England qualified for the Euro 2020 semi-finals on Saturday with a thumping 4-0 win over Ukraine in Rome and will return home to face Denmark for a shot at a first major title since the 1966 World Cup.
AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from the quarter-final at the Stadio Olimpico.
Kane finds form at key moment
Unlike at the 2018 World Cup when he won the Golden Boot on the back of five goals in the group stage before fading as the tournament wore on, Harry Kane appears to hitting his stride just as England need him. Gareth Southgate sensibly resisted calls to drop his captain, publicly backing last season’s Premier League top scorer after a sluggish start to the group stage. Linked with a move to Manchester City last month, the 27-year-old has drowned out the chatter about his future to lead England to a second straight semi-final. After a pressure-relieving goal against Germany, Kane’s predatory instincts were on full display against Ukraine — the Tottenham star prodding England ahead early before killing off the tie with a header just after half-time. He nearly completed a hat-trick but a superb left-foot volley was brilliantly saved by Georgiy Bushchan.
Blistering Shaw cements left-back slot
An unused substitute in the opening game against Croatia, Luke Shaw has followed on from an excellent season at Manchester United to nail down the left-back position for his country. Six years on from a horrific double leg fracture, he is enjoying the form of his life after being recalled to the England squad in March for the first time since 2018. Driving forward with regularity and combining with England’s star man of Euro 2020, Raheem Sterling, down the left, Shaw’s two assists at the start of the second half helped put England beyond reach. His free-kick picked out Harry Maguire for the second goal, making an overlapping run to cross for Kane minutes later — a fitting riposte to Jose Mourinho’s recent criticism of his set-pieces.
England remove the handbrake in style
Steady rather than spectacular was an accurate description of England’s first four outings of the tournament, the highlight undoubtedly a first knockout tie win over Germany in 55 years. But with a glut of attacking options in the squad, England finally rounded into something resembling top gear against a porous Ukraine defence. Jadon Sancho enjoyed some bright moments on his first start of the competition, while Mason Mount curled in the corner for Jordan Henderson to head in his first England goal as the Chelsea midfielder returned to the line-up after being forced to self-isolate. Sterling threatened on numerous occasions, with Kane leading the line as expected in a comprehensive victory that will raise expectations as they head back to Wembley.