England return to Wembley two wins from a first European Championship title after recording their biggest ever victory at the tournament with a 4-0 demolition of Ukraine in the quarter-finals in Rome as they face Denmark in the Euro 2020 semi-final.
Having successfully negotiated a trip to the Stadio Olimpico with a flourish, Gareth Southgate’s team will have the support of some 60,000 fans on Wednesday.
Three years on from a bitter World Cup semi-final loss to Croatia, England have the chance to move on from that disappointment and end a long wait for silverware.
With the remainder of the competition to be played in London and Covid-19 restrictions severely limiting travelling fans, they are unlikely to get a better opportunity of adding to the 1966 World Cup win.
But Denmark are going to be no pushovers. The Danes may have achieved one goal by reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2020 at Wembley but, inspired by a “proud” Christian Eriksen, they have no intention of stopping there.
A 2-1 victory over the Czech Republic on Saturday propelled the Danes into the last four of a major tournament for the first time since their shock triumph at Euro 1992.
It has been a remarkable effort, under a coach who would not have been in charge if not for the Covid-19 pandemic, and after two opening defeats, the first of which, to Finland, was overshadowed by the terrifying collapse of star player Eriksen after he suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch.
But 10 goals in three successive wins have put the Scandinavians two matches away from following in the footsteps of the class of 92, while Inter Milan midfielder Eriksen has been cheering them on from home.
England have fallen at the penultimate hurdle at major tournaments on four occasions since winning the World Cup in 1966, including their defeat by Croatia at the World Cup in Russia three years ago.
A key difference from 2018 is the heightened expectation, with Southgate himself admitting their benchmark in Russia was to end England’s 12-year wait for a knockout victory.
Denmark, though, have lost only three of 29 matches since a last-16 exit at the 2018 World Cup, beaten on penalties by eventual runners-up Croatia, and sit 10th in the FIFA world rankings.
On Wednesday in the semi-finals, they face England at Wembley where they beat Gareth Southgate’s men in the Nations League last November, following a goalless draw in Copenhagen.
Home advantage doesn’t always guarantee success and the last time a host team lifted the European Championship title was France in 1984.
The difference this time, though, is the added travel for certain teams and coronavirus rules – usually sides would at least have a training base in the host country and fans would travel there in their thousands.
England have travelled the least during the Euros and will hope to make that count at Wembley against Denmark.
Who’s saying what?
Gareth Southgate, England manager
“We’ve got a fabulous opportunity. It’s a chance to make history as we’ve never been to a European Championship final. It’s not so much pressure for this team; it’s another challenge that they’ve got the chance to take on, and at the moment they’re rising to those challenges. We had two games with Denmark in the autumn. I knew what a good side they were before and they’ve proved that again in this tournament. It is going to be a fantastic game to be part of.”
Harry Kane, England captain
“Denmark are a great team. We played them in the Nations League twice last year, and we didn’t win one game – one draw, one loss. But we need to try to focus on ourselves; it is a semi-final at our national stadium and we’ve got to use all those positives to worry about us. We know if we get it right and play how we know we can then we have a great opportunity to get to a final. It’s going to be incredible.”
Kasper Hjulmand, Denmark coach
“It’ll be like playing an away game, but that also has its own charm, so we’re actually looking forward to it. We’re happy that people will be there and that the fans are back in the stadium, though obviously we would have loved it if half the stadium was dressed in Danish colours. Our motivation is to silence the spectators, but we know it’s going to be difficult.”
Thomas Delaney, Denmark midfielder
“At the start of the tournament, we gave ourselves the goal of coming back to Wembley. With everything that we’ve been through, it’s always been our No1 goal. Now we are ready for Wembley so, in terms of feelings, it has been crazy.”
England vs Denmark H2H
Stats and Trivia
• Denmark have won only four of their 21 official games against England compared to 12 English victories – although the Danes were victorious in the most recent. Christian Eriksen’s 35th-minute penalty earned a 1-0 success at Wembley in the UEFA Nations League on 14 October 2020, a game in which England’s Harry Maguire was sent off just prior to the goal and debutant Reece James after the final whistle. Eriksen and Simon Kjær both won their 100th cap for Denmark in the match.
• That victory was Denmark’s third away to England and their second at Wembley, Allan Simonsen’s penalty having secured a 1-0 win there in September 1983, a result that proved instrumental in the Danes reaching the 1984 European Championship at England’s expense. Denmark were also 3-2 winners in an Old Trafford friendly in November 2003.
• The sides’ only Euro finals meeting came in 1992, a goalless draw in Malmö on Matchday 1. While England bowed out after failing to win a game (D2 L1), Denmark finished second in Group 1 behind hosts Sweden, then beat holders the Netherlands 5-4 on penalties after a 2-2 draw in the semi-final before defeating world champions Germany 2-0 in the final to claim what remains their only major honour.
• While England have become the first side to keep clean sheets in their first five Euro matches, overrunning Ukraine 4-0 in the quarter-finals, Denmark recovered from defeats in each of their first two games to win their last three and reached the last four with a narrow 2-1 victory against the Czech Republic in Baku.
• This is England’s third Euro semi-final and a first since losing on penalties to Germany in 1996, also at Wembley. Denmark have to go back to 1992 for the most recent of their three last-four appearances, beating the Netherlands, also on spot kicks, on their way to taking the trophy.
• England have lost both of their UEFA European Championship semi-finals:
1968: 0-1 v Yugoslavia
1996: 1-1 v Germany (aet, 5-6 pens)
• Denmark’s EURO semi-final record is W1 L2:
1964: 0-3 v Soviet Union
1984: 1-1 v Spain (aet, 4-5 pens)
1992: 2-2 v Netherlands (aet, 5-4 pens)
• England have kept clean sheets in their last ten Euro matches at Wembley, qualifiers and final tournament combined. Indeed, the last goal they conceded there in the competition was a Henderson own goal in a 3-1 win against Slovenia in November 2014, a run of 932 minutes without conceding during which England have scored 31 goals themselves. The last opposition player to score against England at Wembley in a Euro match was Switzerland’s Tranquillo Barnetta, who struck twice in a 2-2 qualifying draw on 4 June 2011.
• Denmark are one of five teams to have reached Euro 2020 unbeaten along with Belgium, Italy – who both won every game – Spain and Ukraine. They are the only one of the five who did not top their qualifying group.
With AFP and Uefa inputs
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