Is football coming home? Harry Kane's double and headers from Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson swept aside Ukraine in a one-sided quarter-final; England play Denmark on Wednesday back at Wembley
Sunday 4 July 2021 07:48, UK
England booked a Euro 2020 semi-final clash vs Denmark at Wembley after thrashing Ukraine 4-0, with Harry Kane at the double.
Played in front of a completely different atmosphere in Rome to the one seen at Wembley in the win over Germany, Gareth Southgate's side set the tone with a goal inside four minutes when Kane finished from a precise Raheem Sterling pass.
England's pressing restricted Andriy Shevchenko's side to scraps and Harry Maguire doubled the lead via a fantastic Luke Shaw set piece (46). Shaw wasn't done there, though, and registered his third assist of the tournament moments later when curling another sublime ball onto the head of Kane (50).
England were now running riot and Jordan Henderson - on as a substitute - rose to head another set-piece goal home (63) - his first goal for his country.
The Three Lions, who are yet to concede a goal in this tournament, now play Denmark in the semi-finals on home soil on Wednesday 7 July.
England were aiming to reach their first European semi-final since 1996 and started where they left off on Tuesday evening at Wembley with Sterling and Kane to the fore.
England: Pickford (7), Walker (5), Stones (7), Maguire (8), Shaw (9), Rice (7), Phillips (6), Mount (8), Sterling (9), Kane (9), Sancho (7)
Subs: Bellingham (6), Henderson (8), Rashford (6), Trippier (6), Calvert-Lewin (N/A).
Man of the match: Luke Shaw
Ukraine's game-plan was clearly to sit and soak up pressure but that went out of the window when the intelligent Sterling fed a defense-splitting pass to Kane, who made no mistake from close range.
Doubters silenced. England were on their way.
With Mason Mount back in the side, England pressed higher up the pitch than when edging past Germany, restricting Ukraine to limited possession. However, Roman Yaremchuk did seize upon a wayward pass from Kyle Walker but Jordan Pickford stood strong at his near post.
Southgate will have wanted England to turn their territorial dominance into goals but clear-cut chances were in short supply until Jadon Sancho fired at goal from 12 yards after some clever build-up from Shaw. His effort was too close to Heorhiy Bushchan as Ukraine held on.
That resistance was broken almost immediately after half-time as England flexed their muscles from set pieces.
Kane won a free-kick after being tripped and Shaw swung in a cross that Maguire wanted to attack more than his marker as he thundered past Bushcan to double the lead.
They say 2-0 can be a dangerous lead, so England quickly changed that, grabbing a third with their next attack to put one foot in the semi-final.
Kane was the man again as he stooped to head home his second of the evening, Shaw again sending the ball into the box to find his captain unmarked six yards out.
Southgate took the opportunity to replace Declan Rice - one booking away from missing the semi-final - with Henderson.
Kane, playing like a man possessed and back at the top of his game, was denied a wonderful hat-trick with a volleyed effort by a flying Bushcan stop. However, from the resulting corner, England gave the nation another moment to remember.
Mount this time whipped in for Henderson to head in his first England goal on his 62nd cap. Of all players to score at least once for England, Henderson's 62 games are the longest a player has ever had to wait.
Southgate then rang the changes as Kalvin Phillips, Shaw and Sterling were replaced before Kane came off with 18 minutes remaining.
This was England's biggest ever win at the European Championship, and their biggest win in the knockout stages of a major tournament. The signs are pointing in the right direction that football just might be coming home.
England boss Gareth Southgate: "We didn't want to take a backward step. We wanted to grasp this opportunity rather than just hope we might win or let fate have a chance to play its part. I thought the players were decisive and ruthless all night.
"It's fabulous. I suppose it's still sinking in that it's another semi-final - three in three years.
"We want to go two steps further. I know what will be happening at home. It's lovely to see everyone on a Saturday night, beer in hand. They should enjoy it. It's been a long year for everyone. I'm chuffed the two performances have brought so much happiness to people.
"It's fabulous for our country - a semi-final at Wembley. Everyone can really look forward to that - it's brilliant.
"We're not satisfied. Tonight is another very enjoyable night for everybody but even before the end of the game I was thinking about the next challenge. We have never been to a European Championship final. It's another opportunity to make history."
Ukraine boss Andriy Shevchenko: "The English team is really strong, individually and as a team as well, they have a great coach and they reached the semi-finals, and I can see that this team can make it to the final.
"We did not deny our principles, we had good parts of the game, but there are sometimes - set pieces, for example - today we didn't work very well at them."
It doesn't get much more comfortable than that. England's controlled and dominant 4-0 win over Ukraine means they will face Denmark in the Euro 2020 semi-final at Wembley on Wednesday. Are the stars aligning for Gareth Southgate's side? And how has he managed to rid England of the fear factor?
Alice Piper is joined by Rob Dorsett, Adam Bate and Gerard Brand to discuss the win in Rome, as Harry Kane returns to form, Luke Shaw shows up Jose Mourinho in his new manor and England keep another clean sheet. It's all looking rosy, right?
Harry Kane said: "It's going to be incredible. What a moment for us as a team and a nation.
"A lot of us playing now won't have the opportunity to have a big game like that at Wembley in a major tournament again. It's there for us. It's an opportunity for us and we have to grab it with both hands.
"We have to enjoy being in that environment. Coming off the back of the Germany game, the spirits were high and the stadium was rocking so hopefully we can use that energy again and really take the game to Denmark."
Harry Maguire speaking to BBC: "It's a great feeling, back to back semis is a great achievement. I don't want to be a party pooper but we don't stop here, we want to go further than we did at the World Cup. It's big progress we're making as a country. Long may the improvement continue.
"We have great belief in the dressing room. The first half was tough, but I think the second goal settled us down a lot. We deserved the third and fourth on the night.
"We have to recover for another big one coming up. It's hard to soak it all in when there's another big one coming up. The dressing room will be great tonight, but tomorrow we'll wake up and be focused again, because this group of players won't settle for a semi-final."
England will play Denmark in the semi-finals of Euro 2020 on Wednesday at 8pm at Wembley.