Talking Tactics: How England reached first Euro semi in 25 years

Harry Maguire put England 2-0 up in Rome with a trademark thumping header
England reached their first European Championship semi-final in 25 years by cruising to a 4-0 win over Ukraine in Rome
In the Eternal City, Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions ensured they will join the immortals of England’s Euro 1996 side with a polished performance against plucky Ukraine.
Harry Kane opened the scoring inside five minutes, stretching to poke home Raheem Sterling’s defence-splitting pass.
Harry Maguire then doubled the lead within a minute of the restart with a trademark header before Kane nodded in England’s third after just 50 minutes.
Jordan Henderson got in on the act after 62 minutes, meeting Mason Mount’s corner with a flicked header to net his first goal for his country.
The Three Lions now face Denmark in the second semi-final, back at Wembley, on Wednesday.
Here are five talking points from a memorable night for England

Ja-done well

Southgate’s steadfast refusal to use Jadon Sancho less sparingly had been a bone of contention with England fans throughout these Championships.
But the Three Lions boss sprung a surprise by handing the soon-to-be Manchester United winger his first start of Euro 2020 in Rome.
Before tonight, Sancho had been limited to a 10-minute cameo against the Czech Republic on matchday three.
New Manchester United signing Jadon Sancho enjoyed a breakout display against Ukraine
Forced wide by Ukraine’s low, narrow block, England directed the majority of their play down the left-hand side rather than the right – particularly in the first half.
As a result, it was Luke Shaw and Raheem Sterling who provided England’s main threat.
Despite that, Sancho managed 10 carries of at least five metres – more than anyone on the field after 45 minutes.
He grew into the game and the sight of Sancho in full flow, leaving defenders in his wake, will be a welcome one for United and England fans alike.
By full time he had completed 12 dribbles (3rd overall) and more passes inside the penalty area (3) than anyone else.
For Southgate, it’s the cliched ‘nice headache to have’ with Sancho joining Sterling, Bukayo Saka and Jack Grealish in catching the eye from England’s wide areas at this tournament.

Player of the tournament?

England’s top scorer turned provider on the night, splitting Ukraine’s defensive line early on with an inch-perfect pass into Kane to convert.
Andriy Shevchenko’s side could not handle the Manchester City forward with no-one completing more successful actions inside the opposition box (6) in the first half.
Sterling’s assist for Kane was his sixth for the Tottenham forward on England duty – there has not been a more prolific combination for the Three Lions in the 21st century.
If the 26-year-old can keep this up, he has to be in contention for Player of the Tournament.

Shaw-footed

Luke Shaw completed more crosses against Ukraine than anyone else on the field
Although it was Kane who stole the headlines with a brace at the Stadio Olimpico, Shaw was the power behind the throne.
It was from England’s left-hand side that the majority of their threat emanated in the first half and, in the second half, that continued.
Shaw assisted the second and third goals, building on his cross for Kane’s clincher against Germany.
His first was an inviting free-kick into the middle which left Manchester United teammate Maguire needing only a firm contact to power home.
The second was a defter, clipped cross which Kane steered beyond Heorhiy Bushchan with minimal fuss – eerily similar to his last-16 goal against Germany.
Shaw’s attacking output might not catch the way in the same way Ben Chilwell does but he has made the England No3 shirt his own at these Championships.
By the end of the game, Shaw had completed more crosses (2) and more key attacking actions (3) than anyone else on the pitch.
Although he made his Three Lions debut seven years ago, tonight was only Shaw’s 14th cap.
You would suspect that number will only increase in the coming months and years.

Walker worry

If there was one slight negative from an England perspective, Kyle Walker was shaky – again.
Southgate’s faith in the Manchester City full-back is absolute. His understanding with John Stones on the inside of him only strengthens his position in this side.
But Walker, 31, has been short of his best at these Championships. When England have looked susceptible, it’s been down his side.
He was untidy in possession on a couple of occasions – as he had been against Croatia on matchday one – and if Denmark do not target his flank at Wembley on Wednesday they will have missed a trick.

Momentum building

England have steadily grown into the 2020 European Championships, showing greater attacking intent
The biggest criticism of England at this tournament has been that they have lacked conviction or attacking intent.
Victory over Germany soothed those concerns slightly but this win was England’s most emphatic at a major tournament in recent memory – Panama in 2018 aside.
Where they were meek in the group stages, the Three Lions roared through this tie making light work of a potentially difficult opponent.
England were relentless, pressing tirelessly – even once it was clear their semi-final place was safe.
Southgate’s side have performed when it mattered most, and they’re only getting better as these Euros progress.

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