England eye to break semifinal jinx as Denmark look to rewrite history

7 July, 2021 12:00 AM printer

England eye to break semifinal jinx as Denmark look to rewrite history

Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and England skipper Harry Kane (right) are in jolly mood ahead of their Euro 2020 semifinal match at Wembley Stadium, London. – Collected Photos

Wembley Stadium plays host to what ought to be a pulsating Euro 2020 semi-final encounter on Thursday as England welcome Scandinavian surprise package Denmark to the capital for a place in this summer's final.

The Three Lions thrashed Ukraine 4-0 to make the final four, while Denmark scraped past the Czech Republic 2-1 in the quarters, and either Italy or Spain will await the victors in the showpiece event on July 11.

Gareth Southgate's England have inspired a nation. Twenty-five years on from his Euro 96 penalty miss that he is surely sick and tired of hearing about, the 50-year-old has guided the Three Lions to back-to-back semi-final appearances at a major tournament having come so close yet so far in Russia 2018.

Having passed their toughest test against Germany with flying colours, England travelled away from their Wembley headquarters to take on a Ukraine side who were highly fortunate to even be in the knockout rounds to begin with, but not even the most ardent supporters could have envisaged the Three Lions' dominance in Rome.

Jubilant scenes back home - coupled with endless renditions of Baddiel and Skinner - both demonstrated the pride of England supporters for their team as well as a much-needed release following the events of the last 18 months. However, the Three Lions' job is far from over, and Southgate will know that better than anyone.

Having now gone seven games across all competitions without conceding a goal, a first-ever appearance at a Euros final will be England's should their staunch defence produce the goods once more, and no team in history has navigated a Euros or World Cup campaign with six clean sheets to their name.

Southgate's struggles to get the best out of a bright attacking contingent have been well-documented, but England's thrashing of Ukraine also represented their biggest-ever margin of victory in a major tournament knockout match, which is just what the doctor ordered before their Nordic neighbours seek to spring another surprise.

What started out as a horror show has since become the stuff of dreams for Denmark, who are doing Christian Eriksen proud every step of the way. One can only imagine the beaming smile on the Inter Milan playmaker's face as he witnesses his team tries to make history, although there is no denying that his teammates would desperately love for him to still be on the pitch with them.

Nevertheless, Kasper Hjulmand's side have coped far better than anyone could have imagined after witnessing the harrowing scenes that they did on the opening matchday, and they followed up their thrashing of Wales in the last 16 with a success over the Czechs in the last eight.

Of course, the last time that Denmark made it this far culminated in a fairytale ending during Euro 92 - their first and only triumph at the continental championships to date - and Hjulmand's in-form attacking contingent have already notched up the most goals that their country has ever scored in a single major tournament (11).

Whichever team progresses to the final over the course of the full 90, 120 or a penalty shootout will be rewarded with a final appearance versus Italy or Spain - two powerhouses that have dazzled and delighted all summer long - but as we have learned over the course of all major tournaments, form goes out of the window at this incredibly late stage.

A penalty from none other than Eriksen propelled Denmark to victory over England in last year's Nations League, and the Scandinavian side also managed to hold Southgate's men to a goalless draw before that, meaning that we have a truly tantalising battle on our hands in front of a 60,000-strong Wembley crowd.