England's Harry Kane, right, celebrates after scoring his side's third goal during the Euro 2020 soccer championship quarterfinal match between Ukraine and England at the Olympic stadium in Rome, Italy, Saturday, July 3, 2021. (Alessandro Garofalo/Pool Via AP)
LONDON, July 4: The last team to beat England is the next team they’ll play: Denmark.
The Danes will travel to London for a European Championship semifinal match on Wednesday with memories still fresh of their victory over England at Wembley Stadium last October. That was in the Nations League, but the stakes are higher now with a more prestigious trophy on the line.
Like the other semifinalists — Italy and Spain will meet on Tuesday — Denmark and England benefited from playing all their group games at home in this year’s unique format.
England is the defensive force of Euro 2020 with five clean sheets. It was slower for the attack to click into gear with only two goals as England won two matches in the group stage and drew the other.
But England has looked livelier in the knockout stage with Harry Kane finally scoring in the last-16 win over Germany and netting another two in the 4-0 rout over Ukraine in the quarterfinals.
Denmark looked like it wouldn’t go far after starting Euro 2020 with two losses following the collapse of Christian Eriksen in the opening match against Finland. But a 4-1 rout of Russia secured a place in the round of 16, and the Danes put another four past Wales. It was closer in the 2-1 win over the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals.
Kasper Dolberg has a team-leading three goals for Denmark, as does Raheem Sterling for England.
Denmark has advanced the European Championship semifinals for the second time. The last time, the team went on to win the tournament in 1992. It remains one of the most unlikely title triumphs in sports, having only been told they were playing in the tournament a week before it started after Yugoslavia was excluded while in a state of civil war.
England hasn’t won a trophy since the 1966 World Cup. The semifinals and final back then were played at Wembley, just like at this tournament.
Gareth Southgate has become the first coach to lead England to back-to-back semifinals since Alf Ramsey in 1966 and 1968.
His team lost to Croatia in the 2018 World Cup semifinals in his first tournament in charge.
As a player, Southgate experienced heartache the last time a European Championship semifinal match was played at Wembley in 1996, missing the decisive penalty kick in the shootout against Germany.
Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand never played for his country in a career on the field that was curtailed by injury.