Euro 2020: Day 27
60,000 expectant fans packed into Wembley as England returned to the national stadium to face Denmark, looking for victory and the right to face Italy in the final at the same stadium on Sunday. England came into the game in buoyant mood after their 4-0 victory over Ukraine in their first game away from the capital, while their opposition had travelled from Azerbaijan after beating the Czech Republic in their quarter-final tie. The two countries are no strangers to each other, with Danish keeper Kasper Schmeichel an experienced Premier League keeper and a key part of that Leicester fairytale back in 2016, looking to follow in the footsteps of his father and enjoy a fairytale with his nation, Peter being part of that famous European Championship win for Denmark back in 1992, where they met and drew with England in the opening game of the group stages.
Coming into the game the pair had met 21 times, England having won 12 but Denmark having the better of the recent encounters with a draw and victory in the Nations League, a 1-0 win at Wembley back in October 2020 still fresh in their minds, as is the scorer of the goal that night Christian Eriksen. Southgate made just one change for the game, the fit again Bukayo Saka coming in for Jadon Sancho in an otherwise unchanged starting XI, meaning they would stick with a back 4 rather than the wing-back system employed against Germany. Denmark named the same team they had in the previous round, Poulsen again left on the bench with Nice striker Kasper Dolberg again leading the line, meaning they would be operating a wing back system, with Joakim Mæhle in particular thriving in earlier games in that system.
The hosts made a lively start, initially finding joy down the left hand side before Harry Kane then found space down the right, a teasing ball across the face of the area having just too much pace for Raheem Sterling to get on the end of. Denmark were also looking to attack down the wings, Kyle Walker finding himself in duels with both Mæhle and Damsgaard early on, coming out on top in both. Sterling was once again in the thick of it 12 minutes in, again finding space to cut inside but his shot sadly lacked any real conviction, allowing Schmeichel to make an easy save in the end.
Damsgaard then had the best early moment for Denmark, as he cut inside from the left and tried to curl one into the corner, but got too much height on his effort with Pickford comfortable to let the ball sail high and wide, the effort at least quieting the crowd a little from a Danish perspective, if not troubling the England keeper, who had already shown a few early signs of nerves with his kicking and distribution.
The Danish youngster was the man to break the deadlock, when he struck a free kick home from 30 yards out just inside the opening half hour. Luke Shaw was adjudged to have committed the foul, and the young Sampdoria midfielder Mikkel Damsgaard stepped up, curling one up and over the wall with the inside of his right foot, the ball not quite nestling in the corner but having enough on it still to beat the desperate dives of Pickford.
England had a chance to hit back with a free kick of their own a few minutes later, but Raheem Sterling was unable to get his effort up and over the wall, the move coming to nothing as England pushed in search of an immediate response. Denmark almost went down the other end to immediately add a second, England just above recovering despite Denmark having 6 men forward on the attack, England again looking nervy and exposed in defence. Schmeichel was then tested from point blank range when the ball again fell to Sterling around 8 yards out, a fantastic save to deny England.
Minutes later they were level though, this time Saka breaking down the right hand side into the box after an incisive pass from Kane before cutting the ball back, and Raheem Sterling, who had posed the most threat so far, this time got ahead of his marker to race onto the pass, a desperate attempt at denying him from Simon Kjær eventually getting the final touch, although had he not Sterling would have been on hand to stroke home the equaliser. England seemed to grow in confidence again following the goal, although neither side had any chance of note before the referee blew up for half-time, not adding any time for stoppages.
Harry Maguire became the first man into the referee’s book in the opening stages of the second half, when he was adjudged to have used an elbow in jumping with Kjær, looking to get on the end of a set piece into the box. The decision seemed half, but correct given the pre-tournament rule changes. At the other end, Dolberg had Pickford at full stretch to make a save before the linesman indicated the chance wouldn’t have counted anyway, the Nice striker having strayed offside, a great stop though nonetheless, with both sides clearly looking to pick up where they left of in the first.
Kasper Schmeichel then produced another great save to deny his former team-mate Maguire, as England were awarded another free kick on the right hand side, Mount with the delivery and the Manchester United defender getting on the end of it, Schmeichel at full stretch getting a hand to push the ball away, the game starting to open up at both ends in the opening stages of the second half.
Mount then broke into the area but saw his effort blocked as the frantic pace continued as the match approached the hour mark. Grealish was sent on by England in an attempt to win the game, Kane then brought down in the area minutes later and England appealing for a penalty, but after a VAR check it wasn’t given although the defender clearly stepped across him, much to the frustration and disappointment of the majority of the 60,000 plus crowd inside Wembley, both sides having another 15 minutes to try and avoid extra time and a potential penalty shoot out.
As both sides defended more resolutely, Kalvin Phillips was reduced to 2 shots from distance as England continued to look for something, while with 6 minutes of stoppage time added at the end they once again broke into the box, Grealish making something happen on the left but the block by Kjær this time being a good one, meaning extra time would be needed to try and split the two, Denmark welcoming the break as they looked more exhausted than the hosts.
Schmeichel was once again the first keeper tested in extra time, Kane finding time and space on the right to get a shot away, his effort across the goal being pushed out by the keeper but nobody in the middle to get on the end of it as England started on the front foot. Henderson and Foden then replaced Rice and Mount as Southgate looked to add fresh impetus to his side for the remainder of extra time, hoping to capitalise on the fatigue the Danish had shown in the latter stages of the game.
A corner from Foden, met by Stones, was then cleared when it looked goalbound, before Grealish drew another save and Sterling then flashed an effort over as the pressure began to mount on the visitors goal, the changes appearing to have the desired effect.
England were then awarded a penalty in the closing stages of the first half of extra time, the referee awarding it immediately before Denmark then appealed for the VAR check, the referee sticking with his original decision after Sterling was clipped after weaving his way into the area. Harry Kane stepped up, having his initial effort saved by Schmeichel, but the ball fell kindly allowing the Spurs striker to smash home, leaving just 16 more minutes standing between them and a European final for the first time ever.
Denmark immediately made the change, bringing off a defender and sending on Jonas Wind as they went all in to rescue the tie, but were almost hit with another quick counter at the end of the first half of extra time, Kane eventually winning a free kick and England seeming happy enough to keep the ball and play the clock.
The second half of extra time saw the introduction of Kieran Trippier as England changed their shape in response to the changes made by Denmark, Walker dropping into centre half with Shaw and Trippier taking on the roles of wing-backs as they did against Germany the last time England were at Wembley.
Denmark began to push forward as England dropped deeper following the tactical switch at the break, Braithwaite trying his luck on the turn but Pickford equal to the effort, while chances at the other end were limited, with some players looking for the killer third and others seemingly happier to play for time, the pace of Sterling on the counter attack still a useful outlet, the City attacker winning a corner right at the death as England almost nicked a third, Schmeichel making the save.
There was to be little time left as England held out, booking their place with a showdown against Italy on Sunday night at Wembley, the stadium erupting at the full time whistle in a chorus of song, the emotions too much to hold back for some, before players, staff and fans alike joined in chorus of song, keen to remember this unforgettable moment. The night was memorable, these players have earned a lifetime of respect, but one last step could see them become true heroes come Sunday evening.Share this: