Warm favourites with the bookmakers to win Euro 2020, dominant England thumped Ukraine 4-0 at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico to set up a semi-final clash against Denmark back in London on Wednesday evening.
This is a likeable set of England players, who carry themselves well and, while not the most swashbuckling team in the competition, they are diligently coached by Gareth Southgate, a tight-knit group and play with personality. They also have strength in depth. Phil Foden and Jack Grealish were unused substitutes, to emphasise the point. And they are yet to concede a goal in this tournament.
A brace from Harry Kane and headers from Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson saw off the Ukrainians with ease. Andriy Shevchenko’s men didn’t land a blow of note. The Danes will be a step up in quality for England, but they will go into that match with morale sky-high – although Denmark did beat them 1-0 when the two last met at Wembley.
Here, England didn’t take long to get going. Raheem Sterling, who is fast becoming a contender for player of the tournament, was the architect for their opening goal. He split the Ukrainian backline with a rolled pass to send Kane free. Fresh from his goal in the last-16 victory over Germany, Kane stabbed a right-footed shot towards goal and although the ball hit goalkeeper Georgi Bushchan’s torso, he could not stop it nestling in his net.
Ukraine buzzed about without any sting in the tail. They changed their system from a 5-3-2 to a 4-3-3 towards the end of the first half, such was their strife, yet the closest they came before the break was a long-range effort from Mykola Shaparenko that worried the advertising hoardings more than goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
Ukraine knew they would have to step it up in the second half, but by 50 minutes, the stuffing was completely knocked out of them.
England’s second goal, on 47 minutes, was made in Manchester. Luke Shaw – such an impressive performer down the flank – swung over a free-kick from the left, and it was headed home with aplomb by his Manchester United team-mate Maguire, who celebrated wildly in front of the England supporters.
Shaw was at it again three minutes later. The left-back bombed forward and stood up a fine cross for Kane to nod into the net. Three-nil, game over. England were in cruise control, Ukraine blown away.
Shevchenko’s men went through 120 punishing minutes against Sweden at Hampden on Tuesday night and whatever energy was left leaked out of them. England kept the ball, made their opponents work and replaced players one booking away from suspension.
One of the subs, Henderson, got in on the act on 63 minutes, glancing home a Mason Mount corner for his first England goal. The next 30 minutes were a procession.
Get ready for hyper pundits and a tabloid media frenzy next week. This confidence-imbued England team is motoring.