England hero Ollie Watkins’ mid-match Netherlands message to Cole Palmer proves spot on | Football | Sport

Ollie Watkins has revealed he earlier predicted that Cole Palmer would assist him during England’s victorious Euro 2024 semi-final victory over the Netherlands.

Watkins has been forced to endure a frustrating tournament so far, with his only other appearance for the Three Lions coming in the goalless draw against Denmark.

It was a bold call from manager Gareth Southgate, who hooked captain and record goalscorer Harry Kane with 10 minutes to play.

The move paid dividends, with Watkins bursting in behind the Dutch backline, before being picked out by fellow substitute Cole Palmer and rifling into the bottom left-hand corner.

Speaking to ITV after the match, Watkins said: “Unbelievable, I’ve been waiting for that moment for weeks. It’s taken a lot of hard work for me to get to where I am today. Grateful I got the opportunity and I grabbed it with both hands. I’m delighted.

“I swear on my life and my kid’s life, I said to Cole Palmer we’re coming on today and you’re going to set me up. That’s why I was so happy with Cole, I knew as soon as he got the ball he was going to play me. You’ve got to be greedy, touch and finish.

“When I saw it go in the bottom corner, it’s the best feeling ever.”

When quizzed on criticism levelled at Southgate for not making substitutions early enough, Watkins commented: “There’s been a lot of criticism, but at the end of the day we’re in the final and that’s all that matters. Forget all the outside noise, we’re in the final.

“We’ve got that bounceback factor, going a goal behind seems to kick us into gear and we never give up. We’ve won on penalties, we’ve come from behind. One more game.”

And when asked if he’s ready for Sunday’s clash against Spain, Watkins bluntly replied: “Ready.”

Talk around substitutions have followed England’s tournament around all summer, with Gary Neville quick to praise his former team-mate for the decisive action during the Netherlands clash.

Speaking on the ITV coverage, Neville said: “Maybe he [Southgate] waits a little bit longer than everyone else would at home, but making the substitution at half-time was a good one, getting that balance with Luke Shaw on the left-hand side.

“I think we all thought that Ollie Watkins and Cole Palmer should come on, everyone in the studio was talking about Watkins coming on and running in behind Virgil Van Dijk.

“He’s made the substitutions eventually, he’s a bit more calm, but Gareth… there isn’t a more experienced Englishman in tournament football in England’s history.

“He’s been to more tournaments, more scenarios. He’s been there, seen it, done it, that’s with the under-21s as well.”

Southgate and co. now have one more hurdle to climb over, with three-time European champions Spain to come on Sunday.

It’s the first time an England men’s side have reached the final of a major tournament on foreign soil, as their previous two appearances came at Wembley in 1966 and 2021.

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