England thrashed Ukraine 4-0 in the last quarterfinals of the Euro 2020 tournament to advance to the semifinals, where they will face Denmark. After their initial struggles in the group stages of the tournament, Gareth Southgate’s men have shown the mettle they displayed in the 2018 World Cup once again, raising expectations back home of a title triumph.
Ukraine surprised everyone with their impressive performance so far in the tournament, but they lost their charm on Saturday and suffered a comprehensive defeat at the hands of the Three Lions. England scored early, with Harry Kane converting the first available opportunity four minutes into the game. The rest of the first half was dominated by Ukraine’s efforts to regroup and prevent England from running away with the game.
England scored early again in the second half when a brilliant free-kick from Luke Shaw set up an easy header for Harry Maguire to capitalise on. Harry Kane sealed the deal for England four minutes later when he converted another Shaw cross to make the scoreline 3-0 and take the game away from Ukraine. Jordan Henderson added a fourth to England’s tally 15 minutes later, but the game’s result was evident by then.
We take a look at the major talking points of the England vs Ukraine fixture:
THREE LIONS DISCOVER THAT ATTACKING IS REWARDING
A constant complaint from pundits throughout the group stages has been that Gareth Southgate has left behind his attacking formula that was used successfully in the World Cup run. England were playing dull football, intending to safely go through to the knockout rounds rather than risk the game with a more aggressive style of play. England had an xG of 0 in the second half against the Czech Republic – a clear statistic that revealed their intention of killing the game when they were just 1-0 up.
But Gareth Southgate was merely focussing on the larger objective – keeping his attacking unit fresh and ready for the knocks that matter. And to their credit, the Three Lions have shown a remarkable turnaround in their style of play in both the knockout fixtures – winning against Germany 2-0 (xG of 1.38) and then thrashing Ukraine 4-0. If trends are anything to go by, expect a similar scoreline in the semifinal against Denmark.
HARRY KANE’S RETURN TO FORM
If England’s attacks were subdued in the group stages, a prime cause was the timidity of Harry Kane, England’s main star. Part of it was due to his own success – he was constantly surrounded, never left unmarked, neither could he do much in the defensive tactics Gareth Southgate employed. But once unleashed, Harry Kane showed the world why he is so highly valued – his three goals in the tournament were all moments of beauty.
Apart from the two goals, Kane had an amazing shot at the goal in the second half from outside the box, a shot which reflects his increasing confidence at the front of England’s attacking unit. His return to form will aid England in their quest for European glory.
WHAT LIES AHEAD FOR ENGLAND
Denmark have shown remarkable courage and skill to progress so far, and they are undoubtedly the second-favourite team of every fan in the tournament. The absence of Christian Eriksen seems to have galvanised the team, and the squad is playing with a mission in mind. But home advantage, confidence and sheer talent all point to an English victory, and we expect England to cruise to the finals.
The other semifinalists – Spain and Italy are having dream runs of their own. The Azzurri are looking unstoppable for the first time in decades, and they still are the favourites to win the tournament. Spain have shown remarkable resilience despite their struggles – they could only manage to edge past Switzerland in penalties. England will prefer to face Spain rather than England, and Gareth Southgate will hope that Spain can produce a miracle against Italy and make their title run easier.
ENGLAND DREAM OF EURO GLORY
The last time England were in the semifinals of the European Championships was in 1996 – when they were dumped out on penalties by Germany in front of distraught home fans. But 25 years later, England avenged that defeat in front of a cheering home crowd to advance to the quarterfinals, and now to the semifinals. An easy semifinal battle, although by no means one-sided, is creating hopes among fans that they might be able to lift the coveted European trophy for the first time.
England have all their boxes ticked – a mixture of youth and experience, control, confidence in the field, the return to form of Harry Kane and above all, home support at Wembley. This might be England’s best shot at laying hands on an international trophy, and that too at home.
‘It’s coming home’ will be played in all its glory for the next few days across England.