Gareth Southgate challenges players to create history and reach a major final with England after Ukraine victory

Gareth Southgate praised his England players for grasping the opportunity of making the Euro 2020 semi-finals but has challenged them to go even further.

Harry Kane scored twice as Ukraine were swept aside 4-0 in Rome, with Harry Maguire and substitute Jordan Henderson also on target.

After the drama of defeating Germany at a packed Wembley on Tuesday night, it was, in the end, a fairly straightforward evening for England at the Stadio Olimpico.

Gareth Southgate’s side have yet to concede a goal in the tournament so far, and will return home to face Denmark at Wembley.

Wednesday’s opponents may offer a sterner test than Ukraine provided, and an eventual final against Spain or Italy is obviously a tough ask, but if there were any doubts about England’s credentials, they were answered in Rome.

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Southgate said: “We didn’t want to take a backward step. We wanted to grasp this opportunity rather than just hope we might win or let fate have a chance to play its part. I thought the players were decisive and ruthless all night.

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“It’s fabulous. I suppose it’s still sinking in that it’s another semi-final – three in three years.

“We want to go two steps further. I know what will be happening at home. It’s lovely to see everyone on a Saturday night, beer in hand. They should enjoy it. It’s been a long year for everyone. I’m chuffed the two performances have brought so much happiness to people.

“It’s fabulous for our country – a semi-final at Wembley. Everyone can really look forward to that – it’s brilliant.

“We’re not satisfied. Tonight is another very enjoyable night for everybody but even before the end of the game, I was thinking about the next challenge. We have never been to a European Championship final. It’s another opportunity to make history.”

On a night where it was admittedly hard to pick just one outstanding player for England such was their impressive application, Luke Shaw shone down the left flank.

  • Player ratings: Kane fires to ignite England, Shaw outstanding

He was England’s most creative player, following up his lovely set-piece for Maguire’s goal with an even better cross for Kane’s second. He now has three assists in this tournament and England’s threat at set-pieces was yet again on full show.

Southgate said: “His [Shaw’s] performances have improved every game. He wasn’t with us for a long time until March, which was his first game in a few years. You usually play those games trying not to make mistakes rather than flourishing.

“He feels comfortable in the environment now and is comfortable in how we want to play. His delivery was great. We’ve talked a lot in the week about set-piece goals and we put more emphasis on it. It looked like we would be dangerous in training yesterday and usually that transfers into the game and that’s what happened.”

Kane: ‘Wembley will be incredible occasion’

Captain Harry Kane added: “It’s going to be incredible. What a moment for us as a team and a nation.

“A lot of us playing now won’t have the opportunity to have a big game like that at Wembley in a major tournament again. It’s there for us. It’s an opportunity for us and we have to grab it with both hands.

“We have to enjoy being in that environment. Coming off the back of the Germany game, the spirits were high and the stadium was rocking so hopefully we can use that energy again and really take the game to Denmark.”

Echoing Southgate’s sentiments, Kane continued: “We are on the right track but we’ve done nothing yet.

“We have a vision of where we want to be – and that is to win major tournaments – and we are taking it step-by-step.”

But the striker acknowledged: “It was the perfect night for us. We couldn’t have asked for a better night.”

What’s next?

England will play Denmark in the semi-finals of Euro 2020 on Wednesday at 8pm at Wembley.

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