England’s footballers are preparing to face Italy in the final of Euro 2020 on Sunday, knowing victory will earn them a first major tournament triumph for 55 years.
On a night of nerve-shredding tension, and then unconfined joy, Gareth Southgate’s side beat Denmark 2-1 in front of more than 50 000 ecstatic England fans at Wembley on Wednesday, to reach their first ever European Championship final.
Captain Harry Kane hit the winner in extra time to book a place against the Azzurri at Wembley. If England win, it will be their first major tournament victory since winning the World Cup in 1966.
The final whistle was greeted by scenes of jubilation and celebration in towns and cities across England.
“I’m just so pleased for our country,” Southgate said, who punched the air at the final whistle.
“We know what our country like others has been through and to continue that happiness and journey for anther four days, we’re so happy.”
England’s ecstatic players celebrated on the pitch in front of their fans at full-time by singing “Sweet Caroline”, which fans have been chanting throughout the tournament.
“It was mayhem on the pitch at full-time,” Southgate added. “As soon as Sweet Caroline was playing that was it.”
Former England striker Gary Lineker told BBC One: “It’s finally happened. I was doubting I’d ever see it again in my lifetime at one point.”
There was a surprise waiting for midfielder Declan Rice after the match. The West Ham star learned of the birth of his new niece, who arrived in the world at the exact moment Kane scored the winning goal.
Speaking to BBC Sport, a delighted Rice said: “My brother has literally had a baby as the second goal went in. He’s crying his eyes out, he’s had a little girl. It’s a special night all round!”
What is happening with tickets?
There will be at least 60 000 fans at Wembley for Sunday’s showcase final, although there are reports a full crowd of
90 000 could watch the match.
Tickets for the semi-final against Denmark were selling on social media for thousands of pounds on the eve of the game.
According to Uefa’s website, tickets available to the general public for the final have sold out.
Londoners are being offered the chance to see the final if they book a Covid-19 vaccination appointment. One pair of seats and 50 pairs for the fan zone in Trafalgar Square have been put up by the capital’s mayor, Sadiq Khan.
Covid-19 travel restrictions mean Italy’s supporters are unable to fly to England for the game.
However, UK-based Italian supporters who are fully vaccinated or can show proof of a negative lateral flow test from the previous 48 hours are allowed at Wembley.
Pubs have been given permission to stay open an extra 45 minutes until on Sunday, in case the final at Wembley goes to extra time and penalties.
A government spokesman said: “The entire nation’s been gripped by the Euros and this will allow people to enjoy the match in pubs if they wish to do so.”
Among the crowd were David Baddiel and Frank Skinner, who famously sang the unofficial England anthem Three Lions, with its familiar refrain “Football’s Coming Home”.
There were jubilant scenes elsewhere as fans kitted out in England football strips and costumes gathered in designated fan zones, pubs and bars on a historic night for the national team. — BBC Sport