By: Vincenzo Pugliese
TheNYExtra.com/The New York Extra.com
Home sweet home.
England advanced to the EURO 2020 semifinals after ripping through Ukraine 4-0. Three second half header goals from Harry Maguire, Harry Kane and Jordan Henderson stamped their ticket through to Wembley Stadium with a date set up with the miracle Danes.
The big advantage now for the Three Lions is that all remaining games of the tournament will be played in London. The home advantage should be both electric and advantageous now as they will be at home with their supporters right behind them singing the famous “It’s Coming Home” chant as Southgate’s men will look to win England its first ever European Championship.
Manager Gareth Southgate has continued to make changes across his starting 11, this time calling upon the likes of Jadon Sancho to start out wide. The 21-year-old who just agreed to personal terms on a deal with Manchester United was electric in Rome for England.
Pace, dribbling and the ability to put the Ukrainian defenders on their back-foot allowed the game to open up for the Three Lions. Returning back into the line-up after being forced out due to contact tracing was Chelsea’s Mason Mount who returned back into that 10 role providing the assist to Jordan Henderson’s first ever International goal for England.
Luke Shaw has continued to impress adding yet another pair of assists on Saturday teeing up first Maguire and then Kane for goals two and three in the span of just four minutes. This England team has done well, there is a true belief around the group but they must continue to stay mentality sharp and cannot afford to be complacent.
For Denmark, the fairytale story continues as they look to battle it out with the English for a place in the European Championship final. Manager Kasper Hjulmand has not only served as a coach to these players but also as a counselor since the horrific incident with star player and captain Christian Eriksen in their opening match.
Eriksen collapsed to the pitch in the first half Denmark’s opener and had to revived with CPR. He has since recovered and has been an inspiration to his team and counry.
Responding to the situation exceptionally, the Danes sealed their place into the knock-outs with just one win over Russia on the final day of Group B play. Since then they’ve been on a rampage, first taking care of Wales in a comfortable 4-0 win following a 2-1 win over the Czech Republic in their last match to advance into the last four.
Forward Kasper Dolberg has been on fire for the Danes since coming into the team. The 23-year-old has netted three goals in his last two matches picking up serious form going into this match. The defensive wall of Andreas Christensen, Jannik Vestergard and Simon Kjaer will be difficult for Southgate’s men to get passed.
Denmark’s game against England will be tough but if they can maintain the attitude and belief that they’ve sustained all tournament then we can potentially see a surprise in this Euro 2020 semi-final match up.
Italy has taken everyone by storm in this competition playing the most scintillating football of any other team at the Euros.
Defensively they look extremely solid under the veteran partnership of Giorgio Chellini and Leonardo Bonucci, who have yet to concede a goal from open play. But what makes this Italy team not only special but different from previous Italian sides in the past, is how they attack and sustain possession.
Manager Roberto Mancini has ingrained a playing style that sees the Azzurri passing the ball quickly and high pressing the opposition when they don’t have it. This works well with Italy’s legion of midfielders of Nicolo Barella, Jorginho, Marco Verrati, and Manuel Locatelli who have all been fantastic for Italy both on the ball and in transition.
Going forward they create chances and attack with purpose. Lorenzo Insigne’s fantastic curler would prove to be the decider in Italy’s 2-1 win against the No.1-ranked FIFA team in Belgium to see them through.
The one sour note for Italy moving forward is that they will play the remainder of the tournament without the inclusion of star left-back, Leonardo Spinazzola. The 28-year-old suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon late vs Belgium which saw his EURO 2020 come to an end. Spinazzola was having a terrific competition earning himself two man-of-the-match awards against Switzerland and Austria. This is a major blow for Italy as the left-back had been one of their best players at the tournament bombing on forward and providing excellent service into the box.
Mancini will now have to depend on either the likes of Alessandro Florenzi who started the first game at right or Emerson Palmeiri a natural left-back from Chelsea.
Italy will take on Spain in their semi-final match-up who have slithered their way into the final four of this competition. After a slow start in the group stage, Luis Enrique’s men scored a combined 10 goals (five each game) against Slovakia in their final group game and Croatia in the Round of 16.
Though they’ve scored many goals, Luis Enrique still hasn’t found a set front three which he seems content to play with. Apart from a few players in Laporte, Pedri and Koke who have done a terrific job, the team has lacked firepower, consistency, and a true belief within the group. That could inevitably serve to be costly going up against the Italians. To get here, Spain defeated the Swiss on penalties. Spanish Goalkeeper Unai Simon made two saves on three Swiss missed penalties to prevent Switzerland from another penalty shoot-out upset.
With Chelsea players present on all four teams remaining at the European Championships, there will be a player or players to complete the European double in winning the UEFA Champions League and the European Championship in the same summer. This the Chelsea breakdown:
England: Mason Mount, Ben Chilwell, Reece James. Italy: Jorginho, Emrson Palmieri. Spain: Cesar Azpilicueta. Denmark: Andreas Christensen.
For Spain, the road ends here. To be into the semi-finals should be enough of an accomplishment considering the young team that they have and for never really impressing at this tournament. Italy will be too strong, too passionate and too hungry for the Spaniards to stop. Italy will go through, winning 2-0
The England vs Denmark match however will be a nail biter. It would not be surprising if this match went into overtime and possibly even penalties. However, the English might have just enough edge to knock out the Danes setting themselves up for a date with the Italians in the final.
July 6th, Italy vs. Spain at 3pm on ESPN
July 7th, England vs Denmark at 3pm on ESPN