Morning all and happy Thursday to you and yours. Last night I sat and watched the England v Denmark game and for the first time in my lifetime the country of my birthday is in a major international football tournament.
And this morning I’m realising just how big that is. 55 years have elapsed since England last got to any final worth talking about and now, on Sunday evening, the nation will be tuning in to see if Gareth Southgate’s team can make more history by beating Italy.
The Italians will probably be favourites and they probably should, because I think they are the better team and have the better form going in to the game, but for me it doesn’t matter too much; the fact that England are even there is an achievement and Southgate should soak it all up today, tomorrow and Saturday. He has gone one further than the World Cup three years ago and he should be proud. The nation certainly is.
And as Arsenal fans we also get to be doubly pleased too, because Bukayo Saka played a massive part in getting England there, with his excellent ball played in for Kjaer to slide in to his own net. Saka was once again impressive and perhaps I’m a little biased, but the pundits and commentary teams of ITV and BBC both made plenty of noise of Kane’s ball and Sterling putting pressure on the Danish defender, but it was Saka’s timed run and ball in that made it all possible.
In my completely biased opinion of course!
All-in-all last night was, unbelievably, a whole lot of fun and for the first time since I can remember I actually feel a sense of pride in being English. They were the deserved winners; Denmark looked to soak up pressure, try to hit on the counter and there were pockets of the game in which they had more possession. Pickford made a couple of saves – one of which was called offside anyway – but it was Kasper Schmeichel who was the busier ‘keeper and he made more saves, including a superb finger-tipper from a header at his far post, than the England ‘keeper and so I think that any neutral would have to admit that England were the better side.
The winning goal was pretty soft though. Only the faintest of touches and I thought VAR would rule against the ref’s decision to award the penalty, but England got away with it, as did Harry Kane with his pretty poor penalty itself. Perhaps you could argue it is a little harsh on the Dane’s and in a way I feel for them; after what happened in the first game I bet they were thinking that it was their destiny to get to the final and probably win it, against the odds like in 1992. But it wasn’t meant to be and it is the English who will be at Wembley in what is essentially a home game.
Is it coming home? I remain skeptical but this is the closest it’s ever been and at least there is that nice feeling.
I’ll leave the England stuff there for now I think. I’ve spent years telling myself, and you, how much I cannot stand international football but this tournament and the progression of England has inevitably got me swept up in the euphoria of it all. The nation will be smiling today. Wherever you go you’ll see signs of it and after the 18months we’ve all had, it’ll be nice for so many people to be positive for a change. Perhaps only for a couple of days, but those days are lovely.
From an Arsenal perspective there’s still not much going on. Lokonga is still a ‘any second now’, the Ben White situation is ‘edging closer’, as is the Saliba loan to Marseille. But not a lot else it seems. Come Monday we might start to hear more as the Euro’s will be over, but I don’t think it’ll all happen straight away, because there will still be bits and bobs to tie up even after the Euro’s.
The market will kick in to life though. That’s where I expect a few teams to start sniffing around our players and hopefully not Emile Smith Rowe! That continues to rumble along but plenty of people still seem to be confident on it. I just hope that confidence transfers into a signature on an Arsenal letterhead for Smith Rowe. We need him.
Anyway, that’s it from me today. Believe it or not I’m going to spend the day basking in the victory of England. Feels very odd to say that.
Catch you all tomorrow.