The Jerusalem Post
England aims for final vs determined Danes
Three Lions have home advantage in Euro semifinal at Wembley, but Denmark united since Eriksen’s collapse
MANCHESTER (Reuters) – England has the chance to reach a first major final since its 1966 World Cup triumph when it takes on Denmark at Wembley in Wednesday’s Euro 2020 semifinal, but it will need to banish a history of stumbling at this stage.
Gareth Southgate’s side was impressive in its 4-0 dismantling of Ukraine in Rome on Saturday, heralding a wave of euphoria in the country as media showered the team in praise.
England fans need no reminder, however, that their team has lost four major semifinals since Alf Ramsey’s team’s title.
Southgate has been keen to keep the burden of history out of his team’s thinking. If he needs a way to bring his players back down to earth before the semifinal, he does not have to look back far for a warning against complacency.
An England side containing 10 of the current squad faced Denmark at Wembley in October in a Nations League match and lost 1-0 to a Christian Eriksen penalty.
Eriksen, who is recovering from the shocking cardiac episode he suffered as he collapsed in Denmark’s opening Euro game, will not feature at Wembley of course.
But Kasper Hjulmand’s side, which beat the Czech Republic 2-1 in their quarterfinal, will be largely the same as the one which left London with three points eight months ago.
The lessons from that game are limited by the fact that England played almost an hour with 10 men after Harry Maguire was sent off in the 31st minute – but that in itself is a reminder of the way a moment of indiscipline can swing a game.
England is not the same team that was stunned by Croatia in the 2018 World Cup
semifinal and the influx of young, attacking talent has it poised for success, defender Kieran Trippier said ahead of Wednesday’s semi.
Trippier scored with an early free kick in the World Cup semifinal in Russia before Croatia struck twice to snatch an extra-time win.
“I think from the two years the team has changed a lot and we are in a position now where we just want to create our own history,” Trippier told British media on Monday.
“There are only maybe six or seven of us from that World Cup team, we have got so much good young talent now.
“It is there for everyone to see the attacking players we’ve got and I think we’ve taken that step forward from 2018.”
Maguire looks rock solid at the moment as part of an England defense which has yet to concede a goal in the tournament.
The 28-year-old center-back did not know if he would be fit enough to even make the squad after an ankle injury in May.
Maguire suffered ligament damage in Manchester United’s May 9 Premier League match with Aston Villa and missed the rest of the domestic season and his club’s Europa League final loss to Villarreal.
He missed England’s warm-up games and opening two matches in the Euros’ group
stage but returned in the final group fixture with Czech Republic and has been alongside John Stones since then.
Asked if he feared he might have to watch the Euros on TV rather than be on the field, Maguire, who scored a header in Saturday’s win over Ukraine, said there was uncertainty.
“I think with any injury, you don’t know how you are going to recover, you don’t know the rehab, if you are going to have a setback. Touch wood, I haven’t had any setbacks in rehab and it has all gone smoothly, all gone to plan and a little bit quicker than we all thought,” he told a news conference on Monday.
“Obviously to miss the Europa League final was disappointing and then I fully set my sights on making the Euros squad.”
The Yorkshireman said he did not know, when he was named in that squad, when he would be ready to return to action but is pleased with the way he has coped.
“It’s not like being thrown into a friendly match, it’s the European Championship, so it’s so demanding and the intensity of each game,” he said.
“So where it has gone and where it has been, I think that is great credit to the medical staff at Manchester United and England for the way they went about everything, the way they pushed me every day and obviously I am really proud of myself in terms of the way that I pushed myself as well.
“Losing the semifinal at the World Cup hurt a lot. So we need to make sure when it comes on Wednesday night we get a positive feeling rather than the one we got against Croatia.”
And with Harry Kane back to scoring form with three goals in the two knockout stage games, England looks to be peaking at the right moment.
There was, however, a similar feeling among England fans after the Three Lions beat Sweden in the last-eight of the World Cup three years ago in Russia only to then heartbreakingly fall to Croatia.
“Now we’ve replicated what we did there, but that won’t be enough to fulfil the group,” said Southgate, who knows that the national mood would change sharply if his team stumbles at the same stage this time.
Denmark’s performances in this tournament, where it has responded to the Eriksen trauma in such inspiring fashion, should also keep England focused.
The Danes got out of Group B with a rousing 4-1 win over Russia in Copenhagen before thrashing Wales 4-0 in Amsterdam.
In the quarterfinal, they beat a well-organised Czech side 2-1 in the heat of Baku.
Much of the focus on Denmark has been on the way the team has come together and fought so well after the shocking scenes against Finland, with Southgate noting they are “riding a wave of emotion,” but they have been much more than battlers.
Hjulmand’s players have a clear structure and method to their play which has earned them their place in the last-four.
On attack, Martin Braithwaite creates the spaces which Mikkel Damsgaard and Kasper Dolberg have exploited well and there is a threat from attacking wing backs Jens Stryger Larsen and the excellent Joakim Maehle.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Thomas Delaney are a firm presence in the center of midfield while the back line in front of goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel has been solid.
Unbeaten England though starts as the clear favorite with a stronger squad and home advantage and the fear that has gripped it in previous campaigns refreshingly absent so far.
Spain or Italy, which played in Tuesday’s late semifinal, will await the winner in Sunday’s final at Wembley.
(live on Channel 13 10 p.m.).