Italy] and that’s always going to be the case.

“We refined the preparation process and now we have more regular penalty takers but the players still have to show the composure they did: Cole Palmer at his age taking the first, Bukayo with his history, Ivan Toney coming on as a sub and knowing one of the reasons we brought him was that moment and then Trent who was stuck with the task of No5 even though he might have thought his tournament was done.

‘Special’ Saka

“I gave Bukayo a massive cuddle on the pitch at the end. He’s a special boy, a dream to work with, and while you’re pleased for everybody it’s for him especially.”

Saka underwent a torrent of social media abuse after being among the England players who missed their spotkicks three years ago.

Southgate, after all the criticism he has undergone during these finals, especially enjoyed dancing in celebration in front of the fans at the end.

He said: “When I took the job I wanted us to regain credibility on the world stage so I can’t deny when the criticism has been personal its difficult. So if I can’t enjoy a moment like that the job would be a waste of time. I love the players and being in that moment with them.

“We’re showing ourselves now to be a bit more streetwise. It’s a young team and a lot of them are going to be around for a long time. We’ve never been to a final outside Europe, we’ve never won a Euro so there is plenty of history we’d like to create.”

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