Southgate savours ‘very special’ semi-final success over Denmark
GARETH Southgate was delighted for his players and the entire nation after England held their nerve to seal a historic win against Denmark and reach their first European Championship final.
Three years on from the heartbreaking World Cup semi-final defeat to Croatia, the Three Lions roared to a 2-1 extra-time victory in front of 64,950 fans at a rocking Wembley. Now the attention turns to Sunday and England’s date with destiny against Italy in the Euro 2020 final.
“They’ve responded to what was always going to be a really challenging night,” Southgate said of his players. We were so smooth through the quarter-final and relatively unscathed through the second round. We knew that at some point we were going to concede and we would have to respond.
“Denmark have had an incredible tournament. I have got to give them huge credit. I thought they made it really difficult for us tonight. They pressed us so well, scored a fabulous goal - the boy is a super player.
“But I think on the balance of play when you look at the number of saves we forced the goalkeeper to make and long periods of the game where I felt we were the biggest threat, I think we deserved it. For our country, I’ve not heard this new Wembley like that ever and to be able to share that with everybody and share it with everybody at home is very special.”
England’s victory came 25 years on from the European Championship semi-final defeat to Germany, when Southgate missed the crucial spot-kick in the shootout. But the Three Lions boss has spoken throughout the tournament about making history rather than fixating on the past. “I felt calm in the lead up to the game because I felt the players, with what they’ve been through, were ready,” said Southgate. “You’re never 100 per cent sure how they react in difficult moments but we have talked about it and they stayed calm.”