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Watch Highlights: Ollie Watkins Scores Injury-Time Winner as England Beats Netherlands to Reach EURO 2024 Fina

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Ollie Watkins struck a stunning injury-time winner as England beat the Netherlands 2-1 on Wednesday, setting up a Euro 2024 final showdown with Spain in Berlin.

The evening began poorly for England, with Xavi Simons giving the Netherlands an early lead in the semi-final in Dortmund. However, England quickly equalized through a Harry Kane penalty following a contentious VAR decision by German referee Felix Zwayer. The match seemed destined for extra time until Watkins’ dramatic late goal.

Substituted for Kane, Watkins received a pass from fellow substitute Cole Palmer in the first minute of stoppage time. With his back to goal, he turned and fired a low shot into the far corner, leaving the Netherlands bewildered.

“I’m lost for words really,” said Watkins, the Aston Villa striker. “I don’t think I’ve hit a ball that sweet before, and obviously in such a special moment.”

Despite a somewhat unconvincing campaign, Gareth Southgate’s England side reached their second consecutive men’s European Championship final, dreaming of winning their first major trophy since 1966. To achieve this, they will need to perform better than at any point so far in Germany as they face an outstanding Spain team, who beat France 2-1 on Tuesday.

“We play the team who’ve been the best team in the tournament and we have a day less to prepare, so it’s a huge task. But we’re still here and we’re fighting,” Southgate said.

The Netherlands had hoped to replicate their 1988 triumph at the last Euros in Germany, but their current side lacks the star quality of Marco van Basten or Ruud Gullit. Instead, they now head home.

“I am disappointed about the final result in a match which started really good for us,” said their coach, Ronald Koeman. “A great goal, and then it’s over, and that is difficult to accept.”

England reached this stage despite not winning any of their last four matches in 90 minutes, having been taken to extra time by Slovakia and Switzerland. This might have given the Dutch an edge physically, after they shrugged off finishing third in their group to brush aside Romania and see off Turkey.

England welcomed back Marc Guehi in defense after suspension, while Koeman opted to start Donyell Malen in attack on the ground where he plays club football for Borussia Dortmund. The Westfalenstadion holds special significance for the Dutch, as the scene of their 2-0 win over Brazil in the 1974 World Cup, with goals by Johan Neeskens and Johan Cruyff.

The Dutch went ahead in Berlin after just seven minutes thanks to a brilliant effort by Simons, who robbed Declan Rice 35 meters out and sent a rasping drive beyond Jordan Pickford. The Dutch players celebrated with their fans, as England found themselves trailing for the third game running.

However, England reacted swiftly. Kane forced a save from Bart Verbruggen and moments later sent a volley over the bar, being caught by Denzel Dumfries on the follow-through. Zwayer reviewed the images and awarded a penalty. Kane, whose missed spot-kick against France cost England dearly in the 2022 World Cup, made no mistake, slotting low into the corner.

The game settled into an open and entertaining contest, with Dumfries clearing off the line from Phil Foden and crashing a header off the bar from a Simons corner. Foden responded by curling a superb shot off the post.

England’s midfielders were given too much time on the ball, and Koeman used an injury to Memphis Depay to reinforce the center, replacing the forward with Joey Veerman. Wout Weghorst replaced Malen at half-time, but the game became more cagey as the minutes went on.

Pickford denied Virgil van Dijk on 65 minutes, and the Netherlands began to take control as England’s leading players tired. England had the ball in the net on 79 minutes when Bukayo Saka turned in Kyle Walker’s cutback, but the latter was just offside and the flag came up.

Southgate then decided to remove Kane and Foden, with Watkins and Palmer entering the fray to devastating effect.