England Beats Denmark to Reach Euro 2020 Final

England Beats Denmark to Reach Euro 2020 Final

England Beats Denmark to Reach Euro 2020 Final

England Beats Denmark to Reach Euro 2020 Final

LONDON — Even victory is not without its suffering. After more than half a century filled with pain, disappointment and regret, England might have imagined that the moment when it returned to the cusp of glory, to a major final, would feel light, joyous and pure. It was, instead, two hours of undiluted, uncut agony.

This is a crowd, and a country, that has been conditioned to expect the worst. England’s progress to this point had been strangely, uncharacteristically, serene. Mikkel Damsgaard scoring a wonderful free kick to put Denmark ahead, 30 minutes into Wednesday’s Euro 2020 semifinal, was a sign that England was, now, in much more familiar territory.

An own goal, from the Denmark captain Simon Kjaer — under pressure from Raheem Sterling — brought England, the host, the favorite, level soon after, but even as Denmark started to wilt, its players’ legs heavy and their lungs heaving, the goal that England had craved for over half a century would not come.

Wembley’s nerves began to strain and to shred. Kasper Schmeichel, the Danish goalkeeper, seemed to have decided to mount a one-man campaign to break English hearts. The clock ticked inexorably on, beyond 90 minutes, into extra time. Of course it went to extra time. England always goes to extra time.

Ordinarily, in these situations, England dreads penalties, an echo of disappointments past. For once, one arrived as a blessed relief: Sterling tearing away from Joakim Maehle, the defender snapping at his heels, Sterling tumbling over. Even then, though, it could not be straightforward.

The interminable wait for approval from the video referee followed. When it came, Harry Kane stepped up, and Schmeichel, once again, saved.

Only then, when the ball rolled out to Kane, the goal at his mercy, Schmeichel still scrambling to his feet, did England have the moment it had wanted, a slow-motion moment, a moment that could be savored.

Kane raced off to the corner, sliding on his knees, as Wembley melted and crumpled above him and around him, adrift in the euphoria of a wait almost over.


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