Gareth Southgate is daring to dream of lifting the European Championship trophy at Wembley after England thrashed Ukraine 4-0 to reach their first semi-final in 25 years.

A couple of goals from Harry Kane and one apiece for Harry Maguire and substitute Jordan Henderson earned the Three Lions a routine win at Stadio Olimpico on Saturday.

It is just the second time England have scored four goals in a knockout match of a major tournament, the other instance being the 1966 World Cup final against West Germany.

That was the last occasion England reached the final of a major competition, while only three times since then have they made it as far as the semi-finals.

After losing on penalties to Germany at Italia '90 and Euro 1996, as well as to Croatia in extra time at the last World Cup, Southgate is hoping for a different outcome this time around.

"It's fabulous for our country - a semi-final at Wembley," Southgate, who missed the decisive penalty in the 1996 shoot-out defeat to Germany, told BBC Sport. 

"I know what will be happening at home. It's lovely to see everyone on a Saturday night, beer in hand. 

"They should enjoy it. It's been a long year for everyone. I'm chuffed the two performances have brought so much happiness to people.

"I suppose it's still sinking in that it's another semi-final. Everyone can really look forward to that – it's brilliant. We want to go two steps further than last time."

 

Denmark stand between England and the final after overcoming the Czech Republic 2-1 in Saturday's other quarter-final in Baku.

Southgate will be just the second manager to take charge of England in the semi-final of both the World Cup and the European Championship, after Alf Ramsey in 1966 and 1968. 

"It is an absolute honour to be in that company," Southgate said. "It's lovely to be able to get the results that are putting our country on the football map again."

Southgate reverted to a back four against Ukraine and brought in Mason Mount and Jadon Sancho, the latter making his first start of the tournament.

The England boss now has some big selection calls to make for the semi-final with Denmark, but he is more concerned about which three players miss out on the squad entirely.

"I'm spending more energy worrying about the three I have to leave out because they're all good players," he said. "None of them deserve to be left out. 

"They're all giving everything in training. None of it is because I don't think they're up to the level but we have to make the decisions. 

"We have to make the right call for the right game with the right system. All of the players have been brilliant. Tonight all the way through the group they've been fantastic."

Ukraine were competing in just their second major tournament quarter-final, but the demands of their extra-time win over Sweden on Tuesday seemingly took their toll.

The Blue and Yellow enjoyed a spell on top at the end of the first half, though they ultimately only managed a couple of attempts on target in what was a one-sided contest. 

Three of England's goals came from headers and Andriy Shevchenko, though pleased with his side's run to the last eight, acknowledged that aspect of his side's game let them down.

"I think small details played a key role in the game," he said at his post-match news conference. "We didn't cope well with the high balls. England have a big advantage in that area.

"But in general we played our football; we didn't turn our back on our principles. We tried to put up a good fight against this opposition, but this mountain turned out to be too big for us to climb. 

"It's probably a bit too early for us to be climbing mountains like that. The guys did everything they could, and I want to thank them for that today."

Jordan Pickford has become the first goalkeeper to keep five clean sheets across the first five games of a European Championships, after England's 4-0 rout of Ukraine.

Harry Kane scored either side of Harry Maguire's brilliant header before Jordan Henderson's first England goal – on his 62nd cap – sealed an emphatic quarter-final triumph in Rome.

England now head back to Wembley for a semi-final clash with Denmark, who defeated the Czech Republic, on Wednesday, with a first appearance in a final since 1966 in the offing.

While England's attack clicked, it is the Three Lions' defensive resilience which has seen them through, with Saturday's win bringing up their seventh clean sheet in a row.

It is the first time England have gone as many games without conceding a goal, with the run totalling 662 miniutes.

Five of those clean sheets have come at the tournament – no side has ever kept five successive shut-outs to start a Euros campaign.

Pickford, who had a difficult 2020-21 season with Everton, especially in the first half of the campaign, has played every minute.

Given his troubles for his club, doubts had been raised over Pickford's suitability for England's number one jersey, with Burnley's Nick Pope, who underwent surgery and missed out on Gareth Southgate's squad, and Manchester United's Dean Henderson raised as alternative options.

 

Yet Southgate kept faith with the former Sunderland goalkeeper, who has made nine saves from a total of 42 shots faced (including blocks) so far at Euro 2020.

Four of his saves have come from attempts inside the area, including a chance for Ukraine's Roman Yaremchuk early on in Saturday's encounter, while the other five have come from long-range efforts.

As it was in the run to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals, Pickford's distribution has also been a key factor for England. He has recorded 95 successful passes, with three of those ending in the final third, from 147 attempts, while he has found a team-mate with 32 long passes (as defined by Opta).

There was a nervy moment for Pickford in the second half at Stadio Olimpico, when he sliced an attempted clearance, but England's defence spared his blushes.

The 27-year-old may face an altogether tougher test against Denmark, however, with Kasper Hjulmand's team having scored 11 goals so far at Euro 2020. Only Spain, who play Italy in the other semi-final, have managed more (12).

Denmark and England have joined Italy and Spain in the semi-finals of Euro 2020, with the Czech Republic and Ukraine sent packing following their respective defeats.

England seemed to back up pre-tournament suggestions of them being among the favourites when they dumped Germany out in the last 16, and they picked up where they left off to make light work of Ukraine.

It was a slightly trickier occasion for Denmark in Baku earlier in the day, though ultimately the efforts of Patrik Schick weren't enough for the Czechs as they failed to emulate the 2004 vintage that reached the last four.

Following the conclusion of the quarter-finals, Stats Perform looks at the key data takeaways from Saturday's action.

 

Ukraine 0-4 England: Record-breaking Three Lions ruthless in big win

The odds were stacked against Ukraine ahead of this clash in Rome, but even the most ardent England fans probably wouldn't have predicted such a comprehensive win.

England quickly had the advantage as Raheem Sterling sliced open the defence and fed Harry Kane to open the scoring with three minutes and 32 seconds played, their earliest Euros goal since 2004 (2:25).

Ukraine may have taken some encouragement from the fact England's previous record when scoring in the first four minutes of a Euros game equated to no wins from five matches, but the game was effectively put beyond them within a four minutes of the restart – Harry Maguire and Kane nodding home Luke Shaw deliveries.

 

The Manchester United full-back reached three assists for the tournament in the process, tying an England record for a single European Championship (David Beckham, Euro 2000), while Kane's second of the game means he is level with Alan Shearer on nine major-tournament goals for the Three Lions, behind only Gary Lineker (10).

Jordan Henderson then completed the scoring off the bench with his first senior goal on his 62nd appearance, the longest ever wait by a player before breaking their duck for the Three Lions.

Ukraine's inability to breach the England defence meant the Three Lions have now kept seven successive clean sheets for the first time in their history.

But most impressively of all, this was England's biggest-ever win at the Euros and largest victory in the knockouts of any major tournament.

 

Czech Republic 1-2 Denmark: Schick ties with Ronaldo but Danes seal historic semi-final

Given their run in Euro 2020 has come against the backdrop of Christian Eriksen's health emergency on matchday one, it's little wonder Denmark have seemingly become the neutrals' favourites.

They moved a step close to emulating their remarkable Euro 92 success as they edged past the Czech Republic. Their 29-year gap between Euros semi-finals is the longest ever by a single nation in the competitions.

They prevailed despite the efforts of Patrik Schick. The striker got the Czechs back into the encounter with a tidy second-half finish that made him only the fourth player to score five goals in a single major tournament for Czech Republic/Czechoslovakia, also drawing him level with Cristiano Ronaldo in the race for the golden boot.

 

Earlier, though, Denmark had enjoyed a great start as Thomas Delaney headed in Denmark's second-earliest Euros goal (4:52) to level the country's all-time record for goals (10) at a single major tournament.

That record was then broken just before the break. Kasper Dolberg became Denmark's joint-top scorer in Euros history (three) with the effort that proved decisive, though Joakim Maehle's assist got most of the attention.

His outside-of-the-boot cross took him to three goal involvements (two goals, one assist) in his past three Denmark games, more than in his other 12.

Denmark certainly didn't have it all their own way, with the Czechs' 16 shots more than they managed in any other Euro 2020 game, but Kasper Hjulmand's men held firm to secure their passage to Wembley.

 

 

Harry Maguire talked up the belief in the England camp and said his side will not settle with reaching a first European Championship semi-final in 25 years.

The Three Lions eased to a 4-0 win over Ukraine in Saturday's semi-final at the Stadio Olimpico to set up a showdown with Denmark at Wembley on Wednesday.

England lost their most recent semi-final appearance in the competition on penalties to Germany in 1996, while also losing at that stage to Croatia in the 2018 World Cup.

On the back of that extra-time disappointment at the hands of Croatia three years ago, Maguire is desperate to go one better this time around with victory against Denmark.

"It's a great feeling. Back-to-back semi-finals at a major tournament is a great achievement," Maguire, who scored the second of England's four goals, told BBC Sport. 

"I don't want to be a party pooper. We have another big game coming up. We want to go further this time than at the World Cup. 

"It is a great feeling that we are here and the way we have done it shows the progress we are making. Long may the improvement continue.

"It is hard to soak it up when you have another big game coming and you know who you are playing and when. 

"There's a great atmosphere in the dressing room, but we will wake up tomorrow and be focused again. This group are not settling for a semi-final, we want to go further."

 

Harry Kane opened the scoring for England inside the first four minutes – the Three Lions' earliest European Championship goal since Michael Owen against Portugal in 2004.

England endured a difficult period at the end of the first half after Andriy Shevchenko tweaked Ukraine's system, but Maguire scored 55 seconds into the second half to settle nerves.

Kane's second of the match four minutes later put the game out of Ukraine's reach and substitute Jordan Henderson rounded off the routine win with a fourth just after the hour.

It is only the second time England have scored four goals in a major tournament knockout game, the other instance being the 1966 World Cup final against West Germany.

"We have great belief in the dressing room," Maguire added. "The first half was tough. We got the early goal we wanted but they caused us problems with their change of shape. 

"The second goal settled us down a lot and from there we controlled the game. The third and fourth were deserved on the night. It was an impressive performance. 

"We spoke about being better on attacking set-plays. We hadn't scored one before the two tonight. It's nice to chip in with a goal but the main thing is the victory."

 

Kane's double made it three for the striker at Euro 2020 and nine in major tournaments for England, moving him level with Alan Shearer and behind only Gary Lineker (10).

The Tottenham star finished as the Golden Boot winner at the 2018 World Cup, but he is hopeful of a different outcome to that semi-final heartbreak this time around.

"What a great performance in a big game," he told BBC Sport. "We were favourites, there was a lot of pressure and a lot of expectations. The performance was top-drawer. 

"We set out a vision before the tournament of what we want to achieve. We're knocking it off step by step. The World Cup was great but we fell short, and in the Nations League.

"Now it's about getting over the line, the next step that we have got to do on Wednesday."

England have kept five clean sheets in a row from the start of the tournament, something only Italy in 1990 have previously managed at a World Cup or Euros.

But Kane is not getting too carried away ahead of facing Denmark, 2-1 winners over the Czech Republic in Friday's other quarter-final, on home soil next week.

"Another clean sheet, four goals, it was a perfect night for us," he said. "We're building on [clean sheets]. 

"We have a great unit here from front to back. It's a vital part of winning games and tournaments. The job is not done yet. There's a lot more football to play."

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."

Harry Kane scored twice as England eased to a 4-0 victory over Ukraine at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday to set up a Euro 2020 semi-final with Denmark on home soil.

England were riding the crest of a wave after beating Germany in the last 16 and, in their first game away from Wembley this tournament, took the lead inside four minutes when Raheem Sterling played in Kane.

That was England's earliest European Championship goal since Michael Owen against Portugal in 2004 and the Three Lions added two more quickfire goals to their tally in the first five minutes of the second half through Harry Maguire and Kane.

Substitute Jordan Henderson's first international goal gave Gareth Southgate further reason to cheer as his side kept their fifth clean sheet in a row from the start of the tournament, something only Italy have previously managed at a World Cup or Euros.

Sterling and Kane scored in England's last-16 win against Germany and the pair combined for their side's early opener in Rome, the Manchester City winger threading the ball through for his team-mate to poke past Georgi Bushchan.

England had failed to win any of the previous five European Championship games in which they had scored in the opening four minutes and they were given a warning when Jordan Pickford was tested by a Roman Yaremchuk strike.

The Three Lions continued to dominate possession but their only other on-target attempt of the first half came via a powerful Declan Rice drive that was routinely dealt with by Bushchan.

Ukraine were making just their second quarter-final appearance at a major tournament and ended the opening period on top, though they found themselves further behind 55 seconds into the second half when Maguire headed home.

Luke Shaw set up that goal and also played in the cross that Kane headed through the legs of Bushchan for England's third, effectively killing off the contest with 40 minutes to play in the Italian capital.

England continued to search for goals and Henderson, just six minutes after replacing Rice, made the most of some terrible Ukraine defending to head in a fourth for Southgate's side, who had little trouble in seeing out the win.

Denmark's squad are constantly thinking of Christian Eriksen as their Euro 2020 adventure continues, so says Kasper Hjulmand.

The Danes beat the Czech Republic 2-1 on Saturday to progress to their fourth European Championship semi-final – and their first since they won the tournament in 1992.

Hjulmand's side, whose tally of 11 goals in the competition trails only Spain, will face Ukraine or England at Wembley on Wednesday after Thomas Delaney and Kasper Dolberg saw them through in Baku.

Denmark – the first team to qualify from the group stage despite losing their first two games – have become the story of the tournament following Eriksen's cardiac arrest on the pitch in Copenhagen in their opener against Finland.

 

Eriksen has subsequently recovered and is in regular contact with his team-mates, who have gone from strength to strength, garnering a wave of support not just at home, but across the continent.

"I think the whole world of football understood that second, and the days after, the fundamental things in life and in football, the fundamental values of football came through right at that moment," Hjulmand told a news conference.

"There are so many other agendas in football, but we all remembered why we started to play football, what values football is based on and we had a reminder of this.

"I am still thinking of Christian every single day. He should have been here.

"We are happy that he survived, we carry him all the way to this match and all the way to Wembley. I think about him all of the time.

"We all understood maybe that the values of football came through – and maybe we are a symbol of it. I could not be more happy than that.

"We are just happy and proud we can maybe just remind ourselves why we love football and what football can do in the world."

 

Denmark's first-half display ultimately did the damage against the Czech Republic, who dragged one back through Patrik Schick early in the second half.

Schick joined Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the Euro 2020 scoring charts, but will not get the chance to add to his tally as Denmark held firm.

Delaney got things started for before Dolberg joined a host of Denmark legends on three goals at European Championships, and the Borussia Dortmund midfielder added of Eriksen: "It is still something we are struggling with, but making him proud makes me happy."

Maybe it's wishful thinking, but if Denmark could pick a moment to remember from their Euro 2020 campaign, surely this would be near the top of the list.

Toe-poke, trivela, call it what you will – Joakim Maehle's outside-of-the-foot cross for the second goal against the Czech Republic was one of the finest pieces of skill seen at these finals.

With enough pace to elude defenders but not the arriving Kasper Dolberg, curling away from Czech heads and onto the striker's foot, it was impudent expertise of the highest order.

It was also entirely in keeping with Maehle's standard of performances at this tournament. This was no fluke or Hail Mary; this was calculated brilliance by a player at the top of his game.

Maehle's form has been a bit of a subplot to Denmark's amazing run to the semi-finals. The team spirit and the tactical nous of Kasper Hjulmand have been praised at almost every turn since that awful moment when Christian Eriksen's life was in danger during their opening match with Finland. But there are individual stars to shout about, too, and Maehle most of all.

After netting the fourth goal in the decisive group win over Russia, Maehle struck a superb third in the 4-0 defeat of Wales in the previous round. Before the quarter-finals, no defender had scored more goals, taken more shots (nine) or completed more dribbles (11) than the Atalanta wing-back.

Calling him a 'defender' might sound a stretch – playing his club football at Atalanta, he is certainly prized as much for his work in the opponents' half as his own. Yet defend he does, when the need arises: against Wales, no Denmark player made more tackles (two) or interceptions (three), while the Czech Republic's Lukas Masopust was hauled off at half-time of Saturday's quarter-final after touching the ball just 15 times, his playground on the right-hand side locked down by Denmark's marauding left-back.

 

By the end of their 2-1 win, a result that made Denmark the first team to reach the semi-finals of the Euros after losing twice in the group stage, Maehle had misplaced just three passes in total and completed 91 per cent in the Czech Republic half, the most of any starting player for Hjulmand's side. He should have had a second goal, too, Tomas Vaclik saving well at his near post to deny Maehle from his latest surge into the box.

Denmark can now look forward to a semi-final, their first at a major tournament since that shock trophy win in 1992. They have scored 11 times at these finals, their best return at either the World Cup or European Championship. Maehle has been directly involved in three of them, and each one has been a real moment of magic.

What happened to Eriksen has not been forgotten, and nor should it. The actions of the medical staff and the dignity of Denmark's players, coaches and fans will deserve praise long after this tournament is over.

But mostly, Euro 2020 must be about the football: about hopes and dreams, surprise results, and outstanding performances. In that regard, Maehle has delivered more than most.

Patrik Schick's fifth goal at Euro 2020 was not enough to inspire a comeback as Denmark beat the Czech Republic 2-1 to take their place in the semi-finals.

Schick joined Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the scoring charts with his fifth goal of the tournament early in the second half in Baku.

Yet he will have no further opportunity to add to his tally, as a fantastic first-half performance, which included goals from Thomas Delaney and Kasper Dolberg, ensured Denmark reached the last four of a Euros for the first time since they won the 1992 edition.

Kasper Hjulmand's team, whose tally of 11 goals trails only fellow semi-finalists Spain, will face either England or Ukraine on Wednesday.

 

Approximately 1,500 Danish supporters were able to make the trip to Baku, and they were celebrating within five minutes.

Jens Stryger Larsen's corner – which should not have been awarded – found Delaney unmarked, and the Borussia Dortmund midfielder made no mistake with a brilliant header.

On his 21st birthday, Mikkel Damsgaard just failed to squeeze a finish beyond Tomas Vaclik from a tight angle, before Stryger Larsen and Delaney combined for another chance – the latter scuffing wide.

Dolberg made no such mistake three minutes before half-time, however, as he cushioned home from Joakim Maehle's exquisite, outside-of-the-foot cross from the left.

Antonin Barak drew a fine save out of Kasper Schmeichel following the restart, with Simon Kjaer then getting a vital block on Schick's overhead kick.

Yet the Czech Republic's pressure told in the 49th minute – Schick placing a measured first-time finish into the bottom-left corner after being found by Vladimir Coufal.

Tomas Soucek made a brave block to deny Yussuf Poulsen just after the hour, though the Czechs were dealt a blow when Ondrej Celustka succumbed to injury.

Poulsen was let off the hook for another miss when Kjaer cleared in front of a gaping goal soon after, and with Schick going off with an apparent injury late on, Denmark held firm to book their spot at Wembley.

Italy full-back Leonardo Spinazzola has set his sights on the quickest recovery possible after a ruptured Achilles tendon ended his Euro 2020.

Spinazzola had been one of the standout performers in the tournament and made a vital goal-line block to deny Romelu Lukaku during the Azzurri's thrilling 2-1 quarter-final win over Belgium in Munich.

But the Roma defender, who suffered cruciate ligament damage in May 2018 and has endured frequent fitness problems during his career, will miss the semi-final meeting with Spain after pulling up before full-time and needing a stretcher to leave the field.

Italy's Twitter account shared a video of Spinazzola's team-mates serenading him on their flight home and the 28-year-old tapped into that positive attitude in an Instagram post.

"Unfortunately we all know how it went but our  dream continues and with this great group nothing is impossible," he wrote.

"I can only tell you that I will be back soon!"

Italy boss Roberto Mancini began his post-match news conference by offering his sympathy to player who made himself vital to Italy's bid for glory.

"We are very disappointed and gutted for Spinazzola for that injury he didn't deserve because he was playing extraordinarily well," he said.

"He's been one of the best players at Euro 2020 and we are absolutely gutted."

 

Spinazzola recovered possession 23 times in the tournament, more than any other Italy defender.

But it was in attack where he gave Mancini's fluent side an extra dimension.

His seven chances created from open play are the joint-second best in the Azzurri squad, alongside Domenico Berardi and behind Marco Verratti (10).

Matteo Pessina and Spinazzola each average 14 metres per carry with the ball, with the latter out in front on progressive carries (9.5m) – instances of a player moving the ball vertically up the field.

Six of Spinazzola's dribbles ended in a shot, another squad best, and likely deputy Emerson will have considerable shoes to fill when Italy and Spain meet at Wembley on Tuesday.

Former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson believes Manchester United will be completely convinced Jadon Sancho is poised to become one of football's biggest stars.

United and Borussia Dortmund have agreed a deal in principle for the transfer of Sancho, which is worth around £73million and expected to be completed after his involvement in Euro 2020.

Winger Sancho is reportedly poised to make his first start in the competition when England do battle against Ukraine in Rome on Saturday.

Leaked team news ahead of the quarter-final tie suggests Bukayo Saka is struggling through injury and that Sancho will get a chance to start on the right wing, with Mason Mount and Raheem Sterling completing the trio who will provide support to lone striker Harry Kane.

 

Sancho has featured for just six minutes in the tournament so far, despite scoring 50 goals and providing 57 assists in 137 appearances across all competitions for Dortmund.

He became the first Englishman to reach at least 10 assists for three straight seasons in Europe's top-five leagues since former United star David Beckham, who achieved the feat between 1997-98 and 2000-01.

Indeed, only Thomas Muller (48) and Lionel Messi (43) have managed to provide more assists at that league level since the start of the 2018-19 campaign than Sancho (41).

Ex-Manchester City boss Eriksson is sure United would not have made such a big move in a transfer market that is seeing club finances impacted by the coronavirus pandemic without having certainty.

"He's 21 years old and he should have a great future," Eirksson told Stats Perform.

"The scouts and the coaches of Manchester United, they have will have looked at that 100 times. 

"They are sure that the this player will be the future, important in the future otherwise they wouldn't pay all that money. 

"So when he's coming back to England then there no doubts about it. 

"I don't see many games from German league but what I can understand is that he's a great talent and it is interesting to see him.

"There you have it with how important the Premier League is. They can take all the best players in the world and that is good for England."

 

Sterling, meanwhile, has scored in 13 matches for England and whenever he has done so the Three Lions have gone on to achieve victory.

A disappointing conclusion to his season individually for City meant many doubters were questioning his starting place for the Euros but he has responded emphatically with three goals.

Eriksson believes Sterling is primed to star further in the latter stages now that he has his confidence back.

"He is that kind of player who can create by himself, even when he is one against one with his speed and so on," added Eriksson. 

"But also, which is very important in these knockout games – so important – he has the confidence now. 

"He is sure he can create against any team – against anyone. So that means a lot when you go into this game against Ukraine. 

"And that's why I said also about Harry Kane – he was successful during [just] some minutes in the last game, but that was enough, because he scored. 

"Sterling, yes, he thinks he's the best in the world today. And maybe he is, but just that he thinks he is the best in the world is extremely important and he will create a lot of problems for Ukraine."

The rest of England's team will reportedly see Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice continue as a duo in central midfield, with a back four of Luke Shaw, John Stones, Harry Maguire and Kyle Walker in front of goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

That would mean Aston Villa talisman Jack Grealish has to settle for a place among the substitutes.

Gareth Southgate has a reputation for matter-of-fact sincerity in news conferences but it felt like even he was laying it on a little thick last October.

Luke Shaw was fit and a fixture in Manchester United's first team but had ticked past two years without an England call-up.

For Nations League matches against Belgium and Denmark and a friendly versus Wales, Ben Chilwell was unavailable. Southgate selected and split left wing-back duties between Kieran Trippier, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Bukayo Saka – none of whom are specialists in the position.

"The door is certainly open," he replied when asked about Shaw's seemingly dwindling prospects.

"I don't think we've ever closed the door on any player - and we certainly wouldn't on Luke.

"He's more than capable of being the best left-back in the country in my opinion."

A scroll through some of the social media responses to that assertion suggests not too many agreed.

After his starring role in the stirring 2-0 Euro 2020 win over Germany, it is hard to argue against the notion that Shaw – despite everything he has endured since becoming the most expensive teenager in world football back in June 2014 – is England's premier left-sided defender.

 

Dark days at Old Trafford

"If I'd flown back, I would probably have lost my leg because of the blood clots."

It is an incredibly stark statement. A tackle by PSV's Hector Moreno during a September 2015 Champions League match left Shaw with a horrific double leg fracture that threatened to become worse than that gruesome description.

As Shaw recuperated from surgery at St Anna Ziekenhuis hospital in Geldrop and United made plans to fly him home, doctors discovered two blood clots and scheduled an emergency operation.

"I've got two scars down the side of my leg where they had to cut me open and pull them out," said the former Southampton youngster, when discussing his ordeal while on England duty three years later.

"I'd be lying if I said I hadn't sometimes thought about stopping playing football [during rehabilitation]. It went on for a long period, doing the same things every day.

"I couldn’t do anything else because of the break. It was frustrating but I came out the other side."

When he returned to action the following season, Shaw had another draining, sapping problem - Jose Mourinho was the Manchester United manager.

After starting the season as first choice, Mourinho singled out Shaw for strong criticism after a 3-1 defeat at Watford.

Things came to an unsavoury head in April 2017, when the former Chelsea boss first questioned "the way he trains, the way he commits, the focus, the ambition" ahead of a game with Everton.

 

Then, after Shaw came off the bench and impressed to help United salvage a 1-1 draw, Mourinho claimed: "He had a good performance but it was his body with my brain. He was in front of me and I was making every decision for him."

The relationship remained strained, even as Shaw was handed a five-year contract extension in October 2018 - two months before Mourinho was sacked.

"There is no hiding that we didn't get on," Shaw told reporters last week, after Mourinho – now working as a pundit after his Tottenham tenure went the same way as his United reign – criticised his "dramatically bad" corner taking during England's 1-0 group stage win over the Czech Republic.

"I think he was a brilliant manager but, you know, the past is the past. It is time to move on. I am trying to move on but, obviously, he can't. He continuously talks about me, which I find quite strange."

The long road to Wembley

The raucous din as Shaw drove forward from midfield and fed Jack Grealish on Tuesday meant he would have been unlikely to hear instructions from the touchline or anywhere else inside Wembley. Funnily enough, his football brain was in good order.

Grealish crossed and Harry Kane stooped to head England to a 2-0 win over Germany, their first knockout stage victory over any team with a world title to their name since 1966.

Southgate's Euro 2020 side have worn their pragmatism proudly. Despite an enviable array of attacking talent – Shaw described it as "absolute madness, so frightening" this week - they go forward with cautious calculation and are yet to concede a goal.

As well as being part of that watertight defensive unit, Shaw has proved invaluable to an attacking approach that values quality over quantity. His five chances created, with four from open play, are the most of any England player, as are his 18 passes into the opposition box. An expected assists (xA) figure of 1.08 also shows him to be cumulatively laying on a better quality of chances than any of his team-mates.

Those attacking gifts were a large part of what persuaded United to pay Southampton £27million for his services, with Shaw following Wayne Bridge and Gareth Bale off the St Mary's production line as a left-back with game-changing qualities.

Initially, he appeared inhibited at Old Trafford, as then-manager Louis van Gaal questioned his fitness in an early taste of what was to come under Mourinho. Then the injury nightmare began.

It has been a long road back, but in 2020-21, United got their most sustained look at the player they hoped they were buying six years earlier.

 

Shaw's 47 appearances were his most in a single campaign and culminated in Europa League final heartache against Villarreal. It was his first United appearance in a major final, representing a personal triumph over a catalogue of fitness problems amid penalty shoot-out woe.

He claimed six assists in all competitions, the most of his career, while 90 chances created was more than double his previous best of 41 in 2018-19.

Shaw averaged 6.88 passes into the opposition box per 90 minutes, having never averaged above 3.5 before, despite some of his previous sample sizes being far smaller due to injury interrupted campaigns.

Southgate's faith repaid

If those performances made Shaw impossible to ignore last season, he was easily forgotten in March 2017.

Injuries and Mourinho's ire had combined to mean a solitary Premier League start in a five-month period, but he received a call-up from the recently installed England manager to take on Lithuania and Germany.

"Generally, we've tried to pick players who are playing regularly, and one or two have missed out because of that. Luke is probably the exception. He's a player we have a lot of belief in," said Southgate, his former England Under-21 boss.

"Having worked with him before we think he can be an important player for the future. Now would be a good time to give him that confidence boost."

The progress from that point has been far from linear. Shaw was absent when England reached the semi-finals of Russia 2018, indeed this is his first tournament since the 2014 World Cup, when everything felt possible for a prodigiously gifted teen.

 

His latest recall only came in March but, with Ukraine up in Rome on Saturday as the first in a potential three-game shot at sporting immortality, the possibilities are opening up again.

Having made his debut in March 2014, this weekend is set to mark Shaw's 14th cap. At 25, there should be plenty more to come for an easy going member of the squad, visibly a friend to everyone who fits perfectly with Southgate's team ethos.

"I remember at the [2018] World Cup seeing all these videos of the fans celebrating, going wild. And I thought: 'I want to be a part of that'," Shaw told England's YouTube channel in the aftermath of his hard-earned part in the historic win over Germany.

"I'm [feeling] brilliant, it's so good. Everything about the last day or two has been unbelievable. I've not felt this happy in a long time."

Czech players know a thing or two about unforgettable Euros goals.

In 1976, Czechoslovakia became European Champions after Antonin Panenka unveiled his audacious dinked penalty – imitations of which still bear his name to this day.

Karel Poborsky's sensational scoop sunk Portugal as the Czech Republic charted an unlikely course to the final of Euro 96.

Such heroics secured Poborsky a dream move to Manchester United and a handful of Premier League clubs have reportedly had their attention piqued by Patrik Schick's exploits at Euro 2020.

Schick's sensational goal from halfway, part of a brace in the 2-0 win over Scotland at Hampden Park, will remain one of this tournament's enduring moments, but it was no flash in the pan.

The Bayer Leverkusen striker slotted home to seal an assured last-16 win over the 10-man Netherlands, moving on to four for the competition.

With Cristiano Ronaldo (five), Emil Forsberg, Karim Benzema and Romelu Lukaku (all four) having packed their bags, Schick has a chance to further boost his Golden Boot prospects in Saturday's Baku quarter-final against Denmark.

It would see him emulate another of his country's footballing heroes, the Euro 2004 top scorer Milan Baros, and burnish a reputation that has taken a battering over recent years.

From Samp star to Roman ruin

In 2017, Schick was on the brink of the sort of dream move Poborsky secured two decades earlier.

A stunning breakout season at Sampdoria in 2016-17, where he scored 13 goals in 35 appearances in all competitions – only 15 of which were starts - captured the attention of Juventus.

The clubs agreed a fee in the region of €25million and Schick was even pictured on Juve's website in club training kit for a medical, but that was where the problems started.

 

Juventus pulled out of the deal, amid speculation that tests had uncovered cardiac problems. This was dismissed as "a farce" by Sampdoria owner Massimo Ferrero and, after Roma stepped in to take Schick off their hands, further examinations gave the forward the all-clear.

However, Juve's loss did not become Roma's gain as Schick failed to reproduce his Sampdoria form.

"Do I wonder what might have been? No, I've already closed it out," he told Czech newspaper Lidovky in June 2018, but his output on the field in his debut season at the Stadio Olimpico told a different story.

Schick scored just three goals in all competitions as he struggled to dislodge first-choice striker Edin Dzeko and was often shunted out to the right wing. His shot conversion rate plummeted from 28.9 per cent at Samp during the previous campaign to 8.1 in 2017-18.

A similarly fallow 2018-19 followed (five goals in 32 appearances) and Schick needed a fresh start.

Rebuilding in the Bundesliga

RB Leipzig took Schick on a season-long loan and across all competitions in 2019-20, as the Bundesliga club reached the semi-finals of the Champions League, he scored 10 times in 28 appearances (18 starts).

It was a solid if unspectacular return, but a huge step in the right direction and one that meant Roma were able to make their money back as Schick joined Bayer Leverkusen on a five-year deal ahead of last season.

His rehabilitation continued impressively at the BayArena, hitting 13 goals for the first time since he came to prominence at Sampdoria four seasons earlier.

According to Opta, Schick's big chance conversion rate was up to 40.9 per cent, having dwindled at 33.3 in his post-Samp years. A total of 32 chances created for team-mates was his best in the top-five leagues.

 

It laid the foundation for a stunning Euro 2020 so far, where the variety of Schick's goals has caught the eye.

His showstopper against Scotland was preceded by a fine, towering header. He kept his nerve from the penalty spot against Croatia before coolly converting after Tomas Holes' run scattered a tiring Netherlands.

Going for gold

This body of work leaves Schick in contention for his own piece of history. He is one shy of Baros' five-goal haul, which included a quarter-final brace against Denmark that he would dearly love to emulate.

Indeed, in Euros 80, 92, and 2012, Schick's haul would already have been enough to take home the Golden Boot, with the joint-top scorers in each of those tournaments scoring three apiece.

He and everyone else at Euro 2020 remains some way short of Michel Platini's nine goals as France tasted glory on home soil in 1984 – a feat made all the more remarkable by the fact the championship was only a five-game tournament back then.

A more realistic target for Schick and this year's frontrunners is Antoine Griezmann, who scored six in seven matches as France plotted a path to the final of Euro 2016, the first time the present 24-team format was used.

Schick averages 1.1 goals per 90 minutes after spending 326 minutes on the field in total. This marks a slightly better frequency than Griezmann (0.97) four years ago. Indeed, only Marco van Basten (1.16 - five goals in 389 minutes at Euro 88), Baros (1.17) and Platini (1.69) have a better scoring rate. If we dismiss Platini as something of a freakish outlier, Schick is on Golden Boot form.

 

A challenge at this business end of the competition for those not playing in teams likely to dominate the action is how many shots their main goal threats are able to get away.

Schick averages 3.59 shots per 90 minutes (13 overall), remarkably similar to Baros' 3.52 (15 shots) in 2004. By comparison, Platini (4.88) and Griezmann (4.55) were able to fire off goal attempts with far greater frequency.

Ronaldo had 37 shots for three goals (6.94) during Portugal's 2012 campaign, while David Villa – in a Spain team hardly noted for indiscriminately peppering the opposition goal – averaged 4.57 per 90 en route to glory at Euro 2012.

Such a volume of opportunities are unlikely to fall Schick's way on Saturday. But whether they come aerially, in the penalty area or from distance, a player in prime form at the perfect time after a long road back to his best looks ready to capitalise.

Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez refused to comment on his future after the country's Euro 2020 elimination at the hands of Italy, insisting the situation is "too raw".

Italy booked their spot in the semi-finals against Spain after overcoming Martinez's Belgium 2-1 in Munich on Friday.

Nicolo Barella and Lorenzo Insigne put Italy two goals ahead by the 44th minute, but Belgium pulled one back before the interval courtesy of a Romelu Lukaku penalty. 

Despite going close, Belgium – one of the pre-tournament favourites – were unable to find an equaliser against red-hot Italy as the Red Devils lost in the quarter-finals of the European Championship like they did in 2016.

Attention swiftly turned to Martinez, who is contracted through to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar but has been linked with a return to club management.

"Well, obviously, this is a moment that is very, very difficult to speak anything else than the defeat and that we are out of the Euros," Martinez said. "As I say, at the moment, it's still too raw. And I do not want to say anything that it could be [seen as] emotional.

"At the moment, all I want to do is look back into this tournament and I would say that the players have done nothing wrong. It is the opposite.

"They did everything they could to get us as far as we can [at Euro 2020]. And now is the time to analyse and to assess. But, at the moment, the feelings of disappointment and sadness, unfortunately, is what is in my head now."

Belgium have faced Italy more times at major international tournaments (World Cup and Euros) without winning than any other side (five).

No Belgium player has scored more goals than Lukaku at either the European Championship (six) or the World Cup (five, level with Marc Wilmots).

Lukaku has scored 24 goals in his last 23 appearances for Belgium, including 22 in his last 19 competitive internationals.

"The feelings are what you can imagine, really - sadness and disappointment - because I do not think these players deserve to be out of this tournament," said Martinez. "They have done an incredible job to be prepared to be ready to go step-by-step every day, from the beginning of the tournament. And unfortunately, today [Friday], we faced a very good side [Italy]. I thought it was two very good teams in this knockout phase. And, unfortunately, the margins did not go in our favour."

Belgium star Kevin De Bruyne played despite carrying an ankle knock, though captain Eden Hazard watched from the stands due to a hamstring injury.

"The situation with Axel [Witsel] and Kevin [De Bruyne] and Eden [Hazard] going into the tournament, I think we managed it very, very well and you could see the attitude of those players," Martinez added. "They started to grow into the tournament and they have been a real bonus. They really helped us from the moment that they could be on the pitch.

"Obviously, injuries happen and it is unfortunate that Eden could not be on the pitch with us [against Italy]. But it was exemplary to see Kevin De Bruyne getting through whatever he would, to get 90 minutes with his national team and showing that he was ready to help the group.

"So, I think, for every 'Red Devil' fan, there is a real pride and understanding that these players did everything they could to try to get what we wanted to get. And unfortunately today, we faced a very good team [Italy] and, with two good teams, the small margins went for them. And that is a small difference and that happens in football."

Roberto Mancini described his Italy players as "extraordinary" after they booked a Euro 2020 semi-final spot with a 2-1 win over Belgium in Munich on Friday. 

Nicolo Barella and Lorenzo Insigne put the Azzurri two goals ahead by the 44th minute, but Belgium pulled one back before the interval courtesy of a Romelu Lukaku penalty. 

The Azzurri held on to extend their unbeaten run to 32 games, however, and will now play Spain at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday after Luis Enrique's side overcame Switzerland on penalties earlier in the day.

Italy have now reached the semi-finals of a major tournament for the 12th time – the only European nation to do so more is Germany (20 times).

The result also meant Mancini became only the second coach in European Championship history to win each of his first five matches in the competition finals after Michel Hidalgo, who won all five of his matches in charge of France at the 1984 edition.

"We deserved the victory," Mancini told RAI Sport. "The lads were extraordinary, and clearly we suffered in the last 10 minutes as we were really tired, but we could've scored more goals earlier.

"I didn't see 25 minutes of struggle at the start. There were chances at both ends, it was an open game. We only struggled in the last 10 minutes when Belgium started playing a long ball game.

"We had no minimum target. We just wanted to do our best. There are still two games to go, we'll see what happens.

"Let us enjoy this victory, then we can think about Spain. Congratulations to the lads, they did a great job."

 

Central to Italy's success was the colossal defensive display by Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci. 

No player on the pitch made more clearances than Chiellini's six, while the pair helped reduce the Red Devils to just a solitary shot on target in the second period. 

Bonucci expects a tough game against Spain but urged his team-mates to be ready to go into battle. 

"Now we can keep dreaming with our feet on the ground," he said. "Spain are a great team, but we started this tournament with a dream in our hearts; let's keep it there until the end.

"There are two matches to go, the most difficult will be against Spain, who play similar to Belgium. They again looked as if they might not make it, but they got back on their feet, so it'll be a battle to the end."

The one sour note for Italy was the late injury suffered by Leonardo Spinazzola, with reports in Italy after the game suggesting he had ruptured his Achilles tendon.

"Leonardo had a great Euros, whoever replaces him will do just as well," Bonucci added.

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