Harry Kane propelled England to just their second major tournament final as Gareth Southgate’s men secured an extra-time win against Denmark to set-up Sunday’s shot at European Championship glory.
After topping their group, beating Germany and swatting aside Ukraine, this semi-final victory gives the Three Lions a chance to follow in the footsteps of the triumphant 1966 World Cup side by lifting silverware at Wembley.
Italy lie in wait after a tense, pulsating semi-final under the arch on Wednesday night, when Simon Kjaer’s own goal cancelled out a superb Mikkel Damsgaard free-kick before Kane sealed a 2-1 extra-time win after his penalty was saved.
The final whistle sparked pandemonium in the ground and across the nation as dreams of football coming home edged closer to reality, 25 years on from Southgate’s penalty miss at this stage of the competition against Germany.
England made a start as electric as the atmosphere at Wembley, but Damsgaard’s stunning 25-yard free-kick silenced the home support as the 21-year-old continued to shine in place of the sadly absent Christian Eriksen.
It was the first goal England had conceded during an unusually straightforward summer, but they responded well to the setback and Kjaer turned teenager Bukayo Saka’s cross into his own goal under pressure from Raheem Sterling.
Kasper Schmeichel had superbly denied the latter moments earlier and the goalkeeper shone throughout a second half in which the video assistant referee cleared a Christian Norgaard challenge on Kane in the box.
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The Denmark goalkeeper continued to impress in extra-time but could not stop England progressing to the final, with Kane slotting home after the Leicester man saved his initial spot-kick after Sterling was fouled.
Expected Goals analysis: England deserve Victory
While the game was forced to go the 120-minute distance, it was a deserved victory for England against a Denmark side who created very little.
The opening goal – a wonder free-kick by Damsgaard – was their only chance of note throughout the entire contest. They would finish the game was a tiny 0.30 xG figure.
Kane’s penalty was saved by Schmeichel – who had been a star for the away side – but the England captain wasn’t missing the rebound (59%) after being the quickest to react.
We’ve seen three sides of England in this knockout stages. The one that took their chances in a very even game against Germany and then a team that brushed aside their opponent in the quarter-final with a 4-0 hammering of Ukraine.
This was the England side who had a number of chances to win the game but were left frustrated by strong goalkeeping and defensive work. However, even with more than 90 minutes required, they managed to eventually find a way through.
Time for fans of the Three Lions to dream? The Infogol model calculates a 53.8% chance of football coming home on Sunday.