Gareth Southgate’s England have inspired a nation. Twenty-five years on from his Euro 96 penalty miss that he is surely sick and tired of hearing about, the 50-year-old has guided the Three Lions to back-to-back semi-final appearances at a major tournament having come so close yet so far in Russia 2018.
Having passed their toughest test against Germany with flying colours, England travelled away from their Wembley headquarters to take on a Ukraine side who
were highly fortunate to even be in the knockout rounds to begin with, but not even the most ardent supporters could have envisaged the Three Lions’ dominance in Rome.
After Harry Kane took all of four minutes to break the deadlock, England’s wise young heads would net a flurry of second-half goals as Kane, Harry Maguire and first-time international goalscorer Jordan Henderson rose highest to put the game to bed with just over an hour played.
Jubilant scenes back home – coupled with endless renditions of Baddiel and Skinner – both demonstrated the pride of England supporters for their team as well
as a much-needed release following the events of the last 18 months. However, the Three Lions’ job is far from over, and Southgate will know that better than anyone.
Having now gone seven games across all competitions without conceding a goal, a first-ever appearance at a Euros final will be England’s should their staunch defence produce the goods once more, and no team in history has navigated a Euros or World Cup campaign with six clean sheets to their name.
Southgate’s struggles to get the best out of a bright attacking contingent have been well-documented, but England’s thrashing of Ukraine also represented their
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biggest-ever margin of victory in a major tournament knockout match, which is just what the doctor ordered before their Nordic neighbours seek to spring another surprise.
What started out as a horror show has since become the stuff of dreams for Denmark, who are doing Christian Eriksen proud every step of the way. One can only imagine the beaming smile on the Inter
Milan playmaker’s face as he witnesses his team try to make history, although there is no denying that his teammates would desperately love for him to still be on the pitch with them