England are playing in their first major tournament final in 55 years after coming from behind to beat Denmark 2-1 after extra time in front of a frenzied 65,000 crowd at Wembley in the Euro 2020 semi-final.
Mikkel Damsgaard’s stunning free kick after 30 minutes threatened another semi-final disappointment for Gareth Southgate’s side, three years after losing in the last four of the World Cup.
But Simon Kjaer’s own goal eight minutes later and the extra-time winner Harry Kane in the rebound after his penalty was saved by Kasper Schmeichel means England will try their best to win the European Championship when they reach the final on Sunday. face Italy at Wembley.
Defeat ends Denmark’s fairytale run to the semi-finals, the furthest they’ve been at a tournament since winning 92 Euro.
The Danes’ tournament started in near-tragic circumstances when star midfielder Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest in their opening game against Finland.
Kasper Hjulmand’s men have been rocking an emotional wave ever since, playing some slick football by crossing four goals past Russia and Wales en route to the semi-finals.
England’s huge advantage by playing six of their seven matches on home soil has paid off, however, as they were physically the fresher side in the final stages.
Buoyed by the deafening noise created in almost two years by the largest crowd for a match in England, the hosts came flying out of the traps.
Kane’s teasing cross dodged Raheem Sterling just as he rushed in toward the far post.
Denmark settled after a shaky start and began to pose a threat themselves as Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg fired straight at Jordan Pickford before Martin Braithwaite and Damsgaard saw attempts fly off target.
England had a national record of seven consecutive clean sheets, but was eventually broken in spectacular fashion by a free kick from Damsgaard that flew into the top corner.
Any questions about how Southgate’s men would react if they fell behind for the first time in the tournament were emphatically answered as England quickly struck back.
Sterling should have equalized when he shot directly into Schmeichel’s midriff with only the keeper to beat.
Moments later, the hosts were tied when Kane Bukayo released Saka on the right and Kjaer twisted into his own net under pressure from Sterling.
Denmark’s efforts to be forced into a 9,000-kilometer (5,592-mile) round trip for their quarter-final victory over the Czech Republic showed in the second half as they desperately tried to keep England at bay.
Schmeichel produced another stunning save from Harry Maguire’s header low to his right, while Kane couldn’t get a clear connection in a goal fight in the 96th minute.
Hjulmand made all five of his assigned substitutions before the 90 minutes were up to give his squad an extra boost of energy, but they were unable to gain momentum forward.
Schmeichel kept his side in the game in extra time with another nimble low save to his right to deny Kane before fending off a Jack Grealish pile driver.
England’s pressure was finally rewarded in controversial circumstances when Sterling was awarded a soft penalty in the 104th minute for a challenge from Joakim Maehle.
Schmeichel even denied Kane from the spot, but the ball kindly fell for the England captain to score his fourth goal of the tournament.
Southgate was the cheater when England last reached the European Championship semi-final 25 years ago, as he missed the deciding penalty in a shoot-out defeat to Germany.
But he has the ultimate chance of redemption next Sunday, as England get the chance to finally take home a major trophy after so many years of pain.