Denmark awaits, it what is sure to be a hard fought semi final match up. With Christian Eriksen collapsing in dramatic circumstances during their opening game, the Danes will be determined to bring the European Championship back for their midfield talisman.
Having easily dispatched Ukraine in the quarter finals, England enter the match as clear favourites. Their confidence will be sky high, and there is an absolute fight for starting places in the final third. There was a sense of fluidity, strength & togetherness as England plundered Ukraine, and despite the apparent frailty of the opposition, nothing can be taken away from the result.
The reverting back to a 4-2-3-1 was logical, and the domination of the ball allowed Mason Mount both time and options to help dictate play. The back four should remain untouched, with Luke Shaw excelling with more freedom and movement. His ability to deliver into Harry Kane was apparent, and it is a tantalising thought for next summer, when Trent Alexander Arnold will hopefully be available to provide from the opposite flank.
Where the Danes will be fielding a 3-4-3 formation, Southgate should not feel the need to match this up. Against Germany he was proved correct in mirroring their own formation, and looked to nullify the wing backs and midfield as much as possible. This game carries even more weight, but momentum is key in knock out football, and England’s foot should remain firmly on the pedal. To impose his system onto Denmark will need control of the wide positions, and in Sterling/Sancho they can force the Danes into a back five. If this can be achieved, this will again allow Mount and the on coming Shaw space to operate, with movement ahead. There could well be a shake up in the starting personnel, and this competition is exactly what can help bring the best from those in question. Saka, Grealish & Foden will be desperate to impact once more, and this could be a key ingredient to bring out everyone’s best game.
Harry Kane’s importance was never lost on Gareth Southgate, and rightly so. Leading into Euro 96 Alan Shearer was somewhat starved of goals, but the need to play certain key players into form, is vital. With a growing performance level and a vibrant attack, England can hit the Danes early with various strings to their bow. The added bonus of a bombarding Harry Maguire at set pieces is a long time England trait, but not their only weapon anymore. So many tournaments have seen England rely on the dead ball brilliance of David Beckham or the genius of singular players, but this growing group of players is becoming more unpredictable. The utter wealth of attacking players is leaving many a domestic fan ruing their own players missing out, but England must remain together, on & off the pitch, in order to succeed.
Kasper Dolberg was once heralded in a similar light to that of Erling Haaland. A bright young striker, primed for the top of the game. He (along with Patrik Schick), has enjoyed a fine tournament that could lead to greater things. The England backline cannot afford to underestimate the attacking prowess of this team, a side far superior to that of Ukraine. A midfield battle will be intriguing with Kalvin Phillips & Declan Rice coming head to head with Thomas Delaney & Pierre-Emile Højbjerg. There is little glamour in this collection of players, and their jobs first and foremost will be to battle for possession of the ball. This area must allow protection for both defences, with the remarkable man Martin Kjaer and Andreas Christiansen among an impressive Danish back line.
The game will be tight, and likely low scoring given the gravity of the occasion. There will be one or two English players feeling the nerves, but hopefully the Wembley crowd will deliver that all important 12th man. England will need to repeat their front foot performance from the quarters, and overcome a determined Denmark team to advance once more.
The stage is set, and the countries fans are willing. This could be the year that either Denmark deliver a final for their fallen teammate, or England take that difficult next step, and finally reach another international final.