England’s Kane celebrates with teammate Phil Foden after scoring his team’s second goal during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship semi-final match between England and Denmark at Wembley on July 7, 2021
Alex Morton | UEFA | Getty Images
England captain Harry Kane fired his team into their first European Championship final by hitting the rebound to his saved penalty in extra time, when Gareth Southgate’s team took the icons of the coach from 25 years ago with a hard-fought 2-1 win over the Denmark put the brave in the shade.
Southgate has borne the pain of his Wembley penalty shoot-out since Euro 96 but his Three Lions made their own story on Wednesday night, staging a Sunday showdown with Italy at Wembley.
It was anything but easy, as Mikkel Damsgaard broke England’s previously watertight defense with the first direct free kick of the tournament 30 minutes after the hosts got off to a quick start.
But England forced the equalizer home with a Simon Kjaer own goal and although they couldn’t do the job in 90 minutes against an increasingly tired Danish team that had flown in from their Baku quarter-finals, the majority of the 60,000 fans were back at Wembley roared with glee when Kane finally defeated the otherwise brilliant Kasper Schmeichel.
For Denmark it is a valiant ending to an incredible story at this tournament and they deserve kudos for what they achieved in their first game after the shock of Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest.
But England and its supporters can now look forward to another game and the country’s first major tournament final since 1966.
How England’s young lions made history …
When the whistle kicked off, these fans overshadowed the noise that was made before the games in Scotland and Germany at the start of the tournament. On the big screen, David Baddiel and Frank Skinner sang “Three Lions” and the spirit of Euro 96 had undoubtedly been regained.
That electrifying atmosphere rose with early dribbles from Raheem Sterling as Mason Mount spun on the edge of the Danish penalty area and Kane whipped a wonderful cross just out of reach of the Man City man.
But England soon threatened to be her own undoing. The Southgate team had done well to correct individual mistakes in the tournament, but Kalvin Phillips was robbed by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who shot Jordan Pickford, and the goalkeeper went straight to the red shirt with Martin Braithwaite’s shot deflected from behind .
Fans of England celebrate their team’s victory with an “It’s coming home” flag after the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship semi-final match between England and Denmark at Wembley Stadium on July 07, 2021 in London, England.
Eddie Keogh | The FA Collection | Getty Images
It was alarming minutes for England and gave Denmark confidence when Damsgaard blocked a shot from the edge of the box. By the time the clock ticked the first half, Pickford’s straight run for his country spanned 720 minutes, setting a new English record. Moments later the ball was in his net.
Damsgaard’s free kick from 25 yards was outstanding, the 21-year-old sank a heavy shot under the bar and hit Pickford’s fingertips, although the keeper feels he could have done better.
England looked troubled. Pickford gave the ball away. After a free kick from Sterling against the wall, Denmark would have created almost a second during the break. On the sidelines, Southgate urged his team to calm down.
Tension mounted at Wembley when Schmeichel made an incredible stop to keep Sterling from turning a Kane cross. But a minute later, a similar move led to England’s leveler.
Kane dropped low, fed Bukayo Saka a fine pass, and when Sterling was ready to hide his fourth of the tournament, Kjaer hit him and deflected the ball into his own goal.
England had the momentum behind them in the final moments of halftime, but after the break Denmark looked most threatening again – before Schmeichel made a second great stop of the night to fend off Harry Maguire’s full header.
Kasper Dolberg shot at Pickford after another cutting Danish move, but it was the first and only shot since goal to extra time when England finally rediscovered their authority in the game, with Mount blocking one shot and claiming another from Schmeichel.
In the 68th minute, Southgate sent Jack Grealish and he was right in the action, forcing Daniel Wass to commit a foul that earned a warning before dribbling into the box when Sterling blocked a shot.
England supporters called for a penalty when Kane went down in the penalty area shortly afterwards, but referee Danny Makkelie instead gave a free kick to simulate and was assisted by VAR before Andreas Christensen’s brilliant interception prevented Maguire from getting Grealish through and Phillips drilled far away Edge of the box.
Harry Kane of England dribbles the ball while Kaspre Shemeichel of Denmark defends his goal during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship semi-final match between England and Denmark at Wembley Stadium on July 7, 2021.
Kaz Photography | Getty Images Sports | Getty Images
During a nerve-wracking final, England pushed a tiresome Danish team back but still couldn’t prevail as John Stones, Phillips and Maguire failed to convert and Kane was wrong in the final seconds of normal Grealish’s setback time.
Schmeichel was once again keen to beat Kane on the restart and the Leicester man knocked off a powerful Grealish shot before Sterling shot lavishly as England put the pressure on.
But then came the breakthrough. Sterling was England’s regular at the tournament and was once again a key player when his slalom run into the box ended with Joakim Maehle retiring. It was a soft one, but after a long VAR check it stood and Kane stepped up to take it. Schmeichel came behind the tame shot, he should have grabbed it – but the ball slipped out and in Kane’s path to convert the rebound and drive Wembley wild.
The Danes gave a big boost in the second half of extra time looking to equalize, but were all out of breath and dropped to 10 by the last lap when Mathias Jensen hobbled away. England stood firm and saw the historic victory with their enthusiastic fans chanting “Ole” late at every pass.
At the final whistle it started, the fans sang “Football is coming home” – but the dream has not yet come true …