Euros Final Beckons For One of Imperfect England or the Netherlands

Harry Kane is aiming to lead England into a first ever major tournament final on foreign soil. KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP
Harry Kane is aiming to lead England into a first ever major tournament final on foreign soil. KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP
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Euros Final Beckons For One of Imperfect England or the Netherlands

Harry Kane is aiming to lead England into a first ever major tournament final on foreign soil. KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP
Harry Kane is aiming to lead England into a first ever major tournament final on foreign soil. KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

England have a first ever major tournament final on foreign soil in their sights in Wednesday's Euro 2024 semi-final when they face a Netherlands side hitting their stride in Dortmund.
The Three Lions are aiming to match their run to the Euro 2020 final, when they lost in heartbreaking fashion on penalties to Italy at Wembley, AFP said.
England's only ever major tournament triumph also came on home soil at the 1966 World Cup.
Gareth Southgate's men are out to end 58 years of hurt and have shown remarkable resilience, if not the quality expected of one of the pre-tournament favorites, in Germany.
Twice England have stared down a humiliating early exit to fight back against Slovakia and Switzerland to reach the last four.
Individual moments of brilliance from Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka have kept them alive with late equalizers before beating Slovakia in extra-time and Switzerland on penalties.
Those were flickers of the individual talent at Southgate's disposal and the England boss has defiantly defended his record, even though his side had failed to hit top gear at the tournament so far.
Under Southgate, England are now in a third semi-final in four major tournaments - matching the three semi-finals they had reached in their history prior to his appointment eight years ago.
That has not sheltered the 53-year-old from criticism. Southgate was pelted with beer cups after a 0-0 draw against Slovenia in the group stages and has faced a backlash for his perceived negative tactics with a richly-talented squad.
"I can’t deny then when things get as personal as it has that does hurt. I don’t think it’s normal to have beer thrown at you," said Southgate of his detractors.
"But we’re in a third semi-final in four tournaments, and I think we continue to give people fantastic memories. So we’ll keep grinding, we’ll keep fighting, and we’ll keep enjoying this journey."
Premier League stars collide
A change of formation for the 1-1 draw against Switzerland did result in a marginally improved display from the dramatic win over a Slovakia side ranked 45th in the world.
Southgate is expected to stick by that 3-4-2-1 system with Marc Guehi returning from suspension to replace Ezri Konsa.
The England boss has bristled at suggestions his side ended up on the kind side of the draw, away from France, Spain, Germany and Portugal.
Yet, the Dutch can count themselves even more fortunate for their path to the final after finishing third in Group D behind France and Austria.
Ronald Koeman's men produced their best display of the tournament in sweeping aside Romania 3-0 in the last 16 before battling back from a goal down to beat Turkey 2-1 in front of a hostile crowd in Berlin.
Coming up against a raft of Premier League stars will hold little fear for the Netherlands, who boast their own impressive crop of talent plying their trade in England's top flight.
"If you see the quality of players from both teams, you can expect the rhythm and level of the game will be really high," said Tottenham defender Micky van de Ven.
Liverpool's Cody Gakpo has arguably been the form attacker at the tournament and is the only player to have scored three goals still alive in the competition.
The Dutch have had to wait 36 years since their own sole major tournament triumph, the last time the Euros were held in Germany.
That is also the only time they have ever made a European Championship final.
But they will fancy their chances of being in Berlin on Sunday unless England suddenly click into gear.



Paris Police Sealing Off Seine River Ahead of Olympics Opening Ceremony

People carry their bikes up a staircase to get around a security area closed off for the 2024 Summer Olympics, Thursday, July 18, 2024, in Paris. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
People carry their bikes up a staircase to get around a security area closed off for the 2024 Summer Olympics, Thursday, July 18, 2024, in Paris. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
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Paris Police Sealing Off Seine River Ahead of Olympics Opening Ceremony

People carry their bikes up a staircase to get around a security area closed off for the 2024 Summer Olympics, Thursday, July 18, 2024, in Paris. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
People carry their bikes up a staircase to get around a security area closed off for the 2024 Summer Olympics, Thursday, July 18, 2024, in Paris. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

A special kind of iron curtain came down across central Paris on Thursday, with the beginning of an Olympic anti-terrorism perimeter along the banks of the River Seine sealing off a kilometers-long area to Parisians and tourists who hadn’t applied in advance for a pass.
The words on many lips were “QR code,” the pass that grants access beyond snaking metal barriers that delineate the security zone set up to protect the Olympic Games’ opening ceremony on July 26.
“I didn’t know it started today,” said Emmanuelle Witt, a 35-year-old communications freelancer who was stopped by police near the Alma bridge while biking across town. She desperately went on her phone to fill out the online form to get her QR code, unaware that the vetting process could take several days, The Associated Press reported.
Those with the precious code – either on their phones or printed out on pieces of paper – passed smoothly past police checkpoints at gaps in the barriers taller than most people.
Those without got mostly turned away – with no amount of grumbling and cajoling making officers budge.
“That’s too much, that’s over the top, that whole thing is a pain,” grumbled Nassim Bennamou, a delivery man who was denied access to the street leading to Notre Dame Cathedral on his scooter.
“Even the GPS is confused, I have no idea how I’m going to work today,” he added.
While authorities announced the code system last year and have been meeting with local residents for months to explain the restrictions, not everyone was aware. Officers patiently explained to visitors without the pass how to reach iconic Paris monuments without going through the restricted zone.
“We had no idea we needed a QR code,” said Takao Sakamoto, 55, who was denied access to the Eiffel Tower near the Bir Hakeim Metro station. Visiting from Japan with his wife, he took a photo of the tower from a distance, behind fences and police cars. “That will do,” Sakamoto remarked with despair.
On the other hand, visitors who were lucky enough to come across officers who leniently let them pass without QR codes and others who'd equipped themselves with them were treated to the sight of near-empty riverside boulevards that, in normal times, heave with traffic.
“There's no one around!” sang a happy cyclist on a street he had largely to himself. With police seemingly everywhere, another man walking past a riverside café with fewer than usual customers loudly quipped: “You can leave your money and cell phones on the tables, there's definitely no thieves!”
“It’s surreal, it really feels like we’re the only ones here,” said Sarah Bartnicka from Canada. Enjoying a morning jog with a friend, the 29-year-old took a selfie with a police officer on the deserted Iéna bridge to capture the moment.
Paris has repeatedly suffered deadly extremist attacks, most notably in 2015. Up to 45,000 police and gendarmes as well as 10,000 soldiers are being deployed for Olympic security.
“I understand why they’re doing this,” said Carla Money, a 64-year-old American who managed to pass the barriers with her family.
Some business owners inside the security zone grumbled that sharply reduced foot-fall would hurt their bottom line.
“They’ve locked me up like a prisoner," said Raymond Pignol. His restaurant, L'Auberge Café, near the Pont Neuf that spans the Seine, is just inside the metal fencing.
The perimeter went into effect early Thursday morning and will last through the ceremony. As an exception, Paris has decided to hold the opening of its first Games in a century on the river rather than in a stadium, like previous host cities. Most of the river security measures will be lifted after the show.
Officers were under instructions to be polite and patient as employees on their way to work and others dealt with the perimeter and the passes for the first time. But Paris police chief Laurent Nunez said that after the initial 24 hours of being accommodating, officers would apply the rules much more firmly, with no more looking the other way for those without QR codes.