Deep down we all hoped it might happen, but who seriously believed we’d be talking about England’s road to the final of Euro 2020 when the competition kicked off little under a month ago?
Gareth Southgate’s side’s group displays may not have filled us with too much confidence, but they’ve grown into the tournament as it has progressed and are now just 90 minutes away from claiming their first ever European Championship title.
All that stands in the way of the Three Lions and major tournament success is Roberto Mancini’s Italy – the side that haven’t been beaten for 33 games by the way – and we’ve taken the opportunity to look back at their road to the final of Euro 2020 (we’re just going to keep repeating that until it actually sinks in – ENGLAND’S ROAD TO THE FINAL OF EURO 2020).
England hardly kicked off their campaign in style, though a win over what looked to be their toughest group opponents in Croatia was a massive boost to their confidence.
After a frantic start to the game in which Southgate’s men threatened to blow their opposition away, the home side failed to break the deadlock and the Croatians began to grow into the game.
Little over ten minutes after half time England finally broke the deadlock as Kalvin Phillips threaded the ball through to Raheem Sterling before the Manchester City forward slotted home.
Croatia offered little in the way of a reply and the Three Lions’ campaign was off to a winning start.
While England went into their second group game against Scotland as massive favourites, their fierce rivals refused to roll over and did brilliantly to hold on and grab themselves a deserved point.
Chances for both sides were few and far between, with John Stones’ header which crashed against the post the closest either side came to breaking the deadlock.
The Scots very nearly grabbed all three points as Stephen O’Donnell’s volley arrowed towards the far corner, but Jordan Pickford did brilliantly to get down and palm the Motherwell man’s effort away from goal.
England had already secured qualification through to the knockout rounds as they faced the Czech Republic in their final group outing, though top spot was up for grabs as the teams faced off at Wembley.
Jack Grealish was finally given his first start of the competition and the Villa man grabbed himself an assist as his back-post cross was headed home by that man Sterling once again.
England did what they had to as they saw out the 1-0 win, progressing through to the last 16 as group winners where they would face old foes Germany.
Many speculated that finishing second in Group D would actually have been more beneficial than finishing in top spot, but if England were to progress to the latter rounds they would need to beat a top side at some point along the way.
While Germany can never be underestimated at a major competition, Joachim Low’s side were far from the machine we’ve seen in recent tournaments and England took full advantage as they secured a 2-0 win.
With the game looking like heading towards extra time, Sterling again produced the goods for his country as he tapped home Luke Shaw’s cross, with Harry Kane putting the result beyond doubt late on.
Oh, and it would be foolish of us not to mention the Thomas Muller miss sandwiched in between the two goals – how did he put that wide!?
England were handed their first assignment away from Wembley in the quarter-final as they faced Ukraine in Rome.
If the Three Lions’ displays so far had us on the edge of our seats, this one was far more comfortable, with Kane grabbing his second goal of Euro 2020 in the opening four minutes.
The result never looked in doubt when Harry Maguire doubled England’s lead with a powerful header, with quickfire goals from Kane and Jordan Henderson securing a convincing win for Southgate’s side as they progressed through to the semi-final.
This was it. England had never reached a European Championship final, but could this be the night?
Again they were unable to capitalise on their frantic start and when Mikkel Damsgaard’s superb long-range free kick flew past Pickford and into the back of the net, Three Lions fans were beginning to get that familiar sinking feeling.
Not to worry, this England team are made of sterner stuff and they rallied to hit back just nine minutes later courtesy of Simon Kjaer’s own goal.
As the clocked ticked closer to full time, the Danes began to tire, but the brilliant Kasper Schmeichel threatened to spoil the England party with a string of impressive saves.
But when Sterling skipped past Joakim Maehle in extra time and was taken down in the area, the referee pointed to the spot to hand Southgate’s side the chance to reach the final of Euro 2020.
Up stepped Kane and despite Schmeichel’s heroics in savings his spot kick the Tottenham man followed in to tap home the winner.
And breathe. It’s been one hell of a ride England fans, let’s hope there’s one final glorious chapter to come on Sunday!