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England fans buoyed by team’s advance to first final abroad

A contingent of Aston Villa fans, including three lions, salute England’s 2-1 victory in Dortmund.Photograph: Richard Sellers/Getty Images/Allstar

Phil Foden is finally on fire – and England are heading to Berlin for their first major tournament final outside Wembley.

A 2-1 win against the Netherlands, and a performance that in large parts of the game finally lived up to the nation’s inflated expectations, will see England play Spain in what will be back-to-back European Championship finals for Gareth Southgate and his team.

The prime minister, Keir Starmer, led the tributes from England fans. “What a game England and what a winner,” he wrote on X, as he attended the Nato summit in Washington DC.

“Berlin here we come!” he added. No 10 confirmed Starmer and the culture secretary, Lisa Nandy, will be in attendance on Sunday.

The Killers, playing at the O2 Arena in London, paused their gig to show the end of the match on a big screen and let off confetti at the final whistle, as music and football fans celebrated wildly.

To date, there had perhaps been an ironic edge to England supporters’ own musical tribute to Foden in their rehashed version of Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark (“Can’t start a fire, can’t start a fire without a spark, Phil Foden is on fire”).

But the Manchester City midfielder’s conducting of his team’s talents on a humid night in Dortmund, at least in the first half, offered reason for glorious extra gusto from England’s travelling support in the Westfalenstadion.

Rather than sit back, as has been the complaint about Southgate’s team, England piled on the pressure.

“This is more like it,” said Ryan Shaw, 32, a roofer from Macclesfield who had come to Dortmund for the game without a ticket.

Southgate, perhaps uncharacteristically, made a bold change, deciding to substitute Kane and Foden 10 minutes before full-time. It was a night on which everything seemed to be paying off.

It was Kane’s replacement, Ollie Watkins, with his back to goal and Stefan De Vrij right behind him, who turned on a penny to rifle a stunning low shot into the far corner.

“Unbelievable, I’ve been waiting for that moment for weeks,” said Watkins. “It’s taken a lot of hard work to get where I am today. I swear on my kids’ lives that I told Cole [Palmer]: ‘We are going to come on today, and you are going to set me up.’ We are in the final and that is all that matters. We are ready for Spain.”

England now have the potential to lift a trophy for the first time since 1966, with fresh evidence that they can play the sort of football that will make Spain notice.

There had certainly been plenty of doubters after a series of poor performances in the group stage, and a near-death experience against Slovakia in the round of 16 followed by a win on penalties against Switzerland.

But as the victorious England players joined the crowd in a raucous rendition of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline, and about 25 million people at home cheered the final whistle, there was belief in the air.

Jude Bellingham, a former Borussia Dortmund player, admitted that England had tired over the 90 minutes but that he was pleased the team had put on the sort of performance the fans had hoped for.

“To be back here at the club that has helped me turn into the man and player I am is special,” he said. “The most important thing is we have come out with the win. I am really grateful to Ollie because I am not sure I had another half an hour in me.”

The Dutch fans left the Westfalenstadion with little to be ashamed about. Their good-natured support had lit up the west German city, with more than 75,000 turning Dortmund orange.

There were some scuffles between supporters earlier in they day. Five England supporters were said to have sustained minor injuries after being attacked by rival Dutch fans during an altercation over a Saint George’s flag.

The UK Football Policing Unit (UKFPU) had also indicated that some groups of supporters who had travelled from the Netherlands were known to the authorities but there was no major incident reported.

England fans can enjoy a few wondrous days contemplating whether they will see modern-day equivalents of Geoff Hurst, Bobby Charlton and Bobby Moore lift a trophy on Sunday evening.

“So good, so good, so good,” chorused the fans in the bars of Dortmund as they offered yet up another rendition of Sweet Caroline. It would be difficult to argue.

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