“Don’t panic, Mr Southgate!”
In true Dad’s Army fashion, Steve Fletcher says England were rewarded for keeping their composure as they reached the final of the European Championship.
Fletcher was full of admiration for the way Gareth Southgate’s team responded to going behind to Denmark in Wednesday’s epic semi-final encounter.
Mikkel Damsgaard’s stunning free-kick put the Danes ahead before Simon Kjaer’s own goal ensured the teams would reach the break on level terms.
And England’s 55-year wait to reach a major men’s final ended when Harry Kane followed up to score the winner after his penalty had been saved in extra-time.
Writing in his latest Euro 2020 column, Fletcher said he felt the Three Lions had deserved to set up a date with Italy, the rivals doing battle at Wembley on Sunday.
Cherries’ appearance record holder Fletcher, whose grandfather Jack Howe was capped by England in the 1940s, has been penning his opinions for afcb.co.uk throughout the tournament.
We didn’t panic after Denmark had taken the lead and, ultimately, that’s what got us through.
I thought we started really well, we were bright, pressed them well and came out of the traps quickly. We smothered them and were on top in the early stages.
We were all over them for about 15 minutes and didn’t let them breathe. Denmark didn’t gain any momentum and the only downside was that we didn’t score in that period.
You are never going to be able to sustain that for 45 minutes never mind 90 and the pendulum swung a little after that.
Jordan Pickford made a couple of unforced errors and I felt that wobbled us a little. We were off it for a spell.
Although Denmark didn’t create a huge number of chances, apart from the goal, they looked very dangerous and our press was slightly off it.
They found pockets, received the ball in good areas and played some lovely one and two-touch football. They started to open us up a little and began building momentum.
I’m not sure our system suited us in that period. We had the back four, Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips dropping in to receive the ball too deep.
We had five or six players in our own half and Denmark just sat in a mid-press behind the halfway line.
That killed us because when we gave away the ball on the transition, they found the pockets around us. It played into their hands and we were too safe for the remainder of the first half.
It was a great strike for the goal but it was never a free-kick. If referees give free-kicks for a tiny bit of holding, they are going to give ten penalties every game because it happens all the time. It was very soft.
I thought Pickford was too far over, maybe a yard too much to his left. I know he got his fingertips to it but I thought his positioning was the reason the ball went in.
It wasn’t in the top corner, it was two yards inside the goal so I imagine he would have been disappointed and probably thought he should have done better.
But the good thing was we kept it together and you could see Harry Kane tell the players to keep calm and keep their composure and they did.
With it being the first goal we had conceded in the tournament, it was interesting to see how we would react.
I think the players knew that if they could stay in the game and not concede a second, they would always have a chance of getting back in it.
Equalising before half-time was huge.
Raheem Sterling was a constant threat all game. He was on it, driving at players, committing players and his run forced the error for the own goal.
If he hadn’t made that run from the cutback from Bukayo Saka, the defender would not have turned the ball into his own net. Although he didn’t get the final touch, you’ve got to give him all the plaudits.
Half-time came at a good time for us.
We started the second half really well and dominated. We were the ones pushing but, again, we didn’t capitalise on it.
England fans must have been thinking ‘here we go again’. The whole country must have been thinking it!
But our big players came to the fore in the second half. Kyle Walker was immense and his pace is incredible. Harry Maguire drove the team forward and was superb.
Kane was back to the Harry Kane we all know at club level. He held up the ball brilliantly, he brought other players into play, he dropped deep to link the play and was a threat in the opposition box.
We looked like the only team which was going to score in extra-time. Denmark were always a worry on the counter-attack but they were on the ropes and it was whether we could get the second goal.
Kasper Schmeichel must have been gutted with the penalty. He tried to smother the ball rather than push it away. It was perfect for a rebound.
It wasn’t a great penalty but, like any good penalty-taker, Kane followed in and got his rewards.
It was a great feeling.
I know Southgate made changes, bringing Jack Grealish on and then taking him off but it worked.
He wanted to keep the ball and have players who could drop back in with good energy. It was the right thing to do to have players on the pitch who were more defensively-minded.
It was the semi-final of a major tournament and we were winning 2-1 in extra-time. You are not going to stupidly commit players and try to get a third goal although we did have chances to kill the game off.
It’s natural that you try to protect what you’ve got and I thought we kept the ball brilliantly.
I’m sure there were times when everybody was screaming at the telly urging them to go for a third goal and we got into some great counter-attacking positions.
But the players used their heads. They took the ball to the corner flag and kept possession. Everyone had a touch. We had control and it was a great way to finish the game.
Did we deserve it?
Yes, 100 per cent.
We didn’t fire on all cylinders but you have to give credit to Denmark as well. They were a well-drilled outfit and worked really hard. They are a good nation and play football the right way.
It was fantastic to see the celebrations. It’s united the nation and brought everybody together.
Let’s just hope we can finish off the job by beating Italy on Sunday.