So England finally reach a final but the failings of all the previous games were on show in the semi-final victory over Denmark, with some new additions and finally they’ll meet one of the big boys, playing well.
The hyperbole was in full swing after Sterling fell over to get England into a final of a major tournament for the first time in 55 years. Don’t know if Italy were losing sleep over which team they’ll face on Sunday night.
They’d probably like to face England less than Denmark, what with it being at Wembley and the big crowds being back at games. That emotional wave over Eriksen lasted until this game, figure Italy wouldn’t see it lasting past it if the Danes had progressed.
Italy might have shown some weakness against Spain but as much as Southgate thinks his players playing Chuckle Brothers passing for passing’s sake is the same as Spain, it ain’t.
Will Italy’s middle trio be given the runaround by Rice and Phillips the way Spain did, with their false nine dropping deep? I mean Denmark’s did a job on the pair, even with Mount running about.
Dropping deep. Well, were all Kane’s detractors demanding he didn’t drop deep this game, when he was setting up chances and creating goals?
Before he did, England had done something they hadn’t done all tournament. Concede. A stupid foul by Mount was followed up from that free-kick, with an even more stupid foul by Shaw. From the set piece Damsgaard curled the ball over the wall, over Pickford’s outstretched hand. Pundits seemed surprised he took it, looks like Pickford was too. I’m mean it’s not like he was the direct replacement for Eriksen, was it?
Following that Pickford got a bit antsy, messing up some clearances and being all round jittery. Whatever he took before the tournament to tone down his ADHD seems o be wearing off.
So we had to see how England would handle going behind. Well, we didn’t have to wait long until Kane dropped deep and played the perfect pass through the Danish defence to Saka, whose crossed was played into his own net by the Danish captain as Sterling re-enacted the poster for Platoon.
Kane’s dropping deep and wide had previously opened up the Danes. First a cross across the face of the Denmark goal, which Sterling didn’t read and didn’t make any great effort to get to then the perfect cross from the right, right onto Sterling’s foot but he could only hit it straight at Schmeichel. Stood there Sterling was doing his confused face.
Unfortunately he seems to have had an influence on Saka. In his previous game the youngster was turning his opponent and then running. Here he was mirroring Sterling on the other side. The both of them running into defenders instead of running away from them. The pundits were gushing over Sterling while he repeatedly ignored running into space, towards the byline and instead stopped cut inside and had the ball taken off him with ease. Saka was doing far too much of this as well.
It looked like England had done to Denmark what they did to Ukraine, scoring not long after the break. It was a bit later in the half but a similar situation. A free kick and a Maguire header. This time from the right, but like last time about the only time the taker hit his intended target – Mount’s set pieces were awful, either hitting the first defender or looping over everyone – this time though Maguire’s header was met by a brilliant piece of keeping by Schmeichel.
Things really change a bit after the hour when Denmark made three changes. Can’t say I understood the changes, yes Damsgaard looked tired, but then he did when he scored and his removal removed any creativity from the Danes, while Dolberg posed something of a threat. Their replacements didn’t improve the side. While Grealish’s arrival a couple of minutes later improved England.
Mount’s miss hit cross was well saved by Schmeichel, and the Harry should have had a penalty somehow waved away by the ref and the VAR – they keep telling us how great the officiating has been at this tournament, it’s been a bit like England, some good bits but also a load of dross.
Into extra time and Schmeichel was making more saves, one from Harry parried into a dangerous area but no one there for the tap in. Then a shot straight at him from Grealish. Then coming to the end of the first period of extra time, Sterling actually ran into the box away from his defender, two Danes had a nibble and he went flying the ref pointed to the spot and the arguments started. Consensus he dived under a soft touch.
Up stepped Harry and took possibly the worst penalty we’ve seen from him. Normally high and hard, here he was soft and low. But he was first to Schmeichel’s save to knock in the winner.
Yes, the laser being shone on Schmeichel was bad but it didn’t stop him saving it.
Then Southgate matched his Danish counterpart in formation with a bizarre substitution. Grealish going off for Trippier. England going back five, for that’s what it was as they dropped back and back. Luckily those early Danish changes meant they didn’t have it to get an equaliser. In the end they faded even more, dropping down to 10 men as one went off injured after they’d made all their allowed substitution.
It petered out from there with the odd England chance to really kill it off spurned.
So Italy in the final. They didn’t look so good against Spain. Missed Spinazzola a great deal. Insigne didn’t look the same without him bombing past. Did the Lazio striker even cut inside and curl a shot with his right in the whole game?
England haven’t faced a top ranked team playing at their best all tournament… we know what happens when they do. Southgate has the team to win this and really end 55 years of hurt… he won’t pick it…