Understated Mainoo vital as England reach Euro 2024 final

England midfielder <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Kobbie Mainoo;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Kobbie Mainoo</a> (R) put in a superb display as his team beat the Netherlands to reach the Euro 2024 final (INA FASSBENDER)

Spain youngster Lamine Yamal showered himself in glory by firing his team into the Euro 2024 final but England had their own, rather more understated, teenager to thank in Kobbie Mainoo for helping secure a berth in the Berlin showpiece on Sunday.

The 19-year-old's sterling performance ensured England reached a second consecutive Euros final with a 2-1 semi-final win over the Netherlands in Dortmund on Wednesday.

Mainoo played a vital role in England's midfield as the Three Lions produced their finest performance in Germany this summer.

Bidding to win their first major trophy since the 1966 World Cup, Gareth Southgate's side desperately needed to improve after scraping into the final four.

Finding his footing at the core of the team is Manchester United midfielder Mainoo.

He made his Premier League debut in January 2023 at 17, only breaking through in the 2023-24 season with his club.

Mainoo became the youngest ever England player to play in the semi-finals of a major tournament and showed exactly why Southgate has put his faith in him.

He began the tournament as third choice for the position -- after the coach dropped Trent Alexander-Arnold, he turned to Chelsea's Connor Gallagher against Slovenia in England's third group game.

It was not working at half-time so Southgate turned to Mainoo and hasn't looked back.

The midfielder has become Southgate's solution to a problem position, having previously lamented the lack of a new Kalvin Phillips or Jordan Henderson.

Mainoo put in assured performances against Slovakia and Switzerland but his best display so far -- and not coincidentally, England's -- was against the Dutch in Dortmund.

"I think all of his performances have been exceptional, especially when you consider his age," Southgate told reporters.

"We haven't really had a player like him until now. It makes such a difference when your midfield players can receive (while being) pressed, turn with the ball so easily and comfortably.

"I thought him, Phil (Foden) popping up in spaces, Jude (Bellingham), our movement was really good. It caused a lot of problems and them to adapt without the ball."

- Futsal background -

Mainoo, who attributes his slick ability on the ball to his past playing futsal, the five-a-side small-pitch game requiring high levels of technique and skill, helped England dominate their opponents in the first half.

The Manchester United midfielder pinned the Netherlands deep in their own territory by aggressively putting heavy pressure on the ball every time they tried to break loose.

England benefitted from a slice of luck after Xavi Simons blasted Netherlands ahead when Harry Kane won a soft penalty, but after the England captain converted it to level the score, their superiority was evident.

With Mainoo pulling the strings in midfield it was hard for the Dutch to win the ball back and England boasted a higher possession at full time, with Ollie Watkins' 91st-minute strike saving them from a third successive period of extra-time.

"It will be, I would imagine, a long time since -- or if ever -- an English side had 60 percent of the ball against a side from the Netherlands," said Southgate.

"It shows the more modern England way and the resilience and the character of the group."

Mainoo's rise to prominence has even surprised those close to him by its speed.

Luke Shaw, his team-mate for club and country, said ahead of the Netherlands game that his "growth is scary" and that Mainoo has "the world at his feet".

That was laid bare on a heady night in Dortmund which propelled him to new heights, with the biggest game of his career awaiting in Berlin on Sunday.

Mainoo will have his work cut out against the team-of-the-tournament Spain in the final. La Roja midfielders Rodri Hernandez and Fabian Ruiz have been two of the stars of the summer.

However, Mainoo and Manchester United got the better of Pep Guardiola's Manchester City in the FA Cup final in May, with the young midfielder scoring what proved to be the winner.

Asking for a repeat of that would be too much but Southgate will be delighted if he can just reproduce his near flawless display against the Netherlands.