11 July 2024

The major tournament debutants playing a key role for England at Euro 2024

11 July 2024

Ollie Watkins fired England into a second successive European Championships final as his last-gasp strike secured a dramatic 2-1 win over the Netherlands in Dortmund.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the England players making a splash in their major tournament debuts at Euro 2024.

Marc Guehi

Preferred to Ezri Konsa and Lewis Dunk at the heart of defence, Guehi was a shining light in England’s otherwise lamentable early showings, a composed presence alongside the more established John Stones. Former England goalkeeper Joe Hart labelled the Guehi “exceptional” and the team’s “standout performer” as he made sure Harry Maguire’s absence went unnoticed. Konsa proved an able deputy when Guehi was suspended against Switzerland but the Crystal Palace centre-half was reassuring against the Dutch.

Kobbie Mainoo

England’s youngest squad member might have thought he was there for the experience when Trent Alexander-Arnold was initially selected alongside Declan Rice in the engine room of England’s midfield. Conor Gallagher was then given a go against Slovenia but was utterly ineffective so Gareth Southgate gambled on Manchester United’s Mainoo, who grabbed his chance with both hands. The 19-year-old has offers vibrancy and has the best pass percentage of any England midfielder in Germany. He only had three caps to his name prior to this tournament but it is little wonder England and United team-mate Luke Shaw believes Mainoo can “achieve anything” and has “the world at his feet”.

Cole Palmer

Demanded inclusion after a jaw-dropping season with Chelsea but, having played just four times for the national team and with others ahead of him, it was difficult to see how he would fit in. While he is yet to start, it is clear he is becoming increasingly trusted by Southgate, who has thrown him on in England’s last four matches. Palmer has risen to the occasion in the last two, scoring England’s first penalty in the shootout win over Switzerland then providing the assist for Watkins to score the winner against the Netherlands.

Ivan Toney

This time last year, the Brentford hitman’s career was in disarray after he was slapped with an eight-month ban for breaching betting rules – he only returned to playing in January. Toney and Watkins were always going to be back-ups for England captain Harry Kane but that has not impinged upon their ability to make an impact. Visibly irritated at being brought on so late against Slovakia but provided the assist for Harry Kane to score an extra-time winner, while his audacious ‘no-look’ penalty technique against Switzerland took social media by storm.

Ollie Watkins

A peripheral figure until he became the toast of the nation on Wednesday night. The Aston Villa striker had a 20-minute cameo against Denmark but was unused until late on against the Netherlands, when he and Palmer combined to remarkable effect. Even more remarkable was Watkins apparently prophesying what would transpire as he said afterwards: “I said to Cole we were both going to get on the pitch and he was going to set me up at half-time. It happened. I manifested it.”

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