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The wait is finally over. England’s men are in a major final for the first time since 1966 after a 2-1 win over Denmark in extra time at Wembley.
Former players and pundits were full of praise for Gareth Southgate’s side as they ended a 55-year wait by reaching the final of Euro 2020.
‘This is not a team, it’s a family’
As England’s players and staff celebrated by singing Sweet Caroline in front of their fans, former England midfielder Karen Carney, who was pitch-side for BBC Radio 5 Live, said the scenes were “magical”.
“England came to this tournament and they knew they believed in-house [that they could do well], and they’re not going to the final as if it’s a shock,” she said.
“This is a team. Actually it’s not a team, it’s a family. They are absolutely all together in this moment. I have got goosebumps.
“In time we’ll always go ‘where were we?’ and this is so emotional down here. Gareth Southgate went up to Raheem Sterling and gave him the biggest cuddle I’ve ever seen. It’s magical. Absolutely magical.”
Gary Lineker said: “It’s been a long time coming. It’s finally happened. I was doubting I’d ever see it again in my lifetime at one point.”
Former England right-back Gary Neville added on ITV: “We have never done this before in our lifetimes. We have had so much pain, so much let-down and now we are going to a final. These are not nearly lads, they have actually gone and done something this year.”
‘I’ve never felt an atmosphere like I’ve felt today’
England were playing in front of their largest crowd of the tournament so far, with 64,950 spectators in Wembley.
Carney said it was the best atmosphere yet: “It’s so loud. Everyone’s buzzing singing the songs.
“It’s kicking off down here in such a positive way – it’s unbelievable. Every game we’ve got more people and it’s got louder and louder. It feels so nice and feels back to normal now.”
“I’ve never felt an atmosphere like I’ve felt today,” Micah Richards added. “The fans are absolutely electric. Don’t forget we’re at home in Wembley. We talked about Russia a lot but this is at Wembley for everyone to see and the scenes are just electrifying I’m just in awe of this stadium. I’m in awe of just being here.”
“The fans throughout the game, they kept going,” said Hayes. “They lifted the team when the players were slipping.”
But was it a penalty?
Plenty was said about the decision to award the penalty that led to England’s winning goal, after Raheem Sterling had been fouled by Joakim Maehle.
“We’re all England fans but we’ve got to say it how it is. I think the referees and the decisions in this tournament have been fantastic, but I can’t see how that’s not been overturned,” admitted Richards.
“How many times have England over the years not had that little bit of luck? Today they’ve got the luck. Yes, we don’t want to win by a dubious penalty decision but at the end of the day, if that takes us to a final, you know we’ve got to take it.”
“Dubious penalty, I’m still not convinced, but who cares? We’re in the final,” added former England winger Chris Waddle on 5 Live.
Prospects for ‘mouth-watering’ final
England have one last hurdle to clear and pundits think Sunday’s final against Italy will be one to remember.
Carney said: “I think the two best teams are in the final and it’s going to be mouth-watering – it really is. Margins are going to be really small and it’s just going to be breathtaking.”
“If you look at Italy, they have come in as free spirits. They had nothing to lose, had an outside chance. A lot of people thought they haven’t done anything but they have this amazing unbeaten record. They play with a spirit, they just enjoy it,” Waddle added.
“They will be so determined to win it. They’ll use all the experience they’ve got. They are a powerful side with a lot of energy about them. They might defend in numbers but they’ve got pace on the break and it’s going to be a very difficult game for England.”
Article courtesy of BBC Sport