Euro Zone: England rejoices as Bukayo Saka steps up to show his strength and skill

Lamine Yamal’s background celebrated; and Kylian Mbappé told where to put his mask

England's Bukayo Saka celebrates after scoring the penalty that gave his country victory over Switzerland at Euro 2024. Photograph: Adam Davy/PA Wire

“Where are the racists now???? Probably still celebrating!!!” posted former English footballer Rio Ferdinand on social media after Bukayo Saka played his part in England’s penalty shoot-out win over Switzerland.

Saka was one of three players – along with Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho – who missed penalties back in 2021 and were racially abused online afterwards.

Sancho – who, like Rashford, wasn’t picked for the finals this time around – joined Ferdinand in celebrating Saka’s redemptive moment.

“I’m so proud of this guy! You did it for me and Marcus brother!” posted Sancho on his Instagram account.


After the shoot-out win over the Swiss, Saka – who also scored England’s equaliser – said: “You can fail once but you have a choice if you put yourself in that position or not again. I’m a guy who is going to put myself in that position. I believed in myself. And when I saw the ball hit the back of the net, I was a very happy man.”

Rooting for Spain’s rising star

Lamine Yamal – the 16-year-old wing wizard who has brought his own brand of magic to the Euros – has, rightfully, been celebrated in his neighbourhood of Rocafonda, where a mural depicting his ethnic identity has been painted on to the windows of a bakery.

Yamal isn’t in a Spanish jersey, though. Rather, he’s sporting a Barcelona shirt surrounded by flags of Morocco (where his father was born), Equatorial Guinea (his mother’s country of origin) and Spain, where Yamal was born.

There’s also a number included in the mural: 304. Which relates to the postcode for Rocafonda, and which is the sign that Yamal makes with his hands and fingers after any goal he scores.

So far, Yamal has yet to score in the Euros. But he has made three assists, the most of any player in the tournament to date.

Kylian Mbappé wearing a protective mask during France's Euro 2024 quarter-final against Portugal. Photograph: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images
Nez bother for Mbappé

French World Cup winner Emmanuel Petit is sick and tired of hearing about Kylian Mbappé’s mask ... and advised him to ditch it in a rubbish bin.

“You know, it’s been like this for two weeks. Is he going to play? Is he going to train? Is he going to sleep? Is he going to eat? To take a shower? Come on, it’s just a broken nose.

“You know how many players have played with a broken nose in the past without a mask? So he’s complaining about the mask. So, take your mask and put it straight in the garbage,” said no-nonsense Petit to TalkSport radio.

Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman has pointed to an advantage he hopes his team will enjoy against England. Photograph: Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty Images
In words

“England have good players, but we have too. We play in Dortmund, in one of the most beautiful stadiums, closer to the Netherlands, maybe that also makes a difference” – Dutch manager Ronald Koeman hoping that his team might have something akin to home advantage on Wednesday.

In numbers

5/5 – Spain – with five wins from five games, albeit that one of them was after extra time – are the only of the four semi-finalists with a 100 per cent record. The Netherlands has three wins, one draw and one loss; while both England and France have two wins and three draws.