England keep Euro 2020 dream alive

LONDON: England fans cheer before the UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 football match between England and Germany at Wembley Stadium in London on Tuesday. – AFP

PARIS: England’s defeat of Germany sent a nation’s expectations of silverware after a 55-year wait skyrocketing as Gareth Southgate’s side joined heavyweights Spain, Italy and Belgium in the Euro 2020 quarter-finals. England’s cathartic last-16 win over the Germans at raucous Wembley on Tuesday was a landmark moment after decades of misery at the hands of the four-time world champions. Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane supplied the goals to set up a quarter-final against Ukraine in Rome on Saturday with England hunting their first major international trophy since the 1966 World Cup.

Ukraine punched their last-eight ticket with a 2-1 extra-time defeat of Sweden in Glasgow thanks to a 121st-minute winner from Artem Dovbyk. Switzerland and Spain get the quarter-final action underway in Saint Petersburg on Friday followed by Belgium’s showdown with Italy in Munich. The Czech Republic play Denmark in the other tie on Saturday in Baku.

With old nemesis Germany-who knocked them out of the 1970, 1990 and 2010 World Cups and beat them in the Euro 96 semi-finals-finally vanquished, Southgate is urging England to seize a golden opportunity. “It didn’t really need me to say it but when we got in the dressing room, we were talking about Saturday already,” Southgate said. “It was an immense performance but at a cost, emotionally and physically, and we’ve got to make sure that we recover well and that mentally we’re in the right space.”

A peak audience of 20.6 million people watched England’s victory over Germany, the BBC said. The draw is opening up invitingly for England, who will be favored to beat Ukraine who have won only one of their seven meetings. If England reach the semi-finals, they would face Denmark or the Czech Republic in front of another partisan crowd at Wembley.

As the elusive continental crown moves tantalizingly closer Southgate warned: “It’s a dangerous moment for us. We’ll have that warmth of success and the feeling around the country that we’ve only got to turn up to win the thing. “We know it’s going to be an immense challenge from here on. I think the players know that.”

‘Hurts like hell’
For Germany, who have won the European Championship three times in their illustrious history, defeat signaled a bitter end to Joachim Loew’s 15-year reign as Germany coach. Germany won the 2014 World Cup but crashed out at the group stage four years later in Russia and have now made their earliest exit at a European Championship since 2004.

“The players are gutted. It’s very quiet in the dressing room,” said the 61-year-old. “In games like this, it is crucial to convert all goal chances, which we didn’t do, neither through Timo Werner nor Thomas Mueller.” Mueller said his crucial miss for a late equalizer “hurts like hell”. England, who themselves looked short of inspiration for much of the contest, finally broke the deadlock when Luke Shaw crossed for Sterling to finish from close range, notching his third goal of the competition.

Mueller should have equalized when Kai Havertz’s pass sent him clean through, but the Bayern Munich star rolled his shot wide and fell to the turf in dismay. Kane made Germany pay in the 86th minute as he finished off a lethal England counter-attack with a diving header past Manuel Neuer from substitute Jack Grealish’s cross.

That was the first goal of the tournament for the Tottenham man, who has been a shadow of the player who won the Golden Boot at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Ukraine are waiting for them in Rome hopefully not suffering any hangover from their late night in Glasgow. Oleksandr Zinchenko put Ukraine ahead at Hampden but Emil Forsberg equalized for Sweden before the break with his fourth goal in three games. Serhiy Sydorchuk hit the post for Ukraine in the second half while Forsberg twice struck the woodwork, but the dismissal of Marcus Danielson gave Ukraine the initiative late on.

The Sweden center-back was sent off on 98 minutes when his studs caught Artem Besedin’s knee with his follow-through, a yellow card changed to red after a VAR review. As penalties loomed, Dovbyk stooped to head in a Zinchenko cross and snatch victory for Ukraine. – AFP

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