Semi-finals: England vs Denmark, 8pm kick-off (UK time, ITV)
England are potentially 90 minutes away from their first European Championship final — but a Denmark side riding a wave of emotion and momentum stand in their way.

Improving every step of the way, Kasper Hjulmand’s men have team-mate Christian Eriksen at the forefront of their minds.

Speaking ahead of tonight’s showdown, Hjulmand said: “I believe in my team’s character. And in the love and compassion they’re receiving from the fans. It’s giving us wings.

“We’re playing with Eriksen in our hearts. We really believe in ourselves and we’ll continue to fight.”

There’s also the small matter of matching the Danish Dynamite side of 1992.

Ending 55 years of hurt is front and centre of English minds and, 25 years after their nearest miss at the Euros, the chance to lay those demons to rest at the scene of semi-final defeat is especially appealing.

Gareth Southgate’s team have also improved as the tournament has progressed, putting together their most complete performance in the last-16 win against Germany before finally hitting the goal trail to demolish Ukraine.
So good has Manchester United left-back Luke Shaw been at this European Championship, even former boss Jose Mourinho has been forced to revise his opinion.

Shaw, 25, was criticised by his former manager for his set-piece taking in the group stages.

But he stuck a free-kick on the head of Harry Maguire in the Three Lions’ quarter-final win over Ukraine, doubling England’s lead in Rome.

That was his second assist of the tournament and a third was just around the corner, clipping the ball onto Harry Kane’s forehead to power home England’s third.

Speaking afterwards, Mourinho said: “The back four is really, really solid. Luke Shaw is playing better and better and better.”

Shaw has enjoyed a strong 18 months at United, seeing off new arrival Alex Telles in the battle for a starting spot, and his improving attacking threat is just another string to his bow.
The 2020-21 season was far from the best of Kasper Dolberg’s career, scoring just six times in 25 Ligue 1 appearances for Nice.

Yet with three goals from just 158 minutes, Dolberg, 23, is Denmark’s leading marksman and he is more than making up for a sub-par domestic campaign.

Only handed his first start in the last-16 win over Wales, the former Ajax youngster struck twice in a 4-0 win.

He added his third of the competition in the quarter-final victory over the Czech Republic, leaving him considerably outperforming an expected goals tally of just 0.4.

What makes his goal return even more remarkable is that five of his Danish team-mates have taken more shots than Dolberg at this tournament (6) — but he’s hit the target four times.

England must make sure not to afford Dolberg a millimetre of space in the penalty area tonight.
England boss Southgate made a surprise selection for the quarter-final win over Ukraine, handing Jadon Sancho his first start of the tournament.

The soon-to-be Manchester United winger had been afforded a miserly 10 minutes off the bench until that point, but turned in an impressive display in Rome.

Now the question is whether Southgate will stick with the £73million winger or reinstate Bukayo Saka for the Denmark clash.

Sancho, 21, was third for completed dribbles on the night (12) and completed more passes inside the Ukrainian penalty area (3) than anyone else.

Given Denmark’s threat in the wide areas, having such a direct and pacey option in behind their wing-backs could be an avenue for England to explore.

But the right-wing berth has been up for grabs throughout the tournament and Southgate will keep England fans — and, no doubt, players — guessing.
Denmark’s biggest threat — apart from scoring outrageous goals from outside the box — will be from their delivery into the penalty area.

Both their goals against the Czech Republic came from balls into the danger zone.

The first arrived when Thomas Delaney headed home Jens Stryger Larsen’s corner before Dolberg converted Joakim Maehle’s delightful outside of the boot cross.

Hjulmand’s side are second at Euro 2020 for crosses attempted (98) with more than 70% of their attacks coming from wide areas.

Their 3-4-3 system has enabled Atalanta wing-back Maehle to thrive. He’s scored twice already and only four players have completed more carries of at least five metres (58).

For that reason, the Three Lions’ wingers are going to have to work hard out of possession to protect their full-backs.

Do that, and a slice of history will be England’s at Wembley tonight.

  1. Babatunde Oluwole 3 months ago


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