July 03, (THEWILL) – England captain Harry Kane found his shooting boots at just the right moment to fire the Three Lions into the last four of Euro 2020 with a brace that highlighted an incredible quarter-final performance at the Stadio Olimpico, that saw them thrash Ukraine 4-0.
The nervy pre-match stance of many English fans which reached a feverish level before kick-off was quickly calmed by an enjoyable English display of efficient ball control and game management. Quickly off the blocks in both halves, the Three Lions seized the initiative, edged ahead and did not give until the final whistle.
Tottenham Hotspur’s striker Kane gave an early warning of the English plan for the Ukrainians with a goal before the fourth minute and put his credentials as a goal poacher on full display in the second half when he found the back of the net again with a pinpoint header from a Luke Shaw pullout for England’s third goal and his second.
Fittingly, two other goals came in from Manchester United’s centre back Harry Maguire and Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson to add to the tally. These two goals made it three out of four goals scored with towering headers from set plays.
Shaw featured again prominently with the assist for his United colleague with an equally sumptuous delivery. For the Henderson goal, fellow substitute Mason Mount, of English Premier League and European champions side Chelsea, was responsible for whipping a delicious corner in for the Liverpool man to bury past keeper Ukraine George Buschan.
There was space in the squad this time around for United fans to get a proper sighting of their new signing from Borussia Dortmund, Jadon Sancho, doing a solid job of impressing on his first start at the Euro, in place of Bukayo Saka, who had a knock and was rested on the night.
Overall, it was a superlative display for Gareth Southgate and his men, all of whom worked their socks off to repay their selection. It was another such night for Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling, as the 26-year-old delivered yet another exceptional game of football where he was tormentor-in-chief of Dynamo Kiev left-back Oleksandr Karavaev.
Southgate positioned Shaw as a constant threat on the overlap in a tactical manoeuvre that freed up Sterling to apply his pace for inward bursts into the danger area and, by so doing, cause free-kicks and draw away two defending bodies, as least, to present scoring opportunities to the rest of the squad. It worked in England’s favour.
As nimble as England was in attack, they were compact on defense with the backline quintet keeping Jordan Pickford as a mostly observant spectator who had a mere two saves to make in the small time Ukraine threatened. Pickford saved from Roman Yaremchuk and Yevhen Makarenko in the limited goal-scoring chances they managed.
The duo of Andriy Yarmolenko and Oleksandr Zinchenko were lacking in creativity to constitute any real threat for the Ukrainians while England confined them to keeping possession that they were unable to utilise.
In the end, England’s victory completed the composition of the semi-finals by doubling their previous goal tally so far at the continental competition at a go in one match. They are one more victory away from a dream final and the opportunity to lift a major trophy for a generation of English players.
In their way to that final is a Denmark side that put initial defeats and the loss of their teammate Christian Eriksen aside to plough on to reach the semi-finals. In the form that England had been in during the knockout stages where they sent Germany home and have now thrashed Ukraine, it will be unwise to bet against the Three Lions making it to the final and winning it too.