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2/2 long balls, 3/3 duels: United youngster nearly flawless as England book spot in Euro 2024 final

England booked their place in the Euro 2024 final on Wednesday night with a 2-1 victory over the Netherlands.

While the Dutch got the match off to a fiery start, with Xavi Simmons handing them a seventh-minute lead courtesy of a sublime goal from distance, it was soon England who controlled proceedings.

In the 18th minute, Denzel Dumfries was adjudged to have fouled Harry Kane, handing England a penalty. Kane coolly slotted the ball into the bottom left corner out of the keeper’s reach to level the scoreline.

England dominated possession for the remainder of the half, with Phil Foden hitting the post and both Foden and Kane coming close to scoring with shots from distance that forced a save from the keeper. Dumfries handed the Netherlands their best scoring chance when his header from a corner struck the crossbar.

For most of the second half, it was a tedious game of football, with neither side showing much aggression or intent to threaten the other’s goalmouth. Still, it was England who came up with the goods.

In what has become the norm throughout the tournament, England produced a late goal when substitute Ollie Watkins hit a sensational low shot across the face of goal towards the far-post, sealing the win for the Three Lions. But while he may have grabbed the headlines, Manchester United midfielder Kobbie Mainoo proved to be England’s core midfielder who truly held the team together.

Looking at his physicality, Mainoo was at the top of his game, winning all three of his ground duels on the night. This included a solid tackle on Cody Gakpo high up the field which the teenager followed up from with a shot that was ultimately blocked.

Still, his defensive efforts didn’t end there. Man United’s rising star completed two tackles and made two interceptions, proving how effective he is when tracking back in support of his defence.

With the ball at his feet, Mainoo could do little wrong. He made 51 touches and completed 36 of his 42 passes while also completing both of his long ball attempts. In addition, he made one key pass.

All in all, it was another impressive display from Mainoo, who once again proved why he is deserving of a spot in Gareth Southgate’s starting XI.

Should he continue to perform at this level, both England and United can rest assured that they’ll have a reliable central midfielder who can dictate the flow of play and guide his team to victory.

England fans will no doubt be excited to see what Mainoo can against Spain in the Euro 2024 final, while United fans will be eager to see how the youngster copes on one of football’s biggest stages.

(Stats via Sofascore)

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