LONDON — After playing in two semifinals and losing both, England captain Harry Kane knows to be wary.
“We don’t have as a good as football history as we like to believe sometimes,” the striker said Tuesday.
It’s been 55 years since England even reached a final, winning its only World Cup title at Wembley Stadium in 1966. England is one step away from another final, however, facing Denmark in the European Championship semifinals on Wednesday.
“These players are making massive strides and breaking barriers all the time. We have broken barriers in this tournament and we have another opportunity to do that tomorrow,” Kane said. “We’ve never been to a European Championship final, so we can be the first.”
And they can do it by learning lessons from the previous semifinal setbacks — against Croatia at the 2018 World Cup and the Netherlands in the 2019 Nations League.
England coach Gareth Southgate reflected on the “two very different experiences” in those losses.
“The Croatia, it was the furthest we’ve been (since Euro ’96) and I think we would acknowledge we could have made changes during that game to improve the situation,” Southgate said.
“But equally, we weren’t as brave with the ball once we’d gone ahead. We went ahead so early in the game and so I think the tournament played out differently for us. Fatigue became a factor definitely in the second half. We’d had extra time in one of our matches prior to that, we’d had a very consistent team, so we are in a slightly different place in terms of the depth and strength of the squad now.”
In 2019, in the new UEFA competition, Southgate cited the disruption caused by Liverpool and Tottenham contesting the Champions League final just before the Nations League mini-tournament.
“We made errors through fatigue in extra time,” Southgate said. “So they were two different experiences but it’s given us the understanding of preparing for those big matches and what they feel like. And I think that’s part of a journey sometimes teams have to go through.”
At least England has avoided extra time in its five matches so far at Euro 2020. And also has not conceded a goal.
“We’ve never been to a final (as this group), so the pressure is what you choose it to be,” Southgate said. “I think it is a motivating thing, it is a challenge for us.
“If we were a country that had won five titles and had to match what had gone before I might feel differently, but we are not. Denmark have won it (in 1992), so maybe there is more pressure on Denmark to replicate that. But it is not the way we are viewing the game. We know it is about performing on the day.”