Ian Wright hails Ollie Watkins’ late winner as ‘unbelievable moment’ for England

Former England striker Ian Wright hailed match-winner Ollie Watkins after the substitute’s dramatic late goal secured a place in the Euro 2024 final.

Aston Villa forward Watkins, introduced in the closing stages, struck in the last minute as England snatched a last-gasp 2-1 victory over the Netherlands in their semi-final in Dortmund.

Gareth Southgate’s side will now play Spain in Sunday’s final in Berlin bidding to go one better than their runners-up finish three years ago.

Wright said on ITV: “I’m delighted for him. He’s worked very hard to get in the position he’s in now.

Ian Wright, holding a microphone, working as a pundit at a football match
Ian Wright, pictured, was impressed by the late impact of Watkins (Bradley Collyer/PA)

“I’m lost for words, just seeing someone finally being in a position to stretch a team, get half a chance and take a shot. I don’t know what to say. It was an unbelievable moment.

“Ollie Watkins’ game is about industry and running and stretching, getting beyond the defenders and linking. No-one did that to those defenders all night. They had an easy ride until he came on.”

Gary Neville was pleased Southgate made the big decision to bring Watkins on for captain Harry Kane.

Southgate has been criticised during the tournament for the timing of his substitutions while the form of Kane, and his continued place in the side, has also been a subject of debate.

Neville said: “We’ve questioned whether Gareth would make the substitution, get Harry Kane off in big moments. He’s gone and done it and it’s paid off big style.

England manager Gareth Southgate clenches his fists in delight after England reach the Euro 2024 final
Gary Neville was pleased for manager Gareth Southgate, pictured (Nick Potts/PA)

“For me, we have got to trust him. He has delivered for us on many occasions. He has had a tough ride these last few weeks but they have got over the line.

“Over the years England have been called naive when they’ve played well and lost, but this team do whatever it takes. To get over the line was absolutely amazing. It’s what England teams haven’t been able to do in the past.”

Roy Keane, the former Republic of Ireland international, praised England’s resilience.

He said: “They deserve huge credit and they keep coming up with all the answers. They’ve had plenty of luck, if truth be told – the penalty today – but they’ve got big personalities in there.

“They keep going, late on in the game again. It was well deserved.”

One slice of good fortune was the award of England’s first-half penalty which allowed Kane to cancel out Xavi Simons’ stunning opener.

Denzel Dumfries was adjudged to have fouled Kane following a VAR review.

Neville said: “As a defender I think it was an absolutely disgraceful decision. It’s nowhere near a penalty and I don’t think there were many England players claiming for it either.”

Another ex-England full-back, Lee Dixon, felt England’s victory was fully deserved.

He said: “An absolutely brilliant performance. The first half was exceptional. We have come to expect mediocre from England but they have been getting better. The first half was very good indeed.

“Half-time came, the Dutch changed the system, they changed the emphasis of the game and got back in it.

“The game just started to die but the substitutions – Ollie Watkins, Southgate did his bit. He put them on with a vision of scoring the winner and boy did he score a winner. He has put them into the final, fully deserved.”

Advertisement