LONDON: England crushed Ukraine 4-0 in Rome on Saturday to set up a Euro 2020 semi-final against Denmark who continued their remarkable run by beating the Czech Republic in the last eight earlier.
Harry Kane scored twice for England at the Stadio Olimpico while Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson also found the net as Gareth Southgate’s side reached the semi-finals of a second consecutive major tournament.
It was the only match of Euro 2020 that England had to play away from Wembley Stadium and it was the team’s most dominant performance of the tournament.
England now go back to London to face Denmark on Wednesday. The Danes beat the Czech Republic 2-1 in Baku.
Italy will face Spain in the other semi-final match on Tuesday, with the final next weekend also to be played at Wembley.
The last time England made it to the last four of the European Championship was in 1996. But the bigger goal at this point is to duplicate the success of the 1966 England team that won the World Cup on home soil.
Kane scored on England’s first opportunity in the fourth minute, using one touch to redirect a through ball from Raheem Sterling for his second goal in as many matches. The ball went in off the shoulder of goalkeeper Georgiy Bushchan inside the near post.
England also scored early in the second half after Kane was fouled about 10 seconds. A free kick from Luke Shaw set up a header from Maguire. Four minutes later, Kane got his second by heading in another cross from Shaw on a play that included a backheel pass from Sterling as England dazzled.
After failing to score in the group stage, Kane now has three goals in two matches after also scoring in the 2-0 win over Germany in the last 16.
Henderson’s goal his first for England after a decade with the national team also came with a header as Ukraine’s defenders had no answers to England’s aerial prowess.
Ukraine, who were coming off a 2-1 extra-time win over Sweden, had relied on occasional counterattacks in the first half and produced a series of chances just before the break.
“We didn’t want to take a backwards step. We really wanted to grasp an opportunity. I thought the players were decisive and ruthless all night,” said Southgate as England recorded their biggest victory in a major tournament knockout game. “To be able to lead out a team at any game at Wembley is special, to have a semi-final is extra special.”
England were certainly not affected by leaving Wembley to come to Rome. An obligatory five-day quarantine for arrivals into Italy from the United Kingdom made it harder for England fans to attend the game, but many of the crowd of close to 12,000 were still supporting them.
“It was actually really great for us to come away from Wembley because it would have been really hard to replicate the atmosphere from the Germany game, so to come here, prepare differently, play in a historic stadium on a night that was beautiful for football, I think inspired the players,” said Southgate.
The Danes continued their remarkable run since the trauma of Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest in their opening defeat by Finland as they beat the Czech Republic.
They are into the last four of a major tournament for the first time since winning the European Championship in 1992 after first-half goals from Thomas Delaney and Kasper Dolberg in Baku.
A defeat by Belgium followed the Finland game, but they have now scored 10 goals in three straight wins since then.
“We won some games comfortably, 4-1 and 4-0, but this is also a way of winning a football game,” said their coach Kasper Hjulmand. “I’m very proud to be in the semi-finals with this team.”
Following the usual tributes to the recovering Eriksen from UEFA and fans — a giant No. 10 shirt laid out on the field and a ‘For Christ10an’ banner in the stands — Denmark quickly took control against the Czechs on a hot and humid night in Azerbaijan.
Jens Stryger sent an outswinging corner in the fifth minute to Thomas Delaney, standing in space by the penalty spot. Delaney’s bouncing header went in past the outstretched hand of goalkeeper Tom Vaclik.
Denmark doubled the lead just before halftime. Joakim Maehle hit a cross from the left using the outside of his right foot. The ball eluded Martin Braithwaite’s attempt at a header but Kasper Dolberg got past his marker and beat Vaclik in the 42nd.
The Czechs pulled one back in the 49th minute when Patrik Schick tucked Vladimir Coufal’s cross into the bottom corner to grab his fifth goal of the tournament and move alongside Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the scoring charts.
But Schick was substituted after suffering a muscle strain with 11 minutes remaining and Denmark held on.
Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2021