England reached the Euro 2020 final with a tense 2-1 victory over Denmark after extra time at Wembley on Wednesday.
AFP Sport takes a look at three things we learned after Harry Kane’s goal sent England to their first major final in 55 years:
Raheem Sterling ended England’s last vilified European Championship campaign after a poor performance in their humiliating outing against the Iceland minnows in 2016.
Fast forward five years and the English fans who had made Sterling public enemy number one were cheering his name on the rafters at Wembley.
It was Sterling who carried the greatest threat to England on a night when Denmark’s stubborn defense presented a formidable barrier.
Even in overtime, as England risked being taken to the lottery from a penalty shootout, Sterling continued to demand the ball as he probed the Denmark rearguard.
The Manchester City winger finally got his award in the 104th minute when his push was stopped by the fault of Joakim Maehle.
Denmark protested but VAR gave the penalty and Harry Kane kicked off the rebound after his shot on goal was saved.
After a hectic season with Premier League champions City, which at times saw him lose his place, Sterling has been revitalized with England.
He has scored three times at Euro 2020 and was heavily involved in England’s equalizer against the Danes when his run to a cross from Bukayo Saka forced Simon Kjaer to turn the ball into his own net.
No wonder England boss Gareth Southgate wrapped Sterling in a huge hug during the post-match celebrations.
“I thought Raheem was a thorn in the side all night,” Southgate said.
Schmeichel defying to the end
When asked on the eve of the semi-final what it would mean to ruin England’s dreams of glory at home at the Euro, Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel replied: “Did it hurt? ever been home? I do not know. Have you already won it? ”
# photo1 Schmeichel’s cheeky dig was a reference to the ‘Three Lions’ anthem which features the phrase ‘Football’s coming home’, which England fans chanted optimistically throughout the tournament.
England captain Harry Kane had responded to Schmeichel’s taunt by insisting that his side were able to finally end their long wait to reach a title match.
It was Kane who had the final say as his 104th-minute goal ended Denmark’s courageous resistance – but not before Schmeichel did everything in his power to frustrate England.
Schmeichel made superb saves to fend off Raheem Sterling’s point-blank first-half effort and Harry Maguire’s loop header early in the second period.
The Leicester keeper also denied Kane when the England captain threatened with a low shot in overtime and then repelled Jack Grealish’s long-range shot.
The last Danish goalkeeper to have made more saves in a Euro match than Schmeichel’s six against England was his father Peter in 1992 against Germany.
Rightly so, the game would be settled with a duel between Kane and Schmeichel.
Schmeichel dove low to his left to prevent Kane’s shot on goal, but the Tottenham striker was the quickest to respond sending Wembley into ecstasies.
Saka repays Southgate’s faith
With England in desperate need of a quick response to the opening of the Denmark clash, Bukayo Saka has shown why Gareth Southgate has such confidence in the teenager.
# photo2The Arsenal forward delivered a vibrant performance in the last 16 victory over Germany before missing Saturday’s quarter-final victory over Ukraine with a minor blow suffered in training.
Jadon Sancho impressed in Saka’s absence, but Southgate opted to recall his precocious youngster rather than keep the new Manchester United signing in the starting lineup.
Any doubts that Southgate had made the wrong choice in dropping the more experienced Sancho were cleared by Saka in the 39th minute.
Accelerating on Harry Kane’s pass, Saka timed his run perfectly to beat Denmark’s offside trap.
He ran into the penalty area and whipped a low cross towards Raheem Sterling, Simon Kjaer’s attempt to block only managing to deflect the ball into his own net.
Saka still had an impact when he was surprisingly replaced by Jack Grealish and will surely have a part to play in the finale.
© 2021 AFP