Those who contributed to the deafening roar of ‘Don’t take me home, please don’t take me home’ inside Wembley on Wednesday night got their wish as England extended their participation in Euro 2020 by reaching a major tournament final for the first time in 55 years with a dramatic 2-1 win over Denmark.
As the chant goes, these fans have never stopped hoping, but the current crop of players has given them reason to feel that lifting the Henri Delaunay trophy is a real possibility rather than a pipe dream, as Harry Kane’s penalty in extra time set up a final against Italy on Sunday. Many of the 66,000 spectators wore throwback shirts honoring former idols like as Shearer, Gascoigne, and Lineker, among others. But, despite all of the previous near misses and could-have-beens, it is this youthful generation, this new wave of idols, who have the potential to put an end to the years of anguish that England fans have sang about so passionately and loudly for years.
The optimism and belief that this is England’s year fueled the majority of fans in attendance at Wembley.
Everything seemed to be coming into place: the favorable side of the draw, home advantage, and the squad. The celebrations began well before kick-off, in fact, since England’s opening match against Croatia on June 13th.
After a year of martial law, it was just what the country required. As Kane followed up a rebound from his own failed penalty to eventually break Denmark’s amazing resilience, which was spearheaded by the incredible Kasper Schmeichel, there were scenes of euphoria and thunderous cheers.
The crowd pressure may have influenced Dutch referee Danny Makkelie’s decision to award the spot-kick for an apparent tackle on Raheem Sterling by Joakim Maehle, according to BBC analyst Micah Richards, but Southgate’s team were unquestionably deserving winners despite the controversy.
Indeed, the game would not have gone to extra time if it hadn’t been for Schmeichel.
England-Denmark Euro 2020 GFX Mikkel Damsgaard
Kasper Hjulmand’s side provided food for thought for England and contributed to a tense 90 minutes, but it was Leicester’s goalkeeper who kept them in the game with save after save. Kane, Harry Maguire, Sterling, and Jack Grealish were among the players thwarted by the Dane as the game progressed.
Anyone who predicted that England would have an easy time in this game was being foolish. Denmark did everything they could to disrupt the party. While their mental toughness was lauded for how they handled the horrific tragedy involving Christian Eriksen in their first group game, not enough was mentioned about their technical and tactical prowess.
It wasn’t just mental toughness that got them to the semi-finals, and while England were the favorites, the Danes deserved to be respected as former European winners.
The incredible atmosphere inside the stadium energized England, with Sterling and Kane shining early on, but the visitors knew what they needed to do to stay in the game. Their pressure forced Southgate’s team into silly mistakes, and when Mikkel Damsgaard scored a magnificent free kick, there was no doubt that Denmark deserved to win.
The Sampdoria attacker’s skill has been compared to that of Ronaldo, and it was a set-piece strike that the Portugal international would have been pleased of.
It brought an end to England’s record of 691 minutes without conceding a goal, and it cemented Damsgaard’s place in Danish history as the country’s youngest player to score in the competition’s knockout round. He turned 21 barely a few weeks ago.
England, on the other hand, has its own crop of rising stars. Saka, who was preferred on the right flank over Phil Foden and Jadon Sancho, became England’s youngest player to start a tournament game at the semi-final stage or later, and he was a constant threat throughout.
Meanwhile, Foden came off the bench to unleash the kind of wizardry we’ve come to expect from him in the sky-blue of Manchester City. A subtle turn to get away from Jensen didn’t work out, but his energy and movement were crucial in the end.
Of course, there is space for growth in England’s midfield, and the Italian midfield of Jorginho, Marco Verratti, and Nicolo Barella will prove to be a more difficult test for Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips than what they faced tonight – but that can wait till Sunday.
One of the most striking characteristics of this team is not only how dynamic they are up forward, but also how resolute they are at the back.
They didn’t get the tournament’s sixth clean sheet, but Maguire and Stones put in another strong performance. Although Damsgaard’s miraculous goal beat Jordan Pickford, England’s defensive line held their opponents’ offensive line in check.
There would be no recurrence of England’s 2018 World Cup semi-final heartbreak, as Grealish, Jordan Henderson, and Phil Foden came off the substitute to turn the game in their favor.
Preview of England vs. Denmark
Denmark was on the ropes in extra time, absorbing punch after punch, and it was Sterling who effectively delivered the fatal blow by winning the penalty, which Kane converted to equal Lineker’s record of ten tournament goals for England.
The frenzy and partying resumed once the rebound was in place. Tops are off, limbs are strewn about, and there’s a lot of noise. These fans have been waiting for this moment for a long time, and they intend to savor every second of it.