Alan Shearer summed up the mood of the nation after England comfortably eased into their first European Championship semi-final for 25 years, declaring "something special is happening."
Playing away from Wembley for the first time at Euro 2020, England put in their most dominant team performance yet in Rome, scoring four goals against Ukraine without reply to set up a last four showdown with Denmark, back in London next Wednesday night.
Harry Kane opened the scoring after just four minutes as England started at pace. The remaining goals did not come until the second half, but they knocked the stuffing out of a poor Ukraine side.
After the game Shearer, the former striker who was part of the last England team to reach a Euro semi-final in 1996, struggled to comprehend the ease with which the team had progressed: "Something special is happening," he said on BBC One.
"We started the tournament slowly, we've been improving in every game. My head is telling me to calm down but my heart is getting carried away and long may it continue.
"What a performance, what a night, so many special performances. Sancho, Sterling, Shaw - how good was Luke Shaw? - Kane scoring, Maguire, Henderson... it's endless. It's really positive. Well done England, well done Gareth."
Former England defender Rio Ferdinand echoed Shearer's thoughts. He said on BBC One: "The biggest compliment I can give Gareth and his team is that I have never seen an England team so composed under such pressure with so much at stake.
"All of the players coming on, they are all impacting the game in a positive way, the manager is utilising the squad. He has been able to do that because of the quality out there, everyone is justifying their selection."
How European papers reacted
French daily sports newspaper L’Equipe ran with the headline ‘God Save The Kane’.
The paper said "the cheerful" sounds of ‘Football's coming home’ "will be able to resound once again at Wembley". They described England’s 4-0 win against Ukraine as "applied, determined, insatiable".
Italian sports paper La Gazetta dello Sport headlined their report on England's crushing win as 'Uragano Kane' (Hurricane Kane) - and said it had been a generation since England had hit such heights.
The report described “a flicker at the beginning of the first half, three in the second half” and an answer to the question of whether England could perform away from Wembley.
They reported how it has been 25 years since England performed so well - or “9,138 days and 1,305 Sundays” and how “In England everyone is singing: ‘It's coming home’....a catchphrase that has been going on for several years.”
— La Gazzetta dello Sport (@Gazzetta_it) July 4, 2021
Wenger dubs England 'super-favourites'
Arsene Wenger has made England “super favourites” to win Euro 2020 following what he called the “perfect” night for the national team in their 4-0 semi-final win against Ukraine.
Wenger, who was offered the England job himself several times while at Arsenal, believes that home advantage and the team’s defensive solidity provides an outstanding chance to end the 55 year wait for international success.
“It’s a good picture to see,” Wenger told beIN Sports. “It was a perfect night for English football - a perfect night for the England team. They didn’t concede a goal, easily qualified, could rest important players. To win a tournament you need a stable defence.
“He has kept the defence stable and improvised a bit up front. He has not found the complete formula offensively but they have not conceded a goal. They are super favourites, for me, to win this tournament.”
Carlos hails sensational Shaw
Roberto Carlos was among those who congratulated Luke Shaw following his two assists in England’s 4-0 victory against Ukraine.
Shaw had tweeted ‘what a night’, prompting hand claps from the Brazilian dead-ball specialist who is rated among the greatest left-backs in football history. With three assists, Shaw is joint second at Euro 2020 behind Switzerland’s Stephen Zuber on four.
England camp reaction
Gareth Southgate, meanwhile, hailed his England players for uniting the country this summer and has challenged them to make history in the next seven days by winning the European Championship on home soil.
With quarantine rules meaning only ex-pats in Italy could officially cheer England on, Southgate is hoping the party will continue at Wembley on Wednesday for the semi-final in front of 60,000 fans in the biggest UK football crowd following the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Uppermost in my mind is that we want to go two steps further and I know what will be happening at home and that is great,” Southgate said. “It’s lovely to send everyone on a Saturday night with a beer in hand or in the air, they should enjoy it. It’s been a long year for everybody and I’m chuffed that the two performances have brought so much happiness to people.
“I am conscious it is not just our country that has been through difficulty but we have also had a lot of division for a little while and I know these England nights bring everybody together, communities, families, so to give them so much enjoyment over the last two matches in particular - to have them with hope looking forward now - is part of the privilege of being in the job.”
Southgate described his England team as being inspired by playing at the historic Italian stadium, saluting their ruthlessness in dismantling Ukraine after Kane’s early goal.
After reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup in Russia three years ago, Southgate says his players are more experienced to cope with the occasion on Wednesday.
“Teams have to go on a bit of a journey and they have to go through some pain sometimes to be able to progress and, you know we've had some great nights over the last four years, but we've also had some painful nights,” he said.
What a feeling. Rome to Wembley. Let’s go ! 🏴🦁🦁🦁 pic.twitter.com/SaYUxwiYd7
— Harry Kane (@HKane) July 3, 2021
“We've learned from all of those experiences and that's definitely helped us prepare for another tournament and prepare for the individual games, where we're, you know, with the understanding of each other's, you know the players of how we want to play, and also the recognition that, you know moments like tonight.
“We didn't want to take a backward step, we wanted to really grasp the opportunity rather than hope that we might win or let fate have a chance to play its part. And I thought the players were decisive and ruthless all night.”
Captain Kane added: “What a great performance in a big big game, there was a lot of pressure on us and expectation and to perform like that was top-drawer. Another clean sheet, four goals, it was a perfect night for us.”