Euro 2020: Southgate celebrates ‘special’ night as England end wait to reach a final

Kane's penalty in extra-time seals 2-1 win over Denmark

England manager Gareth Southgate hailed his players for putting on a "special night" at Wembley after overcoming a resolute Denmark to reach the final of Euro 2020.

Southgate's side showed their resolve to conceding their first goal of the tournament to roar back to win 2-1 in extra-time in front of 64,950 fans at a rocking Wembley.

Mikkel Damsgaard’s free-kick saw Jordan Pickford beaten for the first time at Euro 2020 midway through the first half but Southgate’s side rallied impressively and Simon Kjaer’s own goal saw them level before Harry Kane fired the hosts to victory after Kasper Schmeichel saved his initial penalty, sparking pandemonium across the land.

Italy now stand between England and a second major international trophy, 55 years after the Three Lions won the World Cup. The championship match takes place at Wembley on Sunday.

“They’ve responded to what was always going to be a really challenging night,” Southgate said of his players.

“We were so smooth through the quarter-final and relatively unscathed through the second round. We knew that at some point we were going to concede and we would have to respond.

“Denmark have had an incredible tournament. I have got to give them huge credit. I thought they made it really difficult for us tonight. They pressed us so well, scored a fabulous goal – the boy is a super player.

“But I think on the balance of play when you look at the number of saves we forced the goalkeeper to make and long periods of the game where I felt we were the biggest threat, I think we deserved it.

“For our country, I’ve not heard this new Wembley like that ever and to be able to share that with everybody and share it with everybody at home is very special.”

England’s victory came three years after a World Cup semi-final defeat to Croatia and 25 years on from a last-four defeat to Germany at Euro '96, when Southgate missed the crucial spot-kick in the shootout.

But the Three Lions boss has spoken throughout the tournament about making history rather than fixating on the past.

“I felt calm in the lead up to the game because I felt the players, with what they’ve been through, were ready,” Southgate said.

“You’re never 100 per cent sure how they react in difficult moments but we have talked about it and they stayed clam.

“I didn’t think we kept the ball well enough through Denmark’s pressure from the front three and we’re going to have to do that better on Sunday because Italy are very good at it so we need to find better solutions with that.

“But we found a way to win and we found the way to find the spaces further forward. Once we got into their half we were a threat all night."

Denmark boss Kasper Hjulmand admitted he felt bitter after England ended his battling side’s Euro 2020 dream.

Kane scored after England were awarded a penalty by referee Danny Makkelie when Raheem Sterling went down under Joakim Maehle’s challenge.

Hjulmand was unhappy there was a second ball on the pitch at the time of the foul but also insisted it was not a penalty.

He said: “It was a penalty which should not have been a penalty. It is something which annoys me right now. We are very disappointed.

“You cannot pass by the ball on the pitch which has so much influence on the game.

“I know it sounds weird right now but I cannot help having these feelings. One thing is to lose a game, it happens, but losing this way is disappointing because these guys have fought a lot.

“It feels bitter but we have to digest this before we can discuss these feelings. It’s a bitter way to leave the tournament.

“The way we lost makes it harder to understand why we lost. I have to be careful with what I say. We have an amazing group and we definitely can do something great again.

“Maybe it is easier for me to say how I feel in a few days.”

Updated: July 8th 2021, 8:20 AM
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