England’s men’s national team is in the final of a European Championship for the first time.
Harry Kane converted a rebound on a saved penalty kick in extra time after Raheem Sterling drew the foul to give England a 2-1 win over Denmark and a matchup on Sunday against Italy for the Euro 2020 title. The game will be played at London’s Wembley Stadium as England looks for its first major men’s tournament trophy since winning the 1966 World Cup.
Sterling went down in the penalty box in the 103rd minute as he was cutting toward the near post at the end line after contact with Joakim Maehle. This is what a screenshot of the penalty looked like. It was called a penalty in real-time and confirmed after a video review.
Kasper Schmeichel did well to save Kane’s penalty kick but the ball bounced right toward the England captain and striker. He didn’t miss on his second chance.
The penalty awarded to Sterling was softer than a penalty Kane could have drawn toward the end of regulation. The referee called a foul on Kane even though he didn’t appear to initiate contact while going for the ball just inside the Denmark penalty area. You can bet there are England fans who feel that the call for Sterling’s penalty was justified makeup call.
Denmark played well in the first half before it looked absolutely fatigued in the second half and in extra time. The Danes took the lead on a wonderful Mikkel Damsgaard free kick in the 30th minute and stunned a Wembley Stadium crowd that had been buzzing on adrenaline.
Damsgaard’s goal was the first that England had allowed in its six games at Euro 2020.
England tied the game before halftime on an own goal. Kane hit a pass forward to Bukayo Saka and Saka’s cross intended for Sterling in front of the goal was deflected into the net by a sliding Simon Kjaer.
Kjaer’s deflection was the 11th own goal in Euro 2020. It’s a tournament record — by far — and six more goals than leading scorers Cristiano Ronaldo, Patrik Schick and Kane have each scored in the tournament.
England had the ball for 58% of the game and had 10 shots on target. While England controlled the ball and had more opportunities on goal, Denmark was aggressive with its counterattacking opportunities, especially in the first half.
Wednesday’s game was England’s third semifinal appearance in Euro 2020 but it had never advanced past the round. England lost in the semifinals of the 1968 European Championships — England played just two games in that tournament — and lost in the semis of the 1996 Euros. In the 25 years and five tournaments since that semifinal appearance, England had reached the quarterfinals twice and even failed to qualify for the 2008 tournament.
A fantastic final?
The title matchup is no fluke. England and Italy have been the two best teams throughout the tournament. England’s defense has been rock-solid and Raheem Sterling has been a dynamic threat picking apart defenses. Sterling’s runs throughout the semifinal were phenomenal and he continued to attack the Danish goal as the minutes wound down in extra time.
Italy, meanwhile, has been incredible at turning possession into goals. Italy had the ball for just a third of its semifinal against Spain but took the lead in three passes and 13 seconds in the second half. After beating Spain on penalty kicks Tuesday, Italy has a 33-game unbeaten run across all competitions and has won each of its six games at Euro 2020.
Will that stretch to 34 and seven on Sunday? This looks like a very evenly-matched final. After both semifinals went into extra time, we’re not going to be surprised if there are 30 extra minutes of soccer on Sunday too.
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