England will battle the weight of expectation and a poor recent record against Denmark in their Euro 2020 semi-final at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday.
The Three Lions enjoyed the most one-sided of all the quarter-finals, defeating Ukraine 4-0 in Rome as they stretched their run at this tournament to five games without conceding a goal.
However, history has not been kind to England at this stage of the competition. They lost their only previous semi-finals – against Yugoslavia in 1968 and Germany in 1996, when now manager Gareth Southgate missed the crucial kick in the shoot-out – and the omens are not necessarily positive given they have won only one of the previous six competitive meetings with Denmark.
Indeed, the only previous occasion England won a semi-final was in the 1966 World Cup on home soil, when they defeated Eusebio’s Portugal 2-1.
“We’ve knocked off so many hoodoos or perceived barriers already and I feel like this group of players will feel this is just the next challenge,” said Southgate, who led England to the final four at the World Cup three years ago only to be defeated by Croatia.
“I guess the interesting part for us is we won’t feel totally satisfied if it’s just a semi-final for us, whereas maybe three years ago, although there was massive disappointment after the semi-final, there was a feeling we’d come a long way.
“Now we’ve replicated what we did there, but that won’t be enough to fulfil the group. That’s a positive sign.”
Kasper Hjulmand’s Denmark have defied the odds to reach this stage after losing their first two games while dealing with the hospitalisation of Christian Eriksen, who collapsed during their opening defeat to Finland. Their 2-1 win over the Czech Republic in the previous round secured their last-four spot for the first time since they won the tournament back in 1992.
England defender Harry Maguire is fully prepared for a difficult game in London against a side who have scored 11 times at these finals, a tally bettered only by Spain (12) among the semi-finalists.
“Their journey has been really inspiring and all our thoughts have always been with Christian and his recovery,” he said.
“They’re a good team though and they’ve proved that over the last few years, they’ll be the highest-ranked team we’ve faced so far at the competition so we know they’re strong.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
England – Harry Maguire
Maguire’s last game against Denmark lasted just 31 minutes as he was sent off for two bookings in a 1-0 loss in October 2020.
It was a difficult time for the Manchester United captain, who had recently gone through legal proceedings in Greece and had endured a wretched start to the Premier League season that included a 6-1 home defeat to Tottenham.
Maguire is now a player transformed. He has looked imperious since returning from an ankle injury, helping to shut down Germany and Ukraine’s attack in the knockouts and getting on the scoresheet in that quarter-final win.
Denmark – Joakim Maehle
Atalanta wing-back Joakim Maehle has been arguably not only Denmark’s standout star at the Euros but perhaps the best player of the entire tournament.
Directly involved in three of his side’s 11 goals, Maehle assisted Kasper Dolberg’s crucial second against the Czech Republic with a quite wonderful trivela cross from the left. He should really have scored himself in the second half, too.
England’s defence has been resolute throughout, but Maehle might present a more unorthodox test as an energetic left wing-back with a mean right foot. His battle with Kyle Walker could be key.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– This will be the third meeting between England and Denmark in a major tournament. England won 3-0 in the second round of the 2002 World Cup, after a goalless draw in the group stages of Euro 1992 – a competition that Denmark went on to win.
– All seven meetings between England and Denmark at Wembley Stadium have finished 1-0, with England winning five to Denmark’s two. Denmark have won their past two competitive games against England at the stadium (1983 and 2020), with no side ever winning three consecutive competitive games against the Three Lions at Wembley.
– Denmark have had seven different goalscorers at Euro 2020 – excluding own goals, only Germany in 2012 (8) have had more different players score in a single edition of the European Championship.
– England have kept a clean sheet in all five of their games at Euro 2020 – no team has ever kept six clean sheets in a single edition of the European Championship or World Cup before.
– Harry Kane has been involved in 27 goals in his past 26 games for England (18 scored, nine assisted). He has nine goals at major tournaments (six at the World Cup, three at the Euros), with only Gary Lineker netting more such goals for England (10).
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