It might be coming home after all.
England is through to the Euro 2020 final after a nailbiting 2-1 win over Denmark courtesy of a goal from captain Harry Kane in extra time.
After 102 minutes scores were locked at 1-1 when Raheem Sterling went on a dazzling run, cutting into the box from the right before being taken down. The referee awarded a penalty and VAR agreed.
Kane stepped up and scored — but not without a dramatic twist. Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel made a brilliant save low down to his left, but the ball rebounded to Kane’s feet and he buried the ball in the back of the net from his follow-through.
“Arise, Prince Harry,” one commentator said.
There was debate around whether England actually deserved the penalty, but the home fans didn’t care.
“In my opinion, it wasn’t a penalty,” Socceroos legend John Aloisi told Optus Sport.
England will now face Italy in the final as it searches for its first major international trophy since the 1966 World Cup.
Kane’s goal came after a controversial moment in the second half of normal time, when some pundits claimed he was unlucky not to receive a penalty after taking a tumble from a Danish challenge.
The referee even decided to ping the England skipper for simulation, despite there being obvious contact from a Danish opponent.
“I’m absolutely amazed that he’s penalised Kane for that. That is absolute nonsense,” one commentator said.
England great Stuart Pearce was blowing up. “That’s a penalty. VAR will hide behind the referee’s on-field decision,” he said.
England responds to ‘extraordinary act’
The crowd at Wembley was rocked when 21-year-old Mikkel Damsgaard scored after half-an-hour with a strike described by commentators as “extraordinary” and “Danish dynamite”.
Damsgaard got the ball over the wall and down again in time as it sailed into the top-left corner, evading Jordan Pickford’s desperate dive.
“They have been absolutely stunned by that Damsgaard free kick,” one TV commentator said of the English fans inside the stadium.
But less than 10 minutes later those same fans found their voice. Kane slotted a lovely ball in behind the Danish defence for Bukayo Saka, who slipped a pass across the face of goal for Sterling.
Denmark defender Simon Kjaer slid to try and stop the ball reaching Sterling, but he only succeeded in putting the ball in the back of his own net and it was 1-1 — which is how it remained at halftime.
England’s goal came just minutes after Schmeichel made an incredible save from close-range, denying Sterling from a couple of metres out.
A flurry of action started the second half as Denmark peppered the England goal. Pickford made a smart save low to his right to prevent a driving shot going in, while at the other end Schmeichel pulled off a brilliant stop as he too moved to his right to prevent Harry Maguire getting on the score sheet from a corner.
Maguire then received a yellow card for being too aggressive in an aerial challenge.
Approaching the 70th minute, England coach Gareth Southgate replaced Saka with attacking weapon Jack Grealish, who has played a starring role for England this tournament as a super sub doing his best work in the front third.
Mason Mount’s attempted cross from wide on the right turned into an unintentional shot that forced Schmeichel to backpedal furiously and tip the ball over the crossbar.
Both teams searched desperately for a winner but at the end of 90 minutes, things were still locked at 1-1, paving the way for half-an-hour of added time.
Kane thundered a shot on target a few minutes after the resumption but Schmeichel once again was equal to the task, getting a strong right hand to the ball.
Grealish then launched from outside the box but Schmeichel continued his hot streak by deflecting yet another effort.
However, there was nothing he could do about Kane’s double dip when the penalty broke Danish hearts.
England held on and the entire country will be watching when Kane and Co. take on Italy in the most important match in its history for more than 50 years.
Star shreds England with five words
Saka returned to the England starting line-up for this morning’s clash against Denmark as Gareth Southgate’s men aim to reach a first major tournament final in 55 years.
Saka missed the 4-0 thrashing of Ukraine in Saturday’s quarter-final due to a minor injury, but has impressed in his two starts of the tournament so far against the Czech Republic and Germany.
Southgate opted for a back four rather than switching to five at the back to match up Denmark’s preferred system like he did in the 2-0 last-16 win over Germany.
Denmark are unchanged from their quarter-final win over the Czechs in Baku. Kasper Dolberg keeps his place up front after scoring three times in the last two games with RB Leipzig’s Yussuf Poulsen left on the bench.
Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel brought the laughs the day before the game when asked at a press conference what it would mean to his team to “stop it coming home” — a reference to the phrase “It’s coming home” used by English football fans to denote impending success on the world stage.
“Has it ever been home?” he said. “I don’t know, have you ever won it?”
England won the 1966 World Cup, but have never won the European Championship.
Meanwhile, England football legend Gary Neville has expressed fears England will become the “nearly men” of world football if they lose a second successive major semi-final.
England surprisingly reached the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup in Russia and that led to increased expectations at this tournament, especially as all but one of their games have been in London.
This has already been a landmark event for England, who are yet to concede a goal, with a defeat of Germany in the last 16 their first knockout win over the Germans since the 1966 World Cup final — the last time they won a major tournament.
England: Jordan Pickford; Kyle Walker, John Stones, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw; Kalvin Phillips, Declan Rice, Mason Mount; Bukayo Saka, Harry Kane (capt), Raheem Sterling Coach: Gareth Southgate (ENG)
Denmark: Kasper Schmeichel; Andreas Christensen, Simon Kjaer (capt), Jannik Vestergaard; Jens Stryger Larsen, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Thomas Delaney, Joakim Maehle; Martin Braithwaite, Kasper Dolberg, Mikkel Damsgaard Coach: Kasper Hjulmand (DEN)
Referee: Danny Makkelie (NED)