By Simon Abaho
Football came home on Saturday night and England sat next to it on the plane back to Birmingham. In an evening of magic in the sultry heat of the Stadio Olimpico, England turned their first and only trip away from Wembley at Euro 2021 into an enchanted Roman holiday that carried them back to England full of dreams that footballing immortality awaits them.
After they swept Ukraine aside 4-0 with a dazzling display of brilliant football to move into their second successive semi-final, they know that only two matches stand between them and the first trophy in a major tournament for 56 years. Denmark, a team riding a wave of emotion, await them on Wednesday night. If England get past that, they will face Spain or Italy in the final. A brace by harry Kane, Maguire, and Henderson was enough to give England a way forward to the Finals.
England were irresistible on Saturday night. Harry Kane scored twice, Harry Maguire added another and Jordan Henderson headed his first goal for his country. There were outstanding performances from Luke Shaw and Raheem Sterling in particular. But then the whole team played as if they were possessed by a belief that this is their moment. This was England’s seventh successive game without conceding a goal, a new national record.
The English glory days are coming back, after their superb performance in the Euro 2020 tournament. Tonight they thumped Ukraine 4-0, two goals coming in each of the halves of the game to qualify for the semi-finals where they will face Denmark.
And so, a quarter of a century after he missed a penalty at Wembley in a European Championship semi-final, Gareth Southgate is heading back to try to set things right. After England beat Germany last week, Southgate said he still thought about the teammates he felt he had let down in 1996. Saturday night in Rome was another step in his road to redemption, another leap in England’s quest for release from the failures of the past
The last time England came to the Italian capital needing a result was in October 1997, when Glenn Hoddle’s side – their goal protected by the force-field that the manager’s faith-healer Eileen Drewery had erected around it – secured the dogged 0-0 draw with Italy they needed to qualify for the World Cup in France the following year.
Sancho was playing well, too. One mesmerizing dribble got the spectators off their seats and he was finding space intelligently. But Andriy Shevchenko’s team looked more and more dangerous as half-time approached. They targeted England’s right side relentlessly and Yaremchuk started to make life distinctly uncomfortable for Kyle Walker. Oleksandr Zinchenko also became more influential and in the closing minutes of the half, another Ukraine incursion ended with Mykola Shaparenko slicing a shot just wide.
Denmark Earlier beat Czech Republic 2-1 to qualify for the semi-finals. They will play England in the Semi-Finals on Wednesday.
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