Es war nicht bloß ein Jubel. Es war ein Gefühlsausbruch, wie ihn Gareth Southgate bisher selten gezeigt hat bei dieser Europameisterschaft. Niemanden hielt es mehr auf den Sitzen um kurz vor elf Uhr am Mittwochabend, als der Abpfiff im Westfalenstadion erklang, die Engländer einander in die Arme fielen und Southgate gar nicht genug bekam von der Nähe seiner Spieler. 

In einem teils spektakulären Halbfinale hatte sich seine Mannschaft mit 2:1-Toren gegen die Niederlande durchgesetzt und damit Fußball-Geschichte geschrieben. Zum ersten Mal überhaupt hat eine englische Mannschaft das Finale eines großen Turniers außerhalb von England erreicht. Xavi Simons (7. Minute) brachte die Niederländer in Führung, Harry Kane glich kurz danach per Elfmeter aus (17.), und als schon alle im Stadion an die Verlängerung dachten, entschied der eingewechselte Ollie Watkins diese Begegnung (90.).

Es war das Duell zweier Fußball-Schwergewichte. Eines, das die Luft rund um das Westfalenstadion schon Stunden vor dem Anpfiff zum Flirren brachte. Niederländer und Engländer kreierten eine Stimmung, die sich irgendwo zwischen Schlagermove und Open-Air-Festival bewegte, eine, in der viel gesungen, viel getrunken und ordentlich geschunkelt wurde.

Zumindest atmosphärisch erlebte England – zunächst jedenfalls – zum ersten Mal bei dieser EM ein Auswärtsspiel. Die gelbe Wand im Westfalenstadion tauchten die Niederländer orangefarben. Auch auf den anderen drei Tribünen, sogar auf der Seite der Engländer, waren die Fans der „Elftal“ an diesem Abend in großer Zahl vertreten. „Wir wissen, dass wir große Unterstützung haben – das ist großartig für uns“, sagte der niederländische Trainer Ronald Koeman vor dem Anpfiff. „Aber das Spiel wird zwischen den weißen Linien  entschieden.“

Der finale Treffer: Bart Verbruggen wurde von Ollie Watkins überwunden
The final goal: Bart Verbruggen was overtaken by Ollie WatkinsAFP

And that's where things started from the first minute. England started bravely and at times pressed harder than ever before in this tournament. But the Dutch scored the first effective goal. About 35 metres from goal, Declan Rice lost the ball to Xavi Simons, who drove the ball forward with three touches and then scored on his fourth touch from about 18 metres with a powerful shot into the left corner of the goal to give the Netherlands the lead (7. ). England had never before won three knockout matches after coming from behind. That was exactly the task.

As in previous rounds, Southgate's team reacted quickly when asked. Bart Verbruggen was able to stop a shot from Kane from around 25 metres (13th), shortly afterwards Kane tried again from around eleven metres and fired the ball over the goal (14th). But: German referee Felix Zwayer was told to look at the scene in the penalty area again. And when he saw how Denzel Dumfries had hit Kane with an open sole, Zwayer logically decided to penalise. Kane grabbed the ball, Verbruggen anticipated the corner, but the shot was so strong and placed that the goalkeeper was powerless (17th).

England win in added time
England win in added timedpa

England continued to push the accelerator, especially down the right, with Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden and Kyle Walker repeatedly causing problems for the Dutch. Enraged from the stands, the match barely took a breath. Dumfries saved a Foden shot just off the goal line (23'), then shortly after hit the bar with his head from a corner (29'), before Foden again fired a shot from distance off the post (32').

England's best 45 minutes of the tournament

Then Memphis Depay sat down in the centre circle and signalled that he could not continue any longer. The fact that Koeman brought on a midfielder instead of a striker, Joey Veerman (35th), could certainly be seen as a signal. England pressed and the Dutch, even before the break, looked like a wounded boxer, barely able to get out of their own half and somehow wanted to escape at half-time. These 45 minutes were England's best in the tournament. Anyone who had seen it even once before had to rub their eyes in amazement.

Duel at eye level: Holland's Jerdy Schouten and England's Jude Bellingham
Duel at eye level: Holland's Jerdy Schouten and England's Jude BellinghamReuters

At half-time, Koeman reacted again and brought on Wout Weghorst for Donyell Malen. For the English team, Luke Shaw replaced Kieran Trippier at left-back. That did not change the balance of power on the pitch. England determined what happened with the ball, the Dutch chased it, but they had the first big chance in the second half when Virgil van Dijk headed in a free kick, but Jordan Pickford was able to save it (66').

Suddenly something changed on the field. The team that had just been in control of everything had to defend properly for the first time in this match. And the team, whose players had spent most of the time arguing vehemently among themselves and openly showing their discontent, seemed to feel that there might still be a way back in this game for them.

The footballing fireworks of the first half turned into a positional battle where one moment could make the difference. When Saka scored (79th), it looked like exactly that moment had arrived, but Walker was just offside before his cross. Kane and Foden left the field, Southgate brought on Ollie Watkins and Cole Palmer.

Once again, Southgate has shown his golden touch in this tournament. With just two minutes of added time remaining on the touchline, Watkins received the ball in the box, briefly beat his opponent Stefan de Vrij and made it 2-1 to the English. There was no one left on the bench. England and Southgate's journey ends with next Sunday's final in Berlin against Spain. Anyone who remembers the games since June 14 cannot help but see them as the underdogs. But England have shown that anything can be expected of them at any time.