England’s 55-year wait to reach a major final is over at last after 2-1 victory against Denmark in the Euro 2020 last four, on a night of nerve-shredding tension then unconfined joy at Wembley.
Gareth Southgate’s side were on a mission to travel one step further than any England side has done since the 1966 World Cup final win against West Germany and they finally achieved the long-cherished goal as they came from behind to beat Denmark after extra time.
In front of 66,000 fans and in a frenzied, thunderous atmosphere this newer Wembley has not experienced before, England battled their way out of adversity to secure a meeting with Italy in the Euro 2020 final at the same venue on Sunday.
How England had to fight for victory against this steely Denmark with an inspired keeper in Kasper Schmeichel, especially after conceding their first goal of the tournament to Mikkel Damsgaard’s stunning free-kick after 30 minutes.
England, crucially, replied quickly as Denmark captain Simon Kjaer turned in Bukayo Saka’s threatening cross six minutes before the break.
Schmeichel was Denmark’s hero as England sought the winner, saving brilliantly from Harry Maguire and Harry Kane as the game went into extra time and the prospect of penalties loomed large.
The moment the nation has waited for so long effectively arrived with Wembley’s giant screens showing 103 minutes and captain Kane standing over a penalty after Raheem Sterling had been fouled by Joakim Maehle.
In keeping with England’s long and tortuous history, it was not straightforward as the normally ice-cool Kane saw an awful penalty saved by Schmeichel – but the rebound fell at his feet for him to score.
Wembley went wild with deafening noise and wild celebrations as finally, after all the years of hurt, England have the golden opportunity to finally claim a major crown on Sunday.
Speaking after leading the Three Lions to their first final since 1966, England manager Gareth Southgate says he is “so pleased for our country” after they booked their place in the Euro 2020 final – a first in a men’s major tournament for 55 years.
“The atmosphere… I don’t think I’ve heard the new Wembley like that,” Southgate told BBC Sport.
“We know what our country, like others, has been through and to continue that happiness and the journey for another few days – we’re are so happy.”
Forward Raheem Sterling also praised England’s response after they conceded their first goal in the tournament.
“It was a top performance. We had to dig in deep,” said Sterling, who won the penalty which Kane converted at the second attempt.
“It was the first time we conceded (in the tournament) but we responded well and showed good spirit. We knew it would be difficult.
“We stayed patient and we knew with the legs and aggressiveness we have in the team we’d be okay. It’s another step in the right direction.
“We have to focus on the weekend now. We know what football means to this country. Now we have Italy. We will celebrate a little bit then focus on Italy.”
Skipper Kane added: “We dug deep and we got there when it mattered. We reacted really well and we’re in a final at home. What a feeling.
“We know it’s going to be a very tough game against Italy. We’ve had a great tournament so far. One more game to go at home and we can’t wait.”