England Beat Denmark to Reach EURO 2020 Final

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LONDON – Even victory, not even justification, is not exempt from pain. For more than half a century, England He knew nothing but pain, disappointment, and regret. He could only imagine that breaking this brutal biennial cycle of broken hopes and bittersweet dreams once and for all would feel light, joyful, and pure. It wasn’t him.

EnglandFans of ‘s gathered on Wembley Road, the pedestrian street that runs from Wembley Park tube station to the stadium at one end and the curved, glittering arch that bisects the sky at the other, drinking and singing since the afternoon. and waiting impatiently for the moment to come when they are willing to exist for a lifetime.

St. Petersburg decorated with flags in their hands, the names of their club teams and their hometowns. They came carrying the George crosses, and they came carrying the pain of years on their backs. It’s remarkable how many vintage jerseys have been spotted amongst the crowd at Wembley in the past three weeks.

Of course, there are plenty of them dressed in the latest, bright white and tight-fitting version, and many more recent iterations: the blue away jersey of the last few years, the red number Gareth Southgate’s team wore in Russia, three years ago. But there were older ones, too: often a relatively obscure cerulean print from the early 1990s and an effort from football’s “grey era”, that decade later when it was learned that the most important thing about a jersey was at the end of that decade. It should look good with jeans.

To be frank, both evoke unhappy memories: West Germany’s elimination in the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup, and the elimination of United Germany in the semi-finals six years later. European championship. Both went through the exquisite torture of penalty shootouts. Both are engraved in the national consciousness. Both came to symbolize the unique cocktail of brutal hope and saintly disappointment. England fan.

But these shirts are worn because they show legitimate membership of a club. They serve as proof of identity, a kind of polyester blend certificate of authenticity: a visual shorthand that you were there for Turin in 1990, and six years later Wembley, old Wembley, shows you’re not a master. You know what suffering is.

While the country has allowed itself to be slowly swept over the past three weeks – a searing cliff – the prospect of only the second grand finale in its never-knowing undersold history is higher than ever in Europe. The popular imagination remained a part of that soul, knowing and self-aware and vaguely ironic.

The evening when everything changed was perhaps needed more than ever. England’s progress up to this point has been unusually calm. He rarely got out of second gear, roaring his group. He sent Germany with great efficiency. It crossed Ukraine. Denmark would have been different in the Euro semi-finals on Wednesday. That would be an uncut agony. Eventually, England would surely reach uncharted territory, but it would do so in a way so familiar it was almost comforting.

All that energy crackling for hours along Wembley Road would at first be converted into noise that exploded and resonated around the stadium in the sunlight roaring England. But within half an hour, he would once again be shapeshifted and turned into an almost palpable concern as Mikkel Damsgaard’s free kick escaped Jordan Pickford’s hand and gave the Danes the upper hand.

An own goal by Danish captain Simon Kjaer – under pressure from Raheem Sterling – leveled England, but made no difference. The Danes stood upright, their legs squeaking and their lungs heaving. No team has gone through a more grueling tournament than Denmark; The fact that he’s still here after all he’s been through deserved a more exciting finale than this. He had no intention of going quietly; only in England, according to England, the Danes were the supporting action rather than the main plot.

On every block, every attack repulsed, every lost opportunity rekindled the memories of England; they could feel new scars starting to form. It looked like Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel had decided to launch a one-man campaign to break English hearts. The clock advanced relentlessly into overtime beyond the 90-minute mark. Of course it went to overtime. England always go to overtime.

But this time it would be different. Denmark’s weariness was so deep, so overwhelming, and England’s resources so rich that the punishments that haunted the dreams of the English were not as close as they seemed. The dam had to break at some point: Sterling was given a penalty, a leg that apparently clipped a heel, as he passed Joakim Maehle.

Even then, it couldn’t be simple. In the time it took for the video referee to confirm the decision, entire universes came to life and collapsed into themselves. Harry Kane stepped forward, knocking the ball down, but Schmeichel once again saved it as a final flashback to how things were, to what had happened before.

And then – after all, after the last 90 minutes and the last three weeks and Croatia and Iceland and Costa Rica and Bloemfontein and Wally and Brolly and Baden-Baden and the rest, into the mists of time, beyond Southgate and Chris Waddle and the Hand of God and all the pain and regrets of half a century – the moment has come.

He did it almost in slow motion, as if he was there to savor it, to make up for everything that had happened before. The ball went to Kane. Schmeichel was still trying to get up. Destination and country waited. And then it all went in the blink of an eye and Kane was slipping on his knees and his teammates were hugging him and Wembley was melting on and around him.

The painful years are not over. England has yet to gain anything. ItalyIt will certainly be the best, strongest team Southgate has faced in any of the two tournaments for which they are responsible.

But England came back with a grand final. Whatever this edition of the jersey means, it will be something different for generations to come. It could be a new form of pain. It could be something else, something that doesn’t need to be handled with irony. Either way, the same old cycle of suffering is ending. Maybe lightness can come from here.

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