Harry Kane's extra-time goal sealed the win for England
It was never going to be easy for England, as they ended 55 years of hurt to qualify for their first major-tournament final since the 1966 World Cup victory.
At Wembley in Wednesday night’s semi-final, Denmark raced into an early lead through Mikkel Damsgaard’s free-kick, before a Simon Kjaer own-goal equalised for England. Harry Kane’s extra-time goal, from a rebounded penalty, sent England into raptures.
But how did Gareth Southgate mastermind the win? Telegraph Sport takes a look below.
Danish set piece ‘bunching’ undoes hosts
England used the “Love Train” at the World Cup for their set-pieces where four players stood in a row, but Denmark took this innovative concept to a completely different level. From their first corner, they gathered as many players as possible in the six-yard area to put pressure on Jordan Pickford and cause confusion, with players unsure on who was picking up which opponent. Just before the ball is delivered players scattered in different directions.
It proved to be a fruitful ploy for Kasper Hjulmand’s team as their opening goal came from their swarm of players. They used the tactic when putting a free-kick into a dangerous zone and it caused Luke Shaw to grab Andreas Christensen illegally, with Mikkel Damsgaard punishing England by finding the top corner. Even then there was more subterfuge as the three-man Danish wall in front of Jordan Pickford moved before the free-kick was taken, blocking the goalkeeper’s view.
Captain Kane the creative force
Pickford’s jitters epitomise nervous first half
Gareth Southgate was telling his team to calm down from the sidelines after they went behind and Pickford was the most guilty of losing his cool in the first half.
His distribution was far from his usual assured self, presenting Martin Braithwaite with a chance after an underarm throw was intercepted by Damsgaard. It was a fortunate escape for the Everton goalkeeper.
His kicking normally sets up attacks for England but he was wayward with his passing to the flanks, failing to complete a single pass in the opening 45 minutes. He improved as the game went on, making a couple of fine saves, but Damsgaard’s free-kick was not in the top corner and the goalkeeper may have thought he could have done better.
Pickford’s pass map
Kane drops deep to great effect
Harry Kane’s goals against Germany and Ukraine were from close-range but he dropped into his No10 role on numerous occasions and he helped create England’s equaliser. Denmark’s flat-back five limited clear-cut chances on goal for England’s captain but shifting his position saw others get space. His average position was deeper than Mason Mount’s in the end and this was like the Kane that Tottenham fans see as he allowed the wingers to attack.
Firstly he crossed for Raheem Sterling from a position of a wide forward rather than an out-and-out striker. It needed Kasper Schmeichel to pull off a stunning save to deny the Manchester City
forward. But Kane then sent away Bukayo Saka down the right flank and his cross was turned into his own goal by Simon Kjaer.
Sterling’s dribbling ability simply too good for Danes
Raheem Sterling has been England’s clinical finisher during the Euros but he was back to tormenting defenders with his dribbling. The statistics speak for themselves – Sterling dribbled with the ball 16 times; the remainder of the England team attempted 15, the same number as the Danes.
It was an astonishing one-man running show, particularly as Denmark tired and Sterling got his rewards when he was tripped by Mathias Jensen and earned the penalty which led to England pulling away in extra-time. The Danes disputed the decision but when he was brought down it was illustrative that there were three players desperately trying to stop him.
It showed he can be equally effective on the right flank after swapping sides when Jack Grealish was brought off the substitutes’ bench. As England protected their lead he could use his pace to break forward as Denmark left holes at the back in a virtuoso display.
Walker’s speed and quick-thinking proves vital
Kyle Walker is the oldest defender in England’s backline but is the quickest and had a huge influence on the game.
Defensively, he could use his speed to get his team out of trouble with recovery runs, first seen when he denied Damsgaard a run at goal. The Manchester City defender could act like a sweeper, dashing across into the centre-back position when his team-mates were upfield and Denmark looked to counter-attack.
Walker’s touch map
Going forward he was not getting crosses in for Harry Kane but his distribution was important, with short passes into the feet of his team-mates. His produced a no-look, reverse pass to send Kalvin Phillips into a dangerous area.
Walker was also England’s “out” ball when they wanted to switch play from left to right, as he often had space to run into. With Bukayo Saka racing forward it was not so essential that he swung over crosses as the Arsenal youngster did that and set up the equaliser.
His most productive ball was diagonally inside, into the feet of Kane or one of his attacking team-mates. He also pulled off an important interception when Denmark looked to counter-attack, denying Joakim Maehle a clear run on goal which even Walker may have struggled to dash back from.