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LONDON — England has broken through its semifinal ceiling at major soccer tournaments. A title match awaits for the first time in 55 years.
Harry Kane converted the rebound after his initial penalty was saved in the 104th minute to give England a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Denmark in extra time in the European Championship semifinals on Wednesday at Wembley Stadium.
England will return to its national soccer stadium on Sunday to play Italy and will be competing in its first final since the 1966 World Cup. That remains England’s only international title.
In the intervening 55 years, the English have lost in the semifinals four times in either the World Cup or the European Championship. For that reason, this will go down as one of the most significant victories in English soccer history, and the celebrations demonstrated just that.
Kane led the jubilant England fans in a crowd of more than 60,000 — the biggest gathering for a sporting event in Britain since the coronavirus outbreak nearly 16 months ago — in a rendition of “Sweet Caroline.” The players and management walked around the perimeter of the field, waving to fans and then their loved ones. England coach Gareth Southgate was serenaded with a song, and he would have appreciated this win more than anyone.
Two of those semifinals losses — in 1990 and 1996 — were decided via a penalty shootout, with Southgate missing a crucial kick in one of them against Germany. And a shootout looked like where England and Denmark were headed until Raheem Sterling wriggled into the area down the right, cut inside and fell under the challenge Mattias Jensen.
The contact looked minimal, and a video review was needed.
Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel guessed the right way to block Kane’s penalty, but the England captain reacted quickly and put the ball into the net from six yards out.
Denmark’s players, whose emotionally charged run to the semifinals was powered by a resolve to win the title for Christian Erisken after his collapse on the field during the group stage, were almost on their knees by that point.
And Danish hopes of an equalizer were damaged by having to play with only 10 men for the second half of extra time after Jensen was forced off injured. Denmark had already used up its six substitutes by then.
England showed another side by rallying for victory after conceding a goal for the first time at Euro 2020 when Mikkel Damsgaard scored with a free kick in the 30th.
It was a shot that Eriksen — Denmark's captain who is recovering at home after suffering cardiac arrest and collapsing on the field against Finland on June 12 — would have been proud of as his replacement in the team whipped the ball over the defensive wall and into the top corner.
At that stage, Denmark was playing the better soccer, with its pressing and slick passing in midfield causing England problems and sparking concern among the previously boisterous home fans.
Denmark wasn’t ahead for long, though.
Moments after Sterling was denied from point-blank range by Kasper Schmeichel, Bukayo Saka was sent free down the right by Kane’s pass and the winger's low cross was bundled into the net by Denmark defender Simon Kjaer in the 39th, under pressure from Sterling. It was the 11th own-goal of Euro 2020.
The second half saw England control the game, helped by the introduction of substitute Jack Grealish and the injury-enforced departure of Denmark defender Andreas Christensen.
Schmeichel had to be alert to save Harry Maguire’s header and Mason Mount’s curling shot and the addition of six minutes of stoppage only increased the tension, with Denmark’s tired players now largely retreating deeper into their own half.
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Steve Douglas, The Associated Press