All they were playing for was a bag of bronze medals UEFA apparently planned to leave in the winning dressing room after the game and for two hours here in Guimaraes you could sense as much.
But penalties always create a bit of drama and this was no exception, with Jordan Pickford and Eric Dier once again emerging as the heroes. On this occasion Pickford even scored England’s fifth penalty before making the save that denied Switzerland’s Josip Drmic and so secured victory for Gareth Southgate’s side.
Under Southgate England have at least become good at holding their nerve in such circumstances. When Dier scored in sudden death it was their sixth straight successfully-converted spot-kick and allowed them to reflect on a second straight win in competitive shoot-outs when, prior to Colombia 12 months ago, their record had been so poor.
Jordan Pickford gets two hands to Josip Drmic’s penalty as he provides the crucial stop to seal England’s third-place finish
The Everton goalkeeper places the ball on the spot after putting his hand up to take the fifth penalty for his country
Switzerland’s Yann Sommer can only watch as his opposite number send him the wrong way with a well-placed spot kick
The 25-year-old punches the air as England supporters salute him after finding the back of the net from 12 yards
England boss Gareth Southgate puts his arm around his number one and congratulates him on his shoot-out heroics
Pickford is congratulated by Fabian Delph after proving the hero in England’s shootout win against Switzerland
England’s players stand shoulder to shoulder on the halfway line as they watch Ross Barkley stroll up to take his penalty
Gareth Southgate delivers a team-talk on the Estadio D. Afonso Henriques pitch ahead of extra-time on Sunday afternoon
Raheem Sterling sees his free-kick rattle the crossbar in extra-time as the breakthrough goal continued to elude England
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
SWITZERLAND: (3-5-1-1) Sommer; Elvedi, Schar, Akanji; Mbabu, Fernandes (Zakaria 61), Chaka, Freuler, Rodriguez (Drmic 87); Shaqiri (Zuber 65); Seferovic (Okafor 113)
SUBS NOT USED: Moubandje, Lang, Steffen, Mvogo, Benito, Ajeti, Sow, Omlin
COACH: Vladimir Petkovic
ENGLAND: (4-3-3) Pickford; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Maguire, Rose (Walker 70); Dier, Alli, Delph (Barkley 106); Lingard (Sancho 106), Kane (Wilson 75), Sterling
SUBS NOT USED: Butland (GK), Heaton (GK); Stones, Henderson, Chilwell, Keane, Rice, Rashford
BOOKINGS: Rose, Lingard
COACH: Gareth Southgate
REFEREE: Ovidiu Hategan (Romania)
VENUE: Estadio D. Afonso Henriques (Guimaraes)
This was also only the second time England had won a third-place play-off after losing to Belgium last year and Italy in 1990. This team can now say they matched the 1968 efforts of the heroes of ’66, and they did so employing the same strategy they developed at the World Cup. Even down to Pickford walking out to meet each team-mate as they made that long, lonely walk from the half-way line.
Prior to penalties, though, this was a pretty awful game.
The majority of those inside this stadium cursed VAR shortly before the end of normal time not just because it denied Callum Wilson what could have been the winning goal for England but because it guaranteed another half an hour of this utterly meaningless encounter.
No wonder UEFA are already planning to scrap this third-place play-off when they next stage the Nations League. It was always a bad idea, the one bad call in the creation of an otherwise excellent new tournament, and there was nothing about this occasion that would have persuaded them otherwise.
There is not much Southgate will be able to take from this game but he does now know he should have picked Trent Alexander-Arnold as his right back against the Dutch on Thursday.
Ronald Koeman exposed the folly of resting those involved in the Champions League final and the quality of the Liverpool youngster’s performance here, compared to the desperately poor showing by Kyle Walker in the semi-final, rammed home the message.
Alexander-Arnold was outstanding; the best player on the pitch and possibly the best crosser of a ball for the national team since David Beckham; and that is not ignoring the fine contribution by Kieran Trippier in Russia last summer.
England’s forwards failed to capitalise on Alexander-Arnold’s consistently-excellent deliveries but the place on the right side of Southgate’s defence is now his to lose, for sure.
England substitute Callum Wilson watches the ball into the back of the net after prodding home in the 84th minute
The Bournemouth forward wheels away, with Jesse Lingard hot in pursuit after seeming to have broken the deadlock
However, the celebrations were cut short when it was made clear that the goal was being checked by VAR
Upon reviewing the footage, Romanian referee Ovidiu Hategan decided there had been a foul in the build up and chalked it off
Switzerland defender Fabian Schar deflects a cross on to his own post as England look for the opening goal in Guimaraes
Dele Alli rises highest in the Switzerland penalty area but sends his bullet header inches over the crossbar
The Tottenham Hotspur midfielder crouches and holds his head in his hands after missing the gilt-edged opportunity
Maguire scores for England – 1-0
Zuber scores for Switzerland – 1-1
Barkley scores – 2-1
Xhaka scores – 2-2
Sancho scores – 3-2
Akanji scores – 3-3
Sterling scores – 4-3
Mbabu scores – 4-4
Pickford scores – 5-4
Schar scores – 5-5
Dier scores – 6-5
Drmic misses – England win 6-5
Southgate made seven changes to the side that lost to the Netherlands on Thursday but a fresh injection of players did not exactly raise the intensity.
Understandably it was proving difficult for both sides to muster a great deal of enthusiasm for this contest, despite the best efforts of a decent England crowd to create a bit of atmosphere.
England did, however, create the best of the chances and probably should have been two or three goals up by the break.
Looking significantly sharper than he had done in either Madrid last weekend or here on Thursday, Harry Kane tested Yann Sommer with an early effort the Swiss goalkeeper did well to tip onto his crossbar.
While a ball from Kane, after a surging run from Alli, left Sterling with only Sommer to beat but he guided his shot straight at the Switzerland’s number one and the opportunity was gone.
The Swiss had spells when, much like the Dutch, they looked more composed on the ball. But England began to retain more possession and found Alexander-Arnold a more than useful weapon down the right flank. Sterling cursed himself for somehow failing to connect with a low cross into the Swiss six-yard box, while Alli succeeded only in heading over the crossbar when a header towards the ground would have almost certainly seen England secure a lead.
England’s full-backs were becoming increasingly effective. Alexander-Arnold delivered the seven of the first eight England crosses and when Danny Rose sent in a decent ball from the left Fabian Schar contrived to divert it against a Swiss post.
Switzerland were offering little in response but Jordan Pickford was required to make a good save to deny Granit Xhaka.
Danny Rose sends Switzerland’s Kevin Mbabu flying during the third-place play-off at the Estadio D. Afonso Henriques
The Tottenham full back is shown a yellow card by Romanian referee Ovidiu Hategan for the challenge on his fellow defender
Trent Alexander-Arnold watches on as Raheem Sterling fails to make contact with his low cross from the right-hand flank
Sterling was starting to look like a player who, for all his brilliance this season, was in dire need of a break. He was invited to score by Alli but his first touch let him down and another chance was squandered.
Southgate made changes. Walker for Rose, Wilson for Kane, and there came that moment in the 83rd minute when it seemed Wilson had rescued those starting to dread the possibility of extra time.
It did look like a well-executed move, with Sterling finally making an impact with a trademark explosion of pace and a ball that Alli sent crashing against the crossbar before Wilson pounced on the rebound.
The problem was Wilson had pulled down Manuel Akanji to get there, and VAR once again denied England here in Portugal.
Liverpool forward Xherdan Shaqiri calls on his Switzerland team-mates to keep their concentration on a hot afternoon
Despite the apparent irrelevance of the fixture, England supporters attended in large numbers in Guimaraes
Striker Harry Kane attempts to get the ball under control under pressure from Nico Elvedi during the first half
Extra time meant four hours of competitive football for England in these finals but a second goal – and the first of this match – remained elusive.
Alexander-Arnold continued to pose the biggest threat for Southgate’s side but still team-mates could not convert, with Sommer denying Alli.
Southgate can at least say England dominated their opponents as the match progressed, with Sterling going close once again with a free-kick that rebounded off the Swiss crossbar.
It meant penalties; something England are becoming rather good at under Southgate.
England forward Sterling looks up in a bid to start an England attack under the attention of Edmilson Fernandes