Thursday, July 7

England beat Denmark in extra time to prepare for the Euro 2020 final with Italy | Euro 2020

Sometimes your luck has just arrived, you take a break when you need it most, and after so much heartache in the semi-finals of the major tournament, England finally got something to go their way and, in the process, one of these suffocating high voltage . encounters to follow suit.

The 90 minutes had been harrowing, England were forced to find an answer to Mikkel Damsgaard’s impressive 25-yard free kick in the half hour, which they did when a Bukayo Saka cross, destined for Raheem Sterling, passed over the line of goal. Denmark’s goal by their captain, Simon Kjær.

With the battle lines drawn, England advanced in the second half of regulation time, but failed to create much of a clear note. Denmark’s resistance was overwhelming. But in overtime, it finally happened: England had a chance to win just their second semi-final in six attempts and advance to a first final since the 1966 World Cup.

Inevitably, it was Sterling who provoked it, having preoccupied Denmark with his pace from the first whistle. He cut into the area and fell to the ground before a challenge from Joakim Mæhle. The contact seemed minimal, to say the least, but Dutch referee Danny Makkelie deemed it sufficient to award the penalty and the VAR agreed. To compound the discomfort, there was a second ball on the pitch at the time, although it did not appear to have affected play.

So there was Harry Kane, standing next to the kick and, as everyone knows, he hardly ever misses. The England captain has a reputation for great efficiency for good reason. And yet he missed this one, his side shot was too easily read by Kasper Schmeichel, who touched it with his hand.

But the Denmark goalkeeper, who had previously made saves to deny Sterling and Harry Maguire, failed to get the ball. He simply pulled it out and, eyes alight with relief, Kane swallowed the bounce, lashing out at the empty net.

Harry Kane scores from the rebound for the winner in extra time after seeing his penalty saved by Kasper Schmeichel.
Harry Kane scores from the rebound for the winner in extra time after seeing his penalty saved by Kasper Schmeichel. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images

How Wembley exploded. The biggest crowd at a British sporting event in 16 months had been loud at all times, living each moment and now they knew it. The night would belong to them, to Gareth Southgate and to a team that has shattered the old narratives around the England team. Finally, Denmark broke down. They would end up with 10 men after substitute Mathias Jensen was injured in the 116th minute with all substitutes used. They had nothing left.

Southgate’s management of the game has hardened from the misery of allowing a 1-0 lead to turn into a 2-1 overtime loss to Croatia in the 2018 World Cup semi-final. Here, he brought out Jack Grealish, who had only entered as a substitute in the 69th minute, and sent Kieran Trippier, asking him to play on the right back and switch from 4-3-3 to 3-4-3.

England had suffered. They always do it. But in the second overtime period there was an unusual sense of comfort as the Southgate players closed the game, maintaining their composure, guarding the ball. Statistics showed that Denmark only touched him once inside the England area in those last 15 minutes.

And so, at full time, Southgate was seen advancing towards one of the targets and, with clenched fists, shouting with joy to the fans behind him. Was this closure for him? He has lived with the pain of missing that penalty in a penalty shootout loss to Germany in 1996 at the same stage in this competition. Now fortune had favored him and his team from the spot.

England deserved it. They had considerably more shots than their opponents and, from an early point in the second half, it was they who made the game.

Southgate and his players continue to make pieces of history, to break down psychological barriers. Since the 1960s, England had not reached a final and a semi-final in consecutive tournaments, whereas, in previous European Championships, they had only won one tie, against Spain on penalties in 1996. They will back each other on Sunday. final against Italy because there is a hard-won toughness in their mentality.

Denmark captain Simon Kjær inadvertently directs a draw for England to his own goal under pressure from Raheem Sterling.
Denmark captain Simon Kjær inadvertently directs a draw for England to his own goal under pressure from Raheem Sterling. Photograph: Alex Morton / Uefa / Getty Images

The trigger for victory came in adversity, as Jordan Pickford was forced to retrieve the ball from his net for the first time in these finals. England had started on the front foot, with Sterling’s speed and frankness threatening, and it was he who had England’s best early opportunity, cutting inside after a pass from Kane only to scratch the shot.

Denmark returned. Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and Kasper Dolberg were close, the latter after a poor clearance from Pickford, which would not be his only, and England were in trouble when Damsgaard called up the whip and power on his free kick. The ball passed the agitated Pickford.

Southgate had promised that if England lagged behind, they would not go into panic mode as they had in the notorious Euro 2016 loss to Iceland. So it turned out.

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Thank you for your comments.

Sterling should have called from a Kane cross in 38 minutes only to shoot straight at Schmeichel and then England did when Kane, once again falling on a passing lane, released Saka. Sterling surely would have been converted if Kjær hadn’t.

Schmeichel’s save from Maguire’s header in the 55th minute was top-notch and there were two more of him at the start of overtime to deny Kane and Grealish. England kept pushing and Kane’s bounty would provoke the most frenzied of celebrations.

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