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Bellingham Saves England vs. Slovakia: A Thrilling Round of 16 Euro Clash

In a dramatic Euro 2024 Round of 16 encounter, England narrowly avoided a shock exit against Slovakia, thanks to Jude Bellingham’s last-gasp heroics and Harry Kane’s early extra-time winner. The pre-tournament favorites, who were underwhelming for much of the match, managed to scrape through with a 2-1 victory, setting up a quarterfinal showdown with Switzerland.

Slovakia started the match far sharper than their English counterparts, putting Gareth Southgate’s men under immense pressure from the outset. The Slovaks issued several warnings before finally breaking the deadlock in the 25th minute. Ivan Schranz capitalized on a lapse in the English defense, slotting a deft finish past goalkeeper Jordan Pickford to give Slovakia a deserved lead.

England, known for their resilience in coming from behind, faced an uphill battle. They had won their last three Euro games after conceding first, including the semifinal in the previous edition. However, the Three Lions struggled to find their rhythm. Phil Foden thought he had equalized shortly after the break, but his effort was ruled out for a clear offside.

Harry Kane, usually reliable in front of goal, missed a golden opportunity, heading wide from a Foden free kick. Declan Rice came close as well, hitting the post as Slovakia retreated into their own half. As the clock ticked down, England appeared to lack the belief to overturn the deficit, and frustration grew among their supporters.

With the match deep into stoppage time, Jude Bellingham, celebrating his 21st birthday the day before, produced a moment of magic. In the 95th minute, Bellingham executed an incredible bicycle kick, finally putting England’s first shot on target and leveling the score at 1-1. His goal sent the game into extra time, breathing new life into the English camp.

England wasted no time in the extra period, taking the lead less than a minute after the restart. Harry Kane made amends for his earlier miss, heading past the despairing Martin Dúbravka from close range. This swift turnaround stunned Slovakia, who had looked the better side for much of the regular time.

As the match wore on, Slovakia’s energy waned. Their best chance to equalize in extra time came just before the break when Peter Pekarík missed a dangerous cross, kneeing it over the bar. Despite a late wave of balls into the box, England’s defense held firm, securing a fortunate but hard-fought victory.

England now faces Switzerland in the quarterfinals in Düsseldorf on July 6. The Swiss team, which outplayed defending champions Italy in the last-16, will be a formidable opponent. They were also unlucky to concede a late equalizer against Germany in the group stage, indicating their strong form.

For England to advance further, they will need to significantly improve their performance. The match against Slovakia highlighted vulnerabilities that Switzerland will be keen to exploit. However, with Bellingham and Kane in form, England will hope to build on this dramatic win and continue their quest for Euro 2024 glory.

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