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England, Switzerland vie for place in final four on TSN


Badly outplayed for 90 minutes against a plucky Slovakia team, England was just seconds away from crashing out of UEFA Euro 2024 in the Round of 16 and deservedly so.

Having never gotten out of first gear at any point in their four matches in Germany, Gareth Southgate’s side – and, likely, his tenure as manager – faced an ignominious ending on the back of a 25th-minute goal from Ivan Schranz. But the Three Lions managed to get off of the canvas.

Deep into stoppage time, Jude Bellingham produced the spectacular. When his team needed it most, the Real Madrid midfielder latched onto Marc Guehi’s flicked-on header and unleashed a sensational overhead kick to stun Martin Dubravka and even the match at 1-1 to force extra time. Beyond excited by the goal, Bellingham's celebratory gesture earned him a one-game ban that can be served in a year's time.

But Slovakia was shell-shocked. Only minutes into the extra frame, Ivan Toney found Harry Kane at the back post and the England captain headed his team in front at 2-1 and they didn’t look back. It was a cruel exit for Slovakia, but also a reminder of what this England team is capable of when motivated. The question remains: Why has motivation seemingly been lacking throughout Euro 2024?

Another performance like the one put in on Sunday in Dusseldorf this Saturday against Switzerland will see England undoubtedly go home. Murat Yakin’s Switzerland side professionally dispatched holders Italy in the Round of 16, 2-0, on goals from Remo Freuler and Ruben Vargas. The Swiss looked comfortable throughout the 90 minutes, never letting the Azzurri get settled. Yakin has Switzerland playing with confidence and on the precipice of its first-ever trip to the semis.

But has a sleeping giant been awakened?

You can catch England vs. Switzerland LIVE at UEFA Euro 2024 from Dusseldorf with coverage getting underway at 11am et/8am pt on TSN3/4, CTV, and the TSN App.

"They are a tournament team who know how they reached the final three years ago, how good they are, and what great players they have,” Yakin said of England. “It's up to us to frustrate another big opponent and to play the game we know how to play. It's a game where anything is possible. I hope that luck is on our side again."

Southgate will be forced into at least one change to his starting XI and it’s one he can ill afford. Crystal Palace centre-back Guehi, perhaps England’s best player at the Euro, is unavailable due to booking accumulation. How Southgate accounts for his absence will be an important decision. On top of Guehi’s ban, John Stones, his partner in central defence, is dealing with a thigh injury and Kieran Trippier is still clearly not 100 per cent. So what to do?

The simplest switch would be to stick to a back four and draft Aston Villa’s Ezri Konsa in to replace Guehi. A 26-year-old native of London, Konsa only received his first cap this past March and it’s clear that Southgate sees something in the player.

“I’m always ready,” Konsa said earlier this week. “When the gaffer wants to play me, wherever he wants to play, I will step in. I’m always ready.”

But Switzerland plays with a back three and Southgate has been experimenting with one in training. There’s also the matter of Luke Shaw. Out of action since February, the Manchester United left-back appears ready to go. Curiously, though, he was pulled out of his Wednesday media appearance for an undisclosed reason. Will we finally see Shaw against Switzerland?

Not that Yakin has any say in the matter, but he would clearly prefer Southgate sticks with four in the back.

“England play vertically,” Yakin explained. “If we press, they won't get into the game. They use their full-backs a lot, which can be unpredictable. We can press teams with a back four well and play our game. England usually play like that, too. They also know how we want to attack. We are excited to see how they want to attack us."

England and Switzerland have played each other on 27 occasions, with the Swiss only winning three times. Their last victory against England came in a 1982 World Cup qualifier in the spring of 1981. In the 13 matches since, England has won 10 and drawn three. Their last meeting came in a Mar. 2022 friendly at Wembley, with the Three Lions claiming a 2-1 win on goals from Shaw and Kane.

Saturday’s match will be the third the two sides have played at a Euro. At Euro 2004 in Portugal, England were 3-0 winners in the group stage on a goal from Steven Gerrard and a brace by Wayne Rooney. Previously, Switzerland held England to a 1-1 draw, also in the group stage, at Wembley in 1996 when Kubilay Turkyilmaz’s 82nd-minute penalty cancelled out a first-half goal from Alan Shearer.

The winner of Saturday’s match will take on the victors of the day’s other quarter-finals tie between Turkiye and the Netherlands.

POTENTIAL ENGLAND XI (3-4-2-1): Jordan Pickford; Kyle Walker, John Stones, Ezri Konsa; Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kobbie Mainoo, Declan Rice, Bukayo Saka; Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham; Harry Kane

POTENTIAL SWITZERLAND XI (3-4-3): Yann Sommer; Fabian Schar, Manuel Akanji, Ricardo Rodriguez; Silvan Widmer, Granit Xhaka, Remo Freuler, Dan Ndoye; Michel Aebischer, Ruben Vargas, Breel Embolo