England players celebrate with fans
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, putting four goals past 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.
Harry Maguire’s bullet header less than a minute into the second half made it two, before captain Kane nodded home his second of the game and third of the tournament four minutes later and substitute Jordan Henderson completed the rout with his first international goal. England have still not conceded a goal in five games.
Afterwards 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 afterwards.
Ukraine 0 England 4, Euro 2020 quarter-final
"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."
A history of England’s semi-finals
Maguire vowed England will not settle for a semi-final spot after routing Ukraine.
The Manchester United defender told the BBC: "It’s a great feeling, back-to-back semi-finals at major tournaments is a great achievement. I don’t want to be a party pooper but we don’t stop here. We want to go further than we did at the World Cup."
Maguire continued: "The way we have won it shows the big progress we are making. Long may the improvement continue. We have another big one coming up.
"We have great belief in the dressing room. The first half was tough, we got the early goal and they caused us a few problems with their shape but the second goal settled us down a lot.
"From there we controlled the game really well. It was an impressive performance in the end."
Kane said his side brushed off the pressure of being favourites to deliver a clinical, composed performance.
What a feeling. Rome to Wembley. Let’s go ! 🏴🦁🦁🦁 pic.twitter.com/SaYUxwiYd7
— Harry Kane (@HKane) July 3, 2021
"To perform like we did was top-drawer – another clean sheet, four goals, it was the perfect night for us," the England captain said.
"We don’t get carried away, we’ve got a great unit here, a great team working front to back … we’ve got a big semi-final coming up, we’ve got to keep working hard and recover well and then look forward to the semi-finals."
Celebrations all round, and now back to Wembley for a semi-final
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
Boss Southgate added to the BBC: "It’s fabulous. It’s still sinking in a bit, we are in another semi-final, three in three years.
"We want to go the two steps further, I know what will be happening at home and that’s great.
"They should be enjoying it, it’s been a long year for everyone and I’m chuffed the two performances have brought so much enjoyment and happiness to people."