England captain Harry Kane fired the side in his first European Championship final, hitting a rebound to his saved penalty in overtime as Gareth Southgate’s team eclipsed the manager’s icon from 25 years ago with a tough fight against a brave 2-1 Denmark.
Southgate have been suffering from their miss kick at Wembley since Euro 96, but his Three Lions wrote their own history on Wednesday night, establishing a Sunday showdown with Italy at Wembley.
It was far from the direction, as Mikkel Damsgaard violated the previously waterproof defense of England with the first goal from a free kick in the tournament 30 minutes after the hosts quickly started.
But England forced an equalizer through Simon Kjaer’s own goal and although they failed to get the job done in 90 minutes against an increasingly tired Danish team, which flew out of its quarter-finals in Baku, most of the 60,000 fans roared back to Wembley roaring with delight when Kane finally won otherwise brilliant Kasper Schmeichel.
For Denmark, this is a valid end to the incredible story of this tournament and they deserve huge praise for what they achieved after the shock of Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest in the first match.
But England and their supporters can now look forward to another match and the first major final of the tournament in the country since 1966.
How the young lions of England made history …
There were 60,000 fans at Wembley for the semi-finals and, the kick-off, they eclipsed the noise created ahead of the Scotland and Germany matches earlier in the tournament. On the big screen, David Baddiel and Frank Skinner sang along to ‘Three Lions’ and the spirit of Euro 96 was undoubtedly recaptured.
That electric atmosphere grew with Raheem Sterling’s early dribbles, when Mason Mount curled up on the edge of a Danish box and Harry Kane whipped a miraculous cross out of reach of a Man City man.
- England made one change in the win over Ukraine and Bukayo Saka came into the game and Jadon Sancho and Gareth Southgate were left with the last four from that game.
- Denmark remained unchanged from the quarter-final win over the Czech Republic.
But England soon threatened to cancel. Southgate’s team made good individual mistakes in this tournament, but Calvin Phillips was robbed by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who shot Jordan Pickford, and the goalkeeper’s dog followed straight into the red shirt, and Martin Braithwaite’s shot bounced behind.
It was an alarming few minutes for England and gave Denmark confidence, while Damsgaard bent the shot from the edge of the field. As the clock ticked in the first half, Pickford’s no-compromise streak for his country stretched in the final 720 minutes, setting a new English record. Moments later the ball was in his net.
Damsgaard’s free kick from 25 meters was sublime, and the 21-year-old put in a fierce effort under the crossbar and outside Picford’s fingertips, although the keeper of the net will think he could have done better.
England looked confused. Pickford donated the ball again. Denmark nearly created a second on holiday after Sterling’s free kick hit the wall. On the touch line, Southgate persuaded his side to calm down.
Tension increased at Wembley when Schmeichel stopped an incredible stop to prevent Sterling from turning in Kane’s cross. But a minute later a similar move led to the equalization of England.
Kane fell deep, fed Bukayo Saka with a fine pass and, with Sterling ready to squeeze in the fourth tournament, Kjaer beat him and deflected the ball into his own goal.
England had momentum behind them in the final moments of the half, but, after the interval, Denmark looked the most threatening again – before Schmeichel made another great night stop to score a full header for Harry Maguire.
Kasper Dolberg shot at Pickford after another intercepted Danish move, but it would be their first and only shot from goal to overtime as England finally began to rediscover their authority in the match and Mount saw the shot blocked, and another was requested by Schmeichel.
In the 68th minute, Southgate sent Jack Grealish and he went straight into action, forcing Daniel Wass to a foul for which he earned a card, before dribbling into the penalty area to Sterling seeing a shot blocked.
England fans demanded a penalty when Kane soon fell into the penalty area, but instead, referee Danny Makkelie gave a free kick for the simulation, backed by the VAR, before a brilliant interception by Andreas Christensen prevented Maguire from sending Grealish, and Calvin Phillips drilled well. from the edge of the box.
During the nail-biting final, England stopped the tiring Danish side but still failed to break through as John Stones, Phillips and Maguire failed to convert and Kane mistakenly made a grealish cut in the final seconds of normal time.
Schmeichel was again sharp to repel Kane after the restart, and the Leicester man struck a powerful warm-up effort before Sterling fired lavishly as England piled up pressure.
But then came a breakthrough. Sterling was the player of England in this tournament and again proved decisive, with his slalom race in the penalty area which ended with the trip of Joakim Maehle. After a long VAR check, Kane stepped up to take over. Schmeichel stood behind it, he needed to figure it out – but the ball slipped and stood in Kane’s way to turn the bounced ball and send Wembley wild.
The Danes put in a lot of effort in the second half of extra time in search of an equalizer, but they all stayed out of the pair and fell to 10 in the final stage when Mathias Jensen limped. England stood firm and saw a historic victory with their enthusiastic fans chanting ‘Ole’ late.
In the end, the whistles started the celebration, the fans sang ‘football is coming home’ – but the dream is not over yet …
England will play against Italy in the Euro 2020 final on Sunday at 8pm at Wembley.