Three Lions dare to dream after setting up crunching Italian date

Friday, July 9th, 2021 00:00 | By
England’s forward Harry Kane (right) celebrates with team-mate Phil Foden after scoring a goal during their UEFA EURO 2020 semi-final match against Denmark at Wembley Stadium in London on July 7, 2021. Photo/AFP

London, Thursday

England fans woke up bleary-eyed on Thursday to the reality of a first major tournament final in 55 years after a momentous win against Denmark set up a Euro 2020 showdown with Italy.

Three years on from their defeat to Croatia in the World Cup semi-final, Gareth Southgate’s men overcame the Danes 2-1 in extra-time at a rocking Wembley to reach their first European Championship final.

They now stand just one game away from ending their long and painful trophy drought, which dates all the way back to the 1966 World Cup.

  Standing in their way are an Italy side who are on a 33-match unbeaten run, reviving their reputation on the global stage after an embarrassing failure to even reach the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

A Wembley crowd of almost 65,000 whipped themselves into a frenzy before kick-off on Wednesday with rousing renditions of “Sweet Caroline” and “Football’s Coming Home”.

Simon Kjaer’s own goal cancelled out a superb Mikkel Damsgaard free-kick and Kasper Schmeichel kept England at bay with some stunning saves to take the tie to extra-time.

The key decisive moment came late in the first period of extra-time when Dutch referee Danny Makkelie awarded a spot-kick for Joakim Maehle’s challenge on Raheem Sterling which survived a VAR check, and England held out to seal the win.

The final whistle sparked scenes of pandemonium inside Wembley hosting the biggest crowd in the UK since the start of the coronavirus pandemic as the players partied on the pitch.

Flag-waving fans at London’s Trafalgar Square abandoned their seating to merge into a huge, swaying crowd after the final whistle. One group of supporters climbed on top of a double-decker bus.

For Denmark, defeat spelt the end of a fairytale run to the last four after the trauma of witnessing star Christian Eriksen collapse in their opening group game against Finland following a cardiac arrest.

England have suffered semi-final heartbreak at major tournaments four times since 1966 and those agonising defeats have been etched in the psyche of English football.

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