ROME – Knockout matches of the tournament involving England are not meant to be like that. For a country accustomed to maddening nights of thin margins which, let’s face it, often end in agonizing failures, the sight of Gareth Southgate’s side rushing into the Euro 2020 semi-finals with a 4-0 win more than Ukraine in Rome was an almost incredible start to history.
Three years ago there was a vaguely similar feeling at the same 2018 World Cup stadium when England defeated Sweden 2-0, but this afternoon did not have the same serenity as this one. Everything seemed so fragile then. This time, England’s display was just a consequence of Southgate and this galvanized group of players feeling at home at this rarefied level, delivering their various declarations of intent – and no one more than Harry kane.
the Tottenham Hotspur the striker was substituted in England’s opener against Croatia after a moderate display which led to speculation as to whether he should still lead the attack on England. Five games later, he was pulled after 72 minutes at Stadio Olimpico with a brace under his belt, the UEFA Match Star award and an eye on a late Golden Shoe run.
Before Kane clinched this tournament in Tuesday’s last-16 win Germany, he reflected on how he struggled to maintain his form at the 2018 World Cup, where he still finished top scorer.
“Maybe I felt that in Russia I started on fire, I scored a lot of goals, then maybe I didn’t have my best performances in the most important games: the quarterfinals and the semi-finals, “he said. “So going into that, physically, I wanted to make sure I hit a peak at the right time and obviously we won’t know until Tuesday night if that’s the case, but that’s how I think. let it happen. “
We now know. On a humid night in the Italian capital, where temperatures remained around 25 degrees Celsius during a local kick-off at 9 p.m., a quick start was essential and England played with a high defensive line, a tightened his opponents and scored in four minutes.
Kane finished the move with a smart run and finish but Rahim sterling made it happen. Harry maguire expand the game to Sterling. Luke ShawThe underlying run drew in a Ukrainian defender, allowing Sterling to run into the field, bouncing off a challenge from Mykola Shaparenko and slips a great ball to Kane, who does the rest.
Five years ago at Euro 2016, Sterling declared himself “the hated” as the winger carried the brunt of England’s underperformance. He was also the subject of criticism ahead of this tournament, after a disappointing end to the season with Manchester city, the guy from the fans fall into the clamor to include Jack Grealish and Phil foden in the starting lineup from England.
“The teams have to go a little way and they have to suffer sometimes in order to progress,” Southgate said after the game. “We’ve had great nights over the past four years, but we’ve also had painful nights and learned from all of those experiences. It certainly helped us prepare for another tournament and prepare for the individual matches,” understanding each other and how we want to play, and also the recognition that times like tonight, we didn’t want to take a step back. We really wanted to seize the opportunity rather than hope that we could win or let fate have a chance to play its part. I thought the players were decisive and ruthless all night. “
Along with Kane, Sterling is now surely the first name on Southgate’s roster. Ukraine just didn’t know how to handle it, and with Shaw the pair were formidable on the left flank while Jadon Sancho, in his first significant minutes of the final, justified his surprise selection on the right with Bukayo Saka unavailable because of a sudden.
Shaw had been heavily criticized by Jose Mourinho during their time together at Manchester United and also this summer with the Portuguese working for a UK radio station as an expert. The 25-year-old chose to strike back in an interview last weekend – “I hope he can find his peace with this and finally move on and stop worrying about me” – and he l ‘supported on the pitch with two superb performances against Germany and now Ukraine.
A minute after halftime, Shaw delivered a superb set-piece to Maguire to plant a header in front of the Ukrainian goalkeeper. Georgiy bushchan that he almost took the net with him. Maguire’s selection to Southgate’s final 26-man squad has been widely questioned given he had been injured since May 9 with an ankle problem, but he has grown in importance as he continues. and as his physical form returned.
Shaw delivered again four minutes later, this time picking unbranded Kane at close range to lead his second. Kane went 463 minutes for England scoreless. He now has three in two games and has taken his tally to nine in majors, one behind Gary Lineker’s ten-year record in England.
“Every time you play you want to be the best you can be and try to be the best there is,” Kane said. “The majors are huge for our country, huge for our nation. I love to be involved. It would be great. Gary was an incredible player, a great English striker.
“If I’m able to score a goal or two in the next game, that should hopefully help us advance to the final. I said throughout the group stage, where I am now, it s ‘It’s just about helping the team as much as possible as a forward. If it’s to score goals, I hope I can score a few more. “
A moment that suggested confidence is really creeping through Kane once again came just before England’s fourth.
A looping defensive head Oleksandr Karavaev fell on the 27-year-old at the edge of the box and he hit a fierce, plunging left-foot volley that Bushchan did brilliantly to swing wide. From the resulting corner, Jordan henderson joins the list of those who challenge skepticism ahead of the tournament.
Selected with even more questions about his fitness than Maguire, having not played since Liverpool Since February 20 after groin surgery, he appeared to break team protocols by taking – and missing – a penalty as England beat Romania in their final warm-up game last month . Desperation to score his first England goal was the accusation against him. He dismissed this claim and even suggested that he thought the goal would come soon. In the end, he saved him for a Euro quarterfinal instead, going home Mason frame63rd minute corner – his first international goal coming from his 62nd cap.
At this point, Southgate was able to protect two of the four players with yellow cards – who are cleared before the semi-final – as Declan rice and Kalvin phillips were substituted before Shaw, Sterling and Kane received precious rest with another quick turnaround ahead of Wednesday’s semi-final against Denmark. It was, in many ways, the perfect night.
It must be said that England had useful advantages in these finals. It seems too much of a coincidence that all four semi-finalists played their three group stage games at home. Likewise, it seemed a game too far away for Ukraine after needing 120 minutes to beat Sweden on Tuesday.
But rarely have England seized such moments with this conviction or, remarkably, this degree of comfort. Their confidence was based on a strong work ethic, clarity of purpose and conviction in their approach – a mindset far removed from the tournament calamity before Southgate and credit for the change brought about by the 50-year-old.
England had never won a Euro knockout match in 90 minutes before this week. Now they’ve beaten Germany to exorcise decades of demons and have scored four goals in a knockout game for the first time since the 1966 World Cup final.
This team could really make a difference now that Kane is leading the charge.