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Netherlands national football team
European Championship | Semi-Finals
Jul 10, 2024 at 8pm UK
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England national football team

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Euro 2024: England's "brilliant" duo hailed by Warnock ahead of Netherlands semi

© Reuters
Former England international Stephen Warnock reserves special praise for Bukayo Saka and Trent Alexander-Arnold after their pressure penalties to beat Switzerland.

Former England international Stephen Warnock has heaped praise on Bukayo Saka and Trent Alexander-Arnold following their pressure penalties in the Euro 2024 quarter-final victory over Switzerland on Saturday.

Saka and Alexander-Arnold joined Cole Palmer, Jude Bellingham and Ivan Toney in scoring from the spot in the shootout win, as Gareth Southgate's side registered a perfect record from 12 yards to book their place in the final four.

Jordan Pickford's save from Manuel Akanji for Switzerland's first spot kick meant that England did have a small margin for error throughout the shootout, but they were unerring in their accuracy to win 5-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the preceding 120 minutes.

The penalties from Saka and Alexander-Arnold arguably carried even more weight than the rest, with Saka having been one of the players to miss for England in the Euro 2020 final shootout, and Alexander-Arnold facing the pressure of the decisive kick having faced criticism and lost his place in the team earlier in the tournament.

Arsenal winger Saka confidently exorcised his demons from Wembley three years ago by dispatching the third penalty, before Liverpool's Alexander-Arnold emphatically confirmed England's semi-final spot.

Bukayo Saka celebrates scoring for England on July 6, 2024© Reuters

Saka "looked nervous" but showed great character

Not only did Saka have to cope with the disappointment of missing a penalty in the shootout of the Euro 2020 final, he was also subjected to abuse online - including a torrent of racist of abuse - in the wake of England's agonising exit.

Still only 22, the forward nonetheless put himself forward to take another spot kick in a high-stakes environment, capping off a man-of-the-match display which also saw him score England's goal in normal time.

"I love the personality shown by him and the character. You can often miss a penalty and feel that pressure, and I know there was a lot of online trolling against him which is massively out of order," Warnock told Sports Mole.

"But he's ignored it all. He's just got on with his game. He improved last year at Arsenal, he was outstanding for them, and now he's shown in this tournament that he's enjoying the pressure.

"To step up and take a penalty under that pressure again... I thought he looked nervous if I'm being honest, stepping up for it, and understandably so, he's got every right to be nervous and he should be nervous because again, it's putting yourself in that pressure situation. But to step into that situation is just brilliant."

England's Trent Alexander-Arnold scores a penalty to win the shoot-out on July 6, 2024© Reuters

Trent trusted his technique

Alexander-Arnold is one of three players in the England squad to have taken more than two penalties in his career and still boast a 100% record from the spot, alongside fellow scorers Palmer and Bellingham.

However, the full-back is not Liverpool's regular taker at club level, and has endured a testing tournament on an individual basis having been thrown into an unfamiliar midfield role during the group stages.

Alexander-Arnold has since lost his place in Gareth Southgate's starting XI, but stepped up when it mattered in Saturday's shootout.

"All the penalties were outstanding. What's impressive is that [Alexander-Arnold] is not the main penalty taker for Liverpool," Warnock told Sports Mole.

"When you look at that situation, you look at Cole Palmer, he's the main penalty-taker. Toney, Saka, they're all the main penalty takers, and then you're asking Trent because he's so technically gifted.

"What you've got to understand is, what goes on behind the scenes, with probably psychologists working on putting yourself in that situation and making sure that when they go up to take that penalty, there's a routine. There are hours of practise on the training ground ready to take that penalty and trust in your technique.

"The pressure on him was probably huge, but he didn't look like that pressure had been on him. He hadn't missed a penalty like Saka had. I think you could see it in Saka's face a little bit more, but it was a quite brilliant penalty.

"The technique in it was incredible. If the keeper dives the right way, I don't think he gets anywhere near it anyway, such is the power and accuracy."

England will next aim to reach a second consecutive European Championship final when they take on Netherlands in Dortmund on Wednesday night.

Stephen Warnock was speaking to Sports Mole on behalf of BetVictor.

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England manager Gareth Southgate pictured on July 6, 2024
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Group A

TeamPWDLPTS
Q Germany Germany32107
Q Switzerland Switzerland31205
3 Hungary Hungary31023
4 Scotland flag Scotland30121

Group B

TeamPWDLPTS
Q Spain Spain33009
Q Italy Italy31114
3 Croatia Croatia30212
4 Albania national flag Albania30121

Group C

TeamPWDLPTS
Q England flag England31205
Q Denmark Denmark30303
Q Slovenia Slovenia30303
4 Serbia Serbia30212

Group D

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Q Austria Austria32016
Q France France31205
Q Netherlands Netherlands31114
4 Poland Poland30121

Group E

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Q Romania Romania31114
Q Belgium Belgium31114
Q Slovakia Slovakia31114
4 Ukraine Ukraine31114

Group F

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Q Portugal Portugal32016
Q Turkey Turkey32016
Q Georgia Georgia31114
4 Czech Republic Czech Republic30121


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