Ollie Watkins becomes England’s unexpected hero with a dramatic last-minute winner at Euro 2024

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Ollie Watkins celebrates after the game

Ollie Watkins describes himself as a realist. He never imagined playing for England in a major tournament, especially when he was sent on loan to a sixth-tier club, Weston-super-Mare, as a teenager learning to be a striker in 2015.

Imagine what Watkins felt when he saw his shot in stoppage time beat Netherlands goalkeeper Bart Verbruggen and go into the net, securing England’s spot in the European Championship final.

“I don’t think I’ve ever struck a ball that cleanly before,” Watkins said after England’s 2-1 win over the Dutch in the semifinals on Wednesday.

Now, Watkins has become a hero in England, a surprising turn of events for a striker who had only played 24 minutes at Euro 2024 — coming on as a substitute in the group stage against Denmark — before replacing captain Harry Kane in the 80th minute for the most significant moment of his career.

England players celebrates after the game

Being a backup to Kane, England’s top scorer with 66 goals, is challenging. Playing time is limited — Kane usually plays the entire game — so every chance has to be taken.

Watkins seized that chance with a goal that fans of the Premier League have seen many times in his matches for Aston Villa.

Running behind the Dutch defense in a way that Kane doesn’t often do now, Watkins received a pass from Cole Palmer with his back to the goal. In one swift move, he turned and shot low between the legs of Netherlands defender Stefan De Vrij and past Verbruggen from a tight angle.


By Christopher Kamila

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