EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP – SEMI-FINAL
England 20:00 Denmark (All times are UK)
Venue: Wembley Stadium
Gareth Southgate has challenged his England players to make history by beating Denmark to reach the European Championship final for the first time.
England are one win away from a first major tournament final since 1966 after reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2020.
They face Denmark in front of a 60,000 crowd at Wembley on Wednesday.
“We don’t have as good a football history as we like to believe sometimes,” said Southgate. “These players are making massive strides.”
The last time England reached a major tournament final was when they lifted the World Cup 55 years ago. They have never got further than the semi-final stage in a European Championship.
However, there is mounting excitement – and hope has turned to expectation – that Southgate’s side can finally triumph.
England, who also ended a 55-year wait for a knockout tie victory over Germany with their last-16 success, are the highest-ranked side still left in the tournament.
“We’ve broken down barriers in this tournament and we have another opportunity to do that tomorrow,” added Southgate.
“We have never been to a European Championship final so we can be the first England team to do that which is really exciting.”
Southgate said knowing the country was behind the team is a “great feeling for us”.
Cars and homes are decked out with England flags while pubs have been given permission to stay open an extra 45 minutes until 23:15 BST on Sunday, in case the final at Wembley – which kicks-off at 20:00 – goes to extra time and penalties.
“We are ready for the game, the players are ready, they have got tremendous experience themselves having been in this situation before,” added Southgate, who led England to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup.
“Our preparations have been calm and we know we are playing a very good opponent. It’s going to be a really tight game and an exciting game for everybody.”
Southgate is confident his players can handle the pressure against Denmark, who won the European Championship in 1992.
“We have had expectation during the whole tournament and I think we dealt with that really well in the opening game, for example, and the game with Germany,” he said.
“But we have never been to a final so the pressure is whatever you choose it to be really. It’s a motivating thing, a challenge for us.
“If we were a country that had won five titles and had to match what had gone before then I might feel differently. But we’re not. Denmark have won it so maybe there is more pressure on them to replicate that.”
England supporters have been serenading their team through the tournament with chants of ‘Football’s Coming Home’, the anthem that first became popular when the Three Lions reached the last four of Euro 96.
Asked what it would mean to ruin England’s dreams of Euro glory on home soil, Denmark keeper Kasper Schmeichel said: “Has it ever been home? I don’t know. Have you ever won it?”
But England captain Harry Kane said the team was in a strong position to put that right.
“He’s right in terms it hasn’t ‘come home’ in this competition for us, but we’re in a great position in that we are two games away,” added Kane.
“It’s important our focus is on Wednesday night and is about us and what we can do. We know if we can get it right then it should be enough to get us over the line.”