Euro 2024: Misfiring England faces on-form Switzerland for a semifinal spot

DUESSELDORF, Germany (AP) — England will play Switzerland in the quarterfinals of the European Championship on Saturday. England manager Gareth Southgate says his team looks “in a different place mentally” after struggling to an extra-time win over Slovakia. Jude Bellingham is available after avoiding a ban for an offensive gesture. Switzerland exceeded expectations by knocking out defending champion Italy. The winner will play the Netherlands or Turkey in the semifinals. Kickoff is at 6 p.m. local (1600 GMT) in Duesseldorf. Here’s what to know about the match:

Match facts

— England is playing its fourth quarterfinal at a major tournament under England manager Gareth Southgate and won two of the previous three. Southgate’s cautious tactics have brought hefty criticism from England fans, some of whom threw plastic cups at him in the group stage.

— Jude Bellingham’s last-minute overhead kick to send England’s last-16 game with Slovakia to extra time has been one of the most dramatic moments of Euro 2024. Defender John Stones said Thursday that surviving that brush with elimination gave the team new confidence.

— Switzerland coach Murat Yakin has won a reputation for smart tactics at Euro 2024, especially by outclassing an Italy team packed with more famous names in the round of 16.

— England is playing two days after a general election ended 14 years of rule by the Conservative Party. It didn’t make waves in the England camp, which Stones called a “politics-free zone.”

Team news

— Bellingham is available after he avoided an immediate ban from UEFA, which investigated an allegedly crude gesture he made during the Slovakia game. UEFA fined Bellingham 30,000 euros ($32,500) and gave him a one-game ban that only takes effect if he breaks the rules again during a one-year probationary period. He has denied he was mocking Slovakia when he seemed to gesture toward his crotch.

— Southgate has refused to rule out switching to a back five against Switzerland. “We’re always considering the best way to approach a game,” he said on Friday when asked about the prospect.

— England defender Marc Guéhi is suspended after picking up a second booking against Slovakia. Ezri Konsa, who came off the bench in extra time in that game, is the favorite to replace him in the center of defense alongside Stones.

— Stones wore heavy strapping on his right knee in training Wednesday but said Thursday he’s fit to play.

— Bellingham, forward Phil Foden and full back Kieran Trippier are among five England players who would miss the semifinals if booked against Switzerland. Captain Granit Xhaka is one of four Swiss players in the same situation.

— Xhaka is fit after training individually earlier this week, Yakin said on Friday.

By the numbers

— Southgate is marking his 100th game in charge and it could be his last. His contract expires after the tournament.

— Switzerland hasn’t beaten England for 43 years. Harry Kane scored the winning goal when England had a comeback 2-1 win the last time they played in a 2022 friendly.

— It’s only the third time the Swiss team is playing in the quarterfinals of a major tournament. It has yet to reach a semifinal. A penalty-shootout loss to Spain in the quarterfinals of Euro 2020 was its best European Championship showing.

What they’re saying

— “Every team wants to excite, every team wants to score goals. We’ve played opponents who’ve made it very, very difficult for us. … There’s been a lot of expectation on the team in the early part of the tournament, especially. I feel that the team, even in training now, look in a different place mentally. They look more fluid and I’m expecting us to play well tomorrow.” — England manager Gareth Southgate.

— “The other night, I thought we were going home after 60 minutes of the game. To change the mindset of us all and keep that belief and faith, it’s got a lot of power behind that for ourselves, other teams. Everyone watching at home knows that we’re there to do it right until the last minute, literally. And, I think we should take great confidence from that.” — England defender John Stones.

— “No matter how they played, they are in the quarterfinals, so no one is interested how they played in the group stage and in the games before that. They have a lot of quality and any time they can hurt their opponents, so we need to be prepared for that.” — Switzerland defender Fabian Schär warns against underestimating England.


AP Euro 2024:

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