England and Kane tear apart Ukraine as Three Lions inflict Rome mauling

By Sports Desk July 03, 2021

Throw them to the lions!

England's bloodlust was dramatically sated in Rome's modern sporting colosseum as Ukraine were ruthlessly torn apart, victims of such savagery that might make an emperor think he could soon rule Europe.

Four-nil, and even Jordan Henderson scored. England doubled their goals haul for Euro 2020 and have still yet to concede. This is Italian-like behaviour by the Three Lions. Where was the drama, where was the pain? This team rarely make it easy for themselves but here they trampled all over the opposition.

Goodness knows what Denmark made of it all, given they are next in line.

Home advantage at Wembley seemed to serve Gareth Southgate's players well in their early games at this tournament, and being taken out of that comfort zone triggered all sorts of concerns. If goals had been hard to come by at home, then would this be one of those nights of England toil, where perhaps they might grind out something ugly and winning but perhaps their bubble might burst too? Would it all end miserably, probably on penalties in that great English tradition.

By the time substitute Henderson nodded Mason Mount's corner past Georgi Bushchan for the fourth goal of the night, any such concerns had long been banished.

The Liverpool captain's first senior England goal arrived on his 62nd appearance. Of all England's goalscorers in their history, nobody has waited longer for that magical moment. Sol Campbell had been the previous holder of that curious record, scoring his first in his 47th appearance.

It was a third headed goal of the night, England now Europe's masters at using their noggins, netting 10 headers across this campaign and their 2018 World Cup semi-final run, where no other European side has managed more than four.

This team plays some beautiful football on the floor, with Jadon Sancho coming into the England ranks for this game and looking like he had been playing there all throughout this run, which will come as good news to Manchester United. Raheem Sterling's winding run and super throughball for Harry Kane to prod the fourth-minute opener was typical of this new England.

 

"I think rotations in the forward area for this team is so important," Rio Ferdinand said on the BBC at half-time. "People that run off the ball, run people away – it's not there for the naked eye sometimes, but it's people who are running people away, opening space and creating space."

Alan Shearer chipped in too: "Everyone's on the same wavelength, everyone wants the ball, backing each other up. It's really, really intelligent, exciting play."

But England do not eschew the direct stuff; Luke Shaw with a free-kick bang into the heart of the penalty area to set up Harry Maguire for the thumping 46th-minute header that made it 2-0, sparking joyous celebration.

And then Shaw with the delicious cross to give Kane the chance to nod England three clear just four minutes later.

Shaw, it should be said, was exceptional.

In the stadium where Jose Mourinho will resume his coaching career in the new Serie A season, as boss of Roma, Shaw provided the perfect response to his former Manchester United manager's recent criticism.

Mourinho reckoned Shaw's set-piece delivery in England's group game against the Czech Republic had been "dramatically bad", but even the Portuguese might shrink from picking any holes in this display.

It was remarkable that Kane finished as the Premier League's top scorer in Mourinho's muddle of a Tottenham side last season, and absurd that a couple of so-so performances for England early in this tournament should have led to doubt being cast on his place in Southgate's team.

He now has three goals in Euro 2020 and nine major tournament strikes across his England career, one behind all-time leader Gary Lineker.

Kane almost reached 10 in Rome, lashing a brilliant volley that was beaten away by Bushchan for the corner from which Henderson scored.

History told us that this game would go to penalties – all three of England's previous European Championship quarter-finals had.

Yet new England have little respect for anything that history might dictate, and now Wembley awaits them on Wednesday. England return home as heroes.

"It's the hope that kills you," Lineker joked on the BBC. To any English person used to failure, this all feels too good to be true.

But as Southgate said, teeing up the Denmark game moments later: "Everybody can really look forward to that, it's brilliant."

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    Having opened their Group C campaign with an unconvincing 1-0 win over Serbia last week, England failed to clinch top spot with a game to spare as they were pegged back in a 1-1 draw with Denmark on Thursday.

    Harry Kane put the Three Lions ahead after 18 minutes, but they soon fell into old habits and sat deeper against a lively Denmark side, who levelled through Morten Hjulmand's ferocious 25-yard strike.

    While England remain on course to top Group C, sitting two points clear of Denmark and Slovenia, who they face on matchday three, their performance put Southgate under more scrutiny.

    England have attempted just 17 shots – seven of them on target – in their two games at Euro 2024, amassing a total of 1.85 expected goals (xG).

    Scotland are the only team to have played two matches and created a lower xG total, amassing just 0.78 in their 5-1 defeat to Germany and a 1-1 draw with Switzerland.

    Speaking at his post-match press conference, Southgate said: "Clearly, we're disappointed with the level of the two performances we've had, so we've got to go and analyse that in depth and find solutions to addressing the issues we have.

    "We know the level can be higher. Maybe the biggest thing is we have to accept the environment that we're in and the expectations that are around us. At the moment, we're falling a little bit short of that.

    "Ultimately, that's my responsibility. I'm the manager, and I've got to guide this group in the best way possible to achieve extraordinary things."

    Trent Alexander-Arnold came in for particular criticism after retaining his place in midfield, despite no England player bettering his three chances created or five line-breaking passes, even as he was substituted after just 54 minutes.

    In their 2-1 extra-time win over Denmark in the Euro 2020 semi-finals, England recorded 31 per cent of their open-play touches in the final third.

    That figure was down to 17 per cent on Thursday as they struggled to progress the ball, with 34 per cent of their touches coming in their own third.

    Southgate believes the absence of Phillips – who was omitted from the squad after failing to nail down a starting spot with either Manchester City or loan club West Ham – has been a difficult problem to solve.

    Asked about Alexander-Arnold's display, Southgate told BBC Sport: "He has had some moments where he has delivered as we thought. 

    "It’s an experiment. We don't have a natural replacement for Kalvin Phillips. At the moment we're not flowing as we would like.

    "At the moment we're not using the ball well enough and have to accept if you do that you will suffer at times, as we have. We know there's another level we have to find."

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    Thursday's action at Euro 2024 brought our first group winners in Spain, and plenty of frustration for England.

    Before La Roja clinched top spot in Group B by overcoming Italy, the Three Lions were pegged back in a 1-1 draw with Denmark, who were arguably unfortunate not to win the game. 

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    The early kick-off delivered yet another late twist as Slovenia were denied a landmark victory at the European Championships with the last kick of the game in Munich. 

    Having seen efforts by Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dusan Vlahovic repelled by the imperious figure of Jan Oblak, Serbia found themselves behind as Zan Karnicnik's goal put Slovenia on the cusp of their first-ever win at the Euros. 

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    The result keeps both side's chances of making the last 16 of the competition alive, but for Slovenia, it could have been a memorable day in Munich. 

    Matjaz Kek's side remain winless at the Euros from their five matches (four draws, one loss). Karnicnik's opener was just the second time they had gone ahead in a game at the competition; the last time they did so was during a 3-3 draw with Yugoslavia at Euro 2000. 

    But for all of Serbia's attacking intent, their lack of clinical edge in the final third proved costly despite their late goal. Just four of their 15 shots were on target, with talisman Mitrovic having an afternoon to forget. 

    With his six shots in the match, Mitrovic had the most of any player in a single game at Euro 2024.

    With the Al-Hilal striker having failed to find the back of the net, it means the last four players to have more than six shots at a European Championships have not scored - the other three coming at Euro 2020. 

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    Harry Kane opened the scoring in Frankfurt. His opener was his fifth goal at the Euros, becoming the first England player and eighth player overall to score five or more goals at both the men's World Cup and European Championships.

    He also became the third man to score at four different major international tournaments for England, along with Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney.

    But Morten Hjulmand equalised with what was his first goal for Denmark in all competitions (in his ninth appearance). It was also Denmark's ninth goal from outside the box at the European Championship, with only three teams netting more on record (since 1980 – Germany 15, Netherlands 12, France 11).

     

    Denmark's leveller was the eighth goal England have conceded from outside the box at the Euros. No side has conceded more on record in the history of the competition (since 1980, Portugal are level with the Three Lions).

    There have been 13 goals scored from outside the box at Euro 2024, already more than there were in the entire group stages of Euro 2020 (12).

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    He is also just the second Italian to score an own goal at a major tournament (World Cup/Euros) overall, after Cristian Zaccardo versus the United States at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, which Italy won on German soil.

    If they are to lift more silverware in Berlin next month, they will need a dramatic improvement, having attempted just four shots in a tame performance on Thursday – their fewest on record (since 1980) in any match at the Euros.

    Spain, on the other hand, look like genuine contenders after following up their 3-0 thrashing of Croatia with another deserved victory. They have won their first two games of a European Championship tournament to nil for just the second time, previously doing so in 2016 (1-0 versus Czechia, 3-0 against Turkiye).

    Fabian Ruiz produced an energetic performance in the heart of La Roja's midfield, winning possession in the final third on six occasions, the most by any player in a Euros match since David Silva in a 2008 quarter-final between Spain and Italy (also six).

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    That is the joint-most by any European player while aged 21 or younger, alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, who played 12 times for Portugal at Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup.

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    It looks to be a personalised mask in the colours of the French flag.

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