England’s 55-year wait to reach a major men’s final is over at last after victory against Denmark at Euro 2020, on a night of nerve-shredding tension then unconfined joy at Wembley.
Gareth Southgate’s side were on a mission to travel one step further than any England side had done since the 1966 World Cup final win against West Germany, and they finally achieved the long-cherished goal as they came from behind to triumph in extra time. In front of 66,000 fans and in a frenzied, thunderous atmosphere this newer Wembley has not experienced before, England battled their way out of adversity to secure a meeting with Italy in the final at the same venue on Sunday. They had to fight for victory against steely opponents – who had an inspired keeper in Kasper Schmeichel – especially after conceding their first goal of the tournament to Mikkel Damsgaard’s stunning free-kick after 30 minutes. But they replied quickly as Denmark captain Simon Kjaer turned in Bukayo Saka’s threatening cross six minutes before the break. Schmeichel was Denmark’s hero as the hosts sought the winner, saving brilliantly from Harry Maguire and Harry Kane as the game went into extra time and the prospect of penalties loomed large. The moment the nation has awaited so long effectively arrived with Wembley’s giant screens showing 103 minutes and captain Kane standing over a penalty after Raheem Sterling had been fouled by Joakim Maehle. Denmark were unhappy with the decision, which was checked by VAR. And in keeping with England’s long and tortuous history, it was not straightforward as the normally ice-cool Kane saw an awful penalty saved by Schmeichel – but the rebound fell at his feet for him to score. Kane has now equalled Gary Lineker’s long-standing record of 10 goals for England at major tournaments.