Euro 2020 matchday 28: Planning begins for England-Italy showdown

Gareth Southgate and Roberto Mancini can start planning in earnest for Sunday’s Euro 2020 final after a dramatic 24 hours at Wembley.

Having seen Italy secure their golden ticket with a penalty shoot-out victory over Spain on Tuesday evening, England ensured they would join them by edging past Denmark 2-1 after conceding their first goal of the tournament on Wednesday night.

In a pulsating semi-final under the arch on Wednesday night, Simon Kjaer’s own goal cancelled out a superb Mikkel Damsgaard free-kick and Kasper Schmeichel kept the white shirts at bay to take the tie to extra-time.

Dutch referee Danny Makkelie found himself a central character in the drama when he awarded a 104th-minute spot-kick for Joakim Maehle’s challenge on Raheem Sterling which survived a VAR check, surprisingly in the eyes of many pundits.

Kane’s attempt was saved, but he converted the rebound to lift the roof off a packed Wembley to exorcise the ghosts of Italia ’90 and Euro ’96.

England will reconvene at headquarters on Sunday evening when Mancini’s men will attempt to deny them the international silverware they have craved for 55 years, and it unlikely to be any less tense.

Pickford beaten for the first time

Damsgaard became the first man to find a way past England keeper Jordan Pickford at the finals when he curled a 30th-minute free-kick past him. The Everton keeper, aided and abetted by the defenders ahead of him, had gone 480 minutes of tournament football – and an England record 726 minutes in all games – without conceding prior to the Sampdoria frontman’s strike, the first of the finals from a direct set-piece.

Cruel on Schmeichel

England manager Gareth Southgate consoles Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel after the final whistle
England manager Gareth Southgate consoles Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel after the final whistle (Nick Potts/PA)

Schmeichel did more than anyone to keep Denmark in a game which might otherwise have been beyond them by the time 90 minutes had elapsed. However, his brilliance was left to count for nothing when, after he had guessed correctly to keep out Kane’s uncharacteristically weak penalty, the ball rebounded straight to the England skipper, who slotted it into the unguarded net.

Sterling service

Sterling has grown in stature on and off the pitch since making a significant impact at the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia, but his contribution on an energy-sapping evening at Wembley was immense. It was Maehle’s challenge on the Manchester City star which led to the decisive goal and deep into extra-time, it was he who was still running the Danish defence ragged.

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Kane’s goal took him to 10 for England in tournament football, a feat matched only by Gary Lineker. Asked about his penalty, Southgate told ITV: “There’s nobody you’ve rather have on it, but you’re up against a great goalkeeper who he’s obviously faced a lot of times – but thankfully that’s now immaterial.”