Wembley words: Schmeichel reminds England that Euros have never ‘come home’

England fans

July 7 – It’s been over half a century and the entire nation is holding its breath.

England face Denmark in the semi-finals of Euro 2020 at Wembley tonight, knowing victory will secure them a place in a major tournament final for the first time since the 1966 World Cup – still their only senior triumph.

After years of unfulfilled expectations and a series of heartbreaks with generations of players trying and failing, Gareth Southgate’s current vintage are odds-on to reach their first ever Euro final roared on by 60,000 mostly England fans.

Southgate is convinced his team – undefeated and yet to concede a goal – can go one step further than in the World Cup in 2018 when they were beaten at the same stage by Croatia.

“We’re very excited about the game,” he said. “That’s for sure and we know that we are going to have tremendous support throughout the country so it’s a great feeling for us.

“We are ready for the game. The players are ready. We’ve got tremendous experience now themselves having been in this situation themselves. The preparation has been calm.”

“We know we are playing a really good opponent. So it is going to be a really tight game and an exciting game for everybody.”

Southgate is determined to keep Denmark guessing about his system and his starting eleven after ringing the changes throughout the tournament.

“We’ve got everybody available. We always have to try to pick the right approach for the opponent.”

Despite the success of the Premier League and long tradition of the English game, expectations over the national team’s chances have too often been overblown.

“We don’t have as good a football history as we like to believe sometimes,” said Southgate. “These players are making massive strides and breaking down barriers all the time.

“We have never been to a European Championship final so we can be the first England team to do that which is really exciting.”

Travel restrictions imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus means fans based in Denmark will not be able to cheer on their team at Wembley. Instead some 6,000 tickets for the semi-final have been made available to Danes living in the UK.

Asked what it would mean to ruin the familiar refrain of ‘Football’s Coming Home’ and shatter England’s dreams of Euro glory, Denmark keeper Kasper Schmeichel responded: “Has it ever been home? I don’t know. Have you ever won it?”

Denmark have, of course, in 1992 but will start as firm underdogs. England captain Harry Kane says the team is ready to make Schmeichel eat his words and advance to Sunday’s final against Italy.

“He’s right in terms it hasn’t ‘come home’ in this competition for us,” said Kane. “We know if we can get it right then it should be enough to get us over the line.”

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