England are through to the Euro 2020 final

Are we in the midst of a new ‘golden era?’ Brazil of the 1970s. The Holland national side of the 1980s. La Roja in the 2010s… England of the 2020s. Too soon? Almost definitely yes, but oh well.

Talk about positive starts. England’s performance in the opening few minutes was as devastating as they had been all campaign.

Harry Kane’s pass to Raheem Sterling early on, with more whip than what’s creamed on top of desserts, reminded us his ability is more than scoring goals.

Everything was cheered by the fervent crowd. Kane’s shot five yards above the goal was cheered merely for its venom. Pickford was cheered for picking up the ball.

Sterling was his Euro 2020 sprightly self. Dangerously nibble, but also his positioning was near enough perfect.

Denmark started to retain more of the ball as the game wore on. Boos rang out when they did. Wembley did its best to often remind those of us behind pint glasses and a cluttered crowd that it was once again occupied by thousands, such was its noise. It’s been a while.

The Danes grabbed ahold of the game and their decent spell concluded in a direct free-kick.

Mikkel Damsgaard channelled his inner Cristiano Ronaldo-against-Portsmouth-in-2008 to stun England with a goal. That one will be in the competition’s Top Five. Some will say Pickford should have reached it. The juries out.

The goal caused the inevitable meltdown online. Cries across social media pondered why Jordan Henderson wasn’t now replacing Declan Rice in midfield. Some said England were playing arrogantly. Others stated that the goal had been coming for a while despite Denmark not actually forging a chance at this point (their xG at half-time was 0.20). It was all going apparently terrible.

Kasper Schmeichel then superbly stopped Sterling from close-range to maintain the lead.

But the move was emulated almost instantly. And this time Sterling was in a similar position and his bundling of the ball lead to Simon Kjær conceding an own-goal for 1-1.

Harry Maguire was at earned yellow in the second half for a charging elbow-led run into the box as the ball was floated in. Moments later in the same position, his header was only denied by a world-class stop by Schmeichel. Denmark looked more cock-sure at this point.

They had now grown accustomed to being in this feisty enemy territory and were no longer ponderous on the ball. Kasper Dolberg put Pickford in action a couple of times.

Jack Grealish, who is the only player to draw celebrations from the crowd for his trademark ‘get fouled on the wing’ schtick, replaced Saka. With the first touch of the ball, he drew a foul.

It was a scrappy affair before extra-time beckoned. The physicality of Denmark started to wane. Soon they were running on empty while England’s attack still had enough gusto to fluster around the box and attempt to forge chances. Bu Danish defenders pinned on Kane. It was all edge-of-your-seat stuff with no outcome.

“The next 30 minutes could change your life,” said the commentator as extra time started, as if the immensity of such of an occasion was not already weighing heavy in the pit of England fans’ stomachs.

Phil Foden came on for Mason Mount. As did Jordan Henderson for Rice. The England inquisition of Denmark continued. More probing. Lots of dribbles leading to corners. More fouls won on the side. No goals.

England had all the possession. Extra-time with ten minutes gone, the crowd started to bellow once more. The pressure was rising. As were heartbeats, but fans in the ground ignored such anxieties and brought back the chants.

Sterling goes down. ‘Penalty’ was screamed. The referee pointed to the spot.

Kane misses the spot-kick but buries the rebound. Jubilation as England held off for the win.

And now the Azzurri in the final

England needed a bit of turbulence against Denmark. A smooth sail into the final could lead to compliancy when facing Italy’s rugged-faced veterans.

A whole load of politics is loaded within this tournament for England. The collective spirit of this team is more about football. And when the dust has settled such musings will be rightly picked apart and discussed. But for now, to enjoy the prospect of what could be. Enjoy the ridiculous of it all. Yes, this is actually happening, and under Gareth Southgate’s stewardship no less.

One more game. One more hurdle. England are in a final of a major tournament for the first time in 55 years, so watch it; drink it in.