England are preparing to face Denmark in the semi-finals of Euro 2020 at Wembley on Wednesday, knowing victory will secure them a place in a major men’s tournament final for the first time since 1966.
Gareth Southgate’s side will face Italy in Sunday’s final if they defeat the Danes in front of around 60,000 mostly England fans at Wembley.
Millions more are expected to cheer the Three Lions on from home, in pubs and designated fan parks after a peak TV audience of 20.9 million watched them cruise past Ukraine 4-0 in the quarter-finals last Saturday.
“We don’t have as good a football history as we like to believe sometimes,” said Southgate. “These players are making massive strides and breaking down barriers all the time.
“We have never been to a European Championship final so we can be the first England team to do that which is really exciting.”
Travel restrictions imposed by the UK to curb the spread of coronavirus means fans based in Denmark will not be able to cheer on their team at Wembley.
Instead some 6,000 tickets for the semi-final have been made available to Danes living in the UK. The Danish FA has sent 1,000 jerseys and other red and white merchandise to London for fans attending.
England, who have never won the European Championship, are looking to reach a first major tournament final for 55 years.
They have appeared in five previous World Cup or European Championship semi-finals but only advanced once.
However, there is mounting excitement – and hope has turned to expectation – that Southgate’s side can deliver a first major tournament triumph since the 1966 World Cup.
Cars and homes are decked out with England flags while pubs have been given permission to stay open an extra 45 minutes until 23:15 BST on Sunday, in case the final at Wembley, which kicks-off at 20:00, goes to extra time and penalties.
Meanwhile, England supporters have been serenading their team through the tournament with chants of ‘Football’s Coming Home’, the anthem that first became popular when the Three Lions reached the Euro 96 semi-finals.
Asked what it would mean to ruin England’s dreams of Euro glory, Denmark keeper Kasper Schmeichel said: “Has it ever been home? I don’t know. Have you ever won it?”
But England captain Harry Kane said the team was in a strong position to put that right.
“He’s right in terms it hasn’t ‘come home’ in this competition for us,” said Kane. “We know if we can get it right then it should be enough to get us over the line.”