England produced a magnificent display as they thrashed Ukraine in Rome to set up a Euro 2020 semi-final against Denmark at Wembley.
Manager Gareth Southgate’s side followed up the landmark victory over Germany in the last 16 by producing a performance of composure and the highest quality to continue their impressive progress in this tournament.
Harry Kane was back to his predatory best after struggling in the group stage, following up his goal against Germany by poking home a superb pass from Raheem Sterling after only four minutes.
Ukraine barely threatened and England – having reached the last four at the 2018 World Cup – were on their way to a second successive semi-final when Harry Maguire powered home a header from Luke Shaw’s free-kick seconds after the break.
And the outstanding Shaw was the creator once more four minutes later with a perfect cross that was headed in from six yards by Kane.
England were so impressive as they simply overpowered Ukraine with substitute Jordan Henderson getting the fourth – his first international goal, in his 62nd appearance – when he arrived with perfect timing to head in Mason Mount’s corner.
To add to England and Southgate’s satisfaction, they kept their fifth successive clean sheet to maintain their record of not conceding a goal at Euro 2020.
They will now meet Denmark in the last four at Wembley on Wednesday (20:00 BST kick-off).
Lift-off for Kane
England manager Southgate never wavered for a second in his belief that captain Kane would have a significant impact on Euro 2020, even when he looked off the pace and out of sorts when failing to score in group games against Croatia, Scotland and the Czech Republic.
Southgate’s faith was rewarded when Kane got off the mark with England’s crucial second in the 2-0 win over Germany. It was the catalyst for the real Kane to come alive in the tournament – and he punished Ukraine in trademark style.
Kane pounced for his first, rose to power in a second for his 47th England goal and almost completed a hat-trick in spectacular fashion with a left-foot volley that was turned on to the post by Ukraine keeper Georgi Bushchan.
He was a constant threat, his link with Sterling increasingly impressive, and has timed his return to peak form perfectly as England now stand only 90 minutes away from their first major final since they won the World Cup in 1966.
Kane is the man defences fear – and even the in-form Danes will regard this display as ominous.
England’s Shaw thing
Manchester United’s Shaw has had to fight to revive his England career – having been behind Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell for some time, he missed out on a start against Croatia in the Euro 2020 opener, when Southgate used Kieran Trippier in the left-back role.
It has all changed since he was brought into the side for the goalless draw against Scotland. Shaw has made a magnificent contribution to England’s run to the semi-final and will be one of the first names on the teamsheet for the game against Denmark.
Shaw has been solid in defence while proving to be a potent creator of goals, setting up Sterling’s vital opening goal against Germany then setting up two more here, first with pitch-perfect delivery from a free-kick and then a perfect cross.
It has not been a smooth ride for Shaw, who emerged as a teenager at Southampton before his big-money move to Manchester United in June 2014.
He has suffered serious injury at United, and was never trusted by Jose Mourinho when he was their manager, but is now delivering for England in a major tournament – proof of his character, and an achievement that makes that long road even more worthwhile.
England’s show of squad strength
Southgate has manoeuvred his England squad with great expertise throughout Euro 2020, demonstrating the riches he has at his disposal.
In Rome, he was able to give a first start in the tournament to Jadon Sancho, the 21-year-old who has just agreed a £73m move to Manchester United from Borussia Dortmund.
Sancho slotted in perfectly, showing huge confidence and ambition in a timely reminder of what he can offer.
Chelsea’s Mount also returned the England side, with two creators in the shape of Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish and Manchester City’s Phil Foden left on the bench.
Henderson, the vastly experienced Liverpool captain, made his mark while Marcus Rashford was also introduced off the bench.
It was proof, amid an imperious victory, that Southgate’s England squad has the sort of quality and depth that will make them confident they can finally end that 55-year wait for success.
First since Ramsey – the best of the stats
- Gareth Southgate is just the second manager to take England to the semi-final of both the World Cup and the European Championship, after Alf Ramsey in 1966 and 1968.
- The Three Lions have kept seven consecutive clean sheets for the first time in their history. They have not conceded for 662 minutes.
- This was Ukraine’s joint-biggest defeat in a match at a major tournament, equalling their 4-0 defeat by Spain in the group stages of the 2006 World Cup.
- Raheem Sterling has been involved in 22 goals in his past 21 games for England (15 goals, seven assists), while Harry Kane has been involved in 27 in his past 26 for the Three Lions (18 goals, nine assists).
- Sterling has provided six assists for Harry Kane for England in all competitions, more than any England player has assisted another in the 21st Century.
- Luke Shaw’s assist for Harry Maguire was the first time two Manchester United players have combined for an England goal at a major tournament since David Beckham assisted Paul Scholes against Portugal at Euro 2000.
- England keeper Jordan Pickford has kept five clean sheets at Euro 2020 – no keeper has ever kept more in a single staging of the competition before.
Source: Ghana News