LONG JOURNEY: How did England reach the final of Euro 2020?
England will culminate their Euros journey with a game against Italy on Sunday but how did England reach the final of Euro 2020?
England have had to wait 55 years for a major final but booked their place in Sunday’s showpiece at Wembley by beating Denmark 2-1 to end their semi-final hoodoo.
But it’s been a few years in the making including qualifying as England reach the final.
England were the second top goal scorers in qualifying for the tournament behind Belgium as they cantered through their group. It began with a 5-0 win over Czech Republic as Raheem Sterling scored a hat trick and Harry Kane scored the first of his 12 qualifying goals. They stuck another five past Montenegro and then beat Bulgaria 4-0.
Another five goals were scored at home to Kosovo before a slight hiccup away at Czech Republic who came from behind to win 2-1. However, normal service was resumed as England beat Bulgaria 6-0 and then went one better by beating Montenegro 7-0 to confirm topping the group.
England came into the tournament with injuries and without the majority of fans able to agree on a ‘best XI’. Thankfully, Gareth Southgate knew exactly what he was doing as his tactics starved Croatia of opportunities in the first game. The selection of Kalvin Phillips in particular was an inspired one as Croatia’s dangerman Luka Modric was unable to dictate play. A Sterling goal avenged the World Cup semi-final defeat and got the tournament off to the best possible start.
There was then a slight hiccup as England were unable to break down Scotland and were probably guilty of being too pragmatic in the 0-0 draw. However, Southgate stuck to his guns and was rewarded with a 1-0 win over Czech Republic in the last game to top the group and set up a meeting with Germany.
Old rivals beaten
Germany have given England some of their most painful football days, having won the 1990 World Cup semi-final and the 1996 European Championship semi-final on penalties. They also inflicted a 4-1 hammering in the 2010 World Cup.
Southgate, who received so much criticism in the group stage and in the build-up to the Germany game for leaving exciting players like Jack Grealish and Jadon Sancho on the bench, was vindicated as his decision to match the Germans up in a 5-2-3 formation paid dividends. England were aggressive in their pressing with Declan Rice and Phillips not allowing the classy Toni Kroos any time on the ball. Sterling and Kane bagged late on to send England through to the quarter-finals as Wembley erupted.
One night in Rome
True to the famous Three Lions song, then one night in Rome we had grown as Ukraine were blown away by an extraordinary attacking display not seen since the qualifiers. Mason Mount and Sancho came into the side and their ball-carrying skills caused endless problems. It was Sterling and Kane who linked up for the first goal though and then in the second half, Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson got in on the act with Kane grabbing a second as well to give England fans the most comfortable of quarter-final wins.
Overcoming the test
England returned to Wembley to face a Denmark side, inspired by the incident which ruled their captain Christian Eriksen out of the tournament and who had scored 11 goals in their last three games. It always looked like it would be the biggest test to date and so it proved as Mikkel Damsgaard went close to scoring with a curling effort but then made no mistake with a dipping free-kick.
Having not been behind in the tournament up to that point, England showed great composure to work their way back into it. Minutes after Kasper Schmeichel had saved a Sterling effort from point-blank range, Bukayo Saka forced an own goal when he squared the ball. England went on to dominate with twenty attempts in total but the Danes resisted and it went to extra-time.
But finally, a decision went England’s way in an international tournament. After Campbell’s disallowed goals, Maradona’s handball, Rooney’s red card and Lampard’s ghost goal, no one is complaining that the foul on Sterling was a soft one. Kane stepped up and initially missed but followed in to score the rebound to make sure England reach the final.
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