Not a single person in England will care but the perennial underachievers of world football have ended their major championship final drought in the most controversial of circumstances.
Gareth Southgate’s side will face Italy at Wembley on Monday in England’s first European Championship final after a match defined by questionable refereeing decisions.
In the first period of extra time, after England and Denmark finished regulation tied at 1-1, Raheem Sterling wove his way into the penalty box and went down under pressure from two defenders.
The referee ruled it a foul and pointed to the penalty spot, where Harry Kane had his shot blocked by Kasper Schmeichel but was first to the rebound and tucked away a game-winner that sent English fans crazy.
Raheem Sterling goes down under pressure from Mathias Jensen in the crucial moment. Joakim Maehle puts his hands up after making contact with Sterling’s leg. (Photo by Alex Morton – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
As celebrations began, attention turned immediately to the Sterling foul, which appeared to be committed by Joakim Maehle.
The reaction from some quarters was fierce.
“It’s a blatant dive,” said England international Didi Hamann. “I think it’s a disgraceful decision.”
Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger also declared it “no penalty” and couldn’t understand why VAR wasn’t used.
“No one knows who gave away that penalty,” added Socceroos legend John Aloisi said on Optus Sport. “Was there enough contact? I don’t think there was . in my opinion, it wasn’t a penalty.”
Defend, defend, defend, win a few cheap fouls and go through on a dodgy penalty. The most Italian team in the tournament meets Italy in the final.
Well done England for reaching a first final in 55 years. Happy for Southgate who is one of football’s good guys.
Crushed for Denmark. A semi final of a major tournament should never be decided with such a non-existent penalty #ENGDEN
But Sterling said the foul on him that led to England’s winning goal was a “clear penalty”.
“I went into the box and he stuck his right leg out, and it touched my leg so it was a clear penalty,” Sterling told ITV.
Kane agreed. “I thought it was a penalty,” said Kane. “I thought I should’ve had a penalty in the second half as well. It probably evened itself out over the game.”
This vision backed their claims contact was made.
The “VAR output” was an even better angle – but this will have to do. Sterling’s right leg clipped by #5 Maehle (not the 2nd Dane) His right leg collects Sterling’s right leg just below knee height. The defender knows he’s made the mistake too. #whoops#penalty#ENGDENpic.twitter.com/0ehbr5hDnL
Sterling hailed his team’s ability to recover from Mikkel Damsgaard’s 30th minute opener to keep its trophy hopes alive.
“It was a top performance – we had to dig in deep after the first goal we conceded in the tournament, and we regrouped well and showed a good team spirit to come back and win the game,” he said.
“It was difficult going behind but we knew we had to stay patient – we knew with the legs we’ve got, the aggressiveness and the power we have in the team, it would be a matter of time before we broke them down.”
England reached their first major final since winning the 1966 World Cup, with Sterling a standout performer once more for Gareth Southgate’s side at Wembley.
There were some superb performances. All the back 4 were outstanding, and as for @sterling7, well, that was one of the greatest displays I’ve seen from a player in an @England shirt. Stunning.
“It’s another step in the right direction,” said Sterling.
“But once we’re back in the dressing room it’s over and we’ve got to focus on the weekend now. It’s step-by-step and that’s all we can do.”
As ever, England did it the hard way but by the final whistle 60,000 fans were bouncing in ecstasy, while millions watching on television across the country pinched themselves in disbelief.
England hero Harry Kane is under there somewhere. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
– with AFP
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