England went into raptures after qualifying for the Euro 2020 final

Credit: AP

Gareth Southgate said England’s momentous victory over Denmark had “put right” their painful defeat by Croatia in the World Cup semi-final three years ago as he hailed an “incredible occasion” for his team and the country.

Southgate said his players were forced to show resilience in a “different sort of battle” against a physical Denmark side and said they will need to overcome another “massive hurdle” against Italy in Sunday’s final. 

“The most pleasing thing is that we have given our fans and nation a fantastic night and the journey carries on for another four days,” said the England manager.

“We suffered in Moscow on a night like this [in 2018] and we have managed to put that right. We are in a final and we have to enjoy that fact but there is one more massive hurdle to conquer.

“I am so proud of the players. An incredible occasion to be a part of. We knew it would not be straightforward. We said we were going to have to show some resilience and we have done that tonight. The players have done an incredible job.”

The players….
Kane: ‘The best one-two I’ve ever played’

Harry Kane, who scored with the rebound of his saved penalty in extra time, said: “Unbelievable. What a game, a tough game. Credit to Denmark – they put on a really tough game for us. But we dug deep and we got there when it mattered.

“I thought the boys were excellent all over the pitch, we reacted really well to going 1-0 down. A final. At home. What a feeling.

“It wasn’t the best executed penalty I’ve ever had. But that’s football. Sometimes you miss and it falls your way. And, thankfully, it did today.”

On the penalty, Kane added: "Damn right it’s the best one-two I have ever played. It was a bonus to see it bounce back.

"This is right up there in my career, the first time in our history to get to a European final. It’s one of the proudest moments in my life, for sure."

Walker: ‘Tonight it swung our way’

Kyle Walker said of the winning goal: “Listen, things swing your way, things don’t. I’ve been in football matches where it hasn’t and tonight, if you’re saying it was a 50-50 call, it swung our way.

He added of Sunday’s final: “I’ve been very fortunate to pick up a few medals over the years. But I can assure you that this one, for your country, is something special, is something so close to your heart.

“We all need to cherish this moment. But we all need to concentrate now. It’s one last step, one last step to make history for this country and get some credit that we deserve, really.”

The pundits…
Neville: ‘National holiday, enjoy yourselves’

Gary Neville, the former England defender, called for a national celebration as he and other television pundits joined in with the crowd’s singing at Wembley.

“We have never done this before in our lifetimes,” said Neville. “We have had so much pain, so much dismay and so much let-down, and now we are going to a final. For the next few days those lads have got to focus, but we don’t have to. This country is absolutely bouncing. National holiday, enjoy yourselves.”

On BBC Radio 5 Live, former England winger Karen Carney described Southgate’s team as a “family” as the squad celebrated on the pitch.

“Do you know who’s made me emotional? Gareth Southgate,” said Carney. “He’s gone to the fans, he’s walked round and he’s in there with them. This is a team. Actually it’s not a team, it’s a family. 

“They’re all together, they’re all in front of their friends and their family, they probably haven’t seen them because of the quarantine. They are absolutely all together in this moment. I have got goosebumps. 

“This feeling, wow. In time we’ll always go ‘where were we?’ and this is so emotional down here. Gareth Southgate went up to Raheem Sterling and gave him the biggest cuddle I’ve ever seen. It’s magical. Absolutely magical.”

Richards: ‘The officials have got that decision wrong’

BBC pundit and former Manchester City defender, Micah Richards, also expressed sympathy for Denmark.

"We’ve got to say it how it is," he said. "They go to VAR, and I can’t see how that’s not overturned. I don’t know if the crowd had a part to play in it because they were shouting and the roof absolutely lifted when Sterling went down. I think the officials have got that decision wrong."

Richards’ ITV counterpart, Lee Dixon, said on commentary: "I’m not so sure there’s an awful lot of contact. The referee’s vision is spot on but I can’t see there’s any contact."

The rest of football
Ozil: ‘A doubtful penalty?’

Former Arsenal player Mesut Ozil questioned whether England’s penalty was correct, but congratulated the country anyway on their Euro 2020 semi-final win.

Congrats to England 👏🏼 Happy for my British friends 🤍⚽ Nevertheless amazing fight from Denmark during the whole tournament 💪🏼🇩🇰 A very doubtful penalty!? 🤔 #ENGDEN #Euro2020

— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) July 7, 2021

Wenger: ‘No penalty’

Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger also questioned the call to award Raheem Sterling a penalty. 

"No penalty," Wenger said. "In a moment like that I don’t understand why they don’t ask the referee to have a look at that and to have a clear view. It’s important that the referee must be absolutely convinced it was a penalty and I don’t understand why the Var did not ask him to look at it."