Didier Deschamps insists he has no concerns over the atmosphere in the France camp after his side's winless run continued with a 1-1 draw against Ukraine. 

Les Blues suffered a shock Euro 2020 exit at the last-16 stage in June following defeat to Switzerland on penalties and have now drawn five games in a row for the first time ever. 

France's latest underwhelming performance came in Kiev on Saturday as Anthony Martial's first international goal in five years cancelled out Mykola Shaparenko's excellent opener. 

However, the reigning world champions are still in a strong position to qualify for Qatar 2022 and Deschamps has refuted suggestions there are some issues behind the scenes. 

"You have external impressions which are not the same as from the inside," he told Telefoot. "There really is no problem on this side of things. 

"I can assure you the group is concentrated, even if we are in a period with less success. Everything is linked in terms of confidence and success." 

Despite having 61.5 per cent of the ball and managing 16 shots, five of which were on target, Deschamps' men could not find a winning goal. 

France have now conceded the opening goal in five consecutive matches, their longest such run since the days of Raymond Domenech from November 2009 to June 2010. 

"The opponents offer us the same pattern in front of goal with group blocks," Deschamps added.  

"We have the annoying habit of chasing after the score now. There are times like that, you have to accept it." 

 

France are four points clear of second-placed Finland in Group D, though their next opponents have two games in hand. 

Ahead of Tuesday's clash between the sides in Lyon, France striker Karim Benzema accepts it is down to him and his team-mates to take the game to Finland if they are to return to winning ways. 

"There is nothing to worry about," he told Telefoot. "We have to set the pace and manage our efforts. It is up to us to set the speed.  

"If we keep the ball behind, we have to play fast and vertical passes to hurt the opponent. We have the players needed for that. We can't fall into the pace set by the opponent. 

"We need to enter the field with the desire to win." 

The match at Groupama Stadium will be an emotional occasion for Benzema, who spent 12 years at Lyon before joining Real Madrid in 2009. 

"It's very special. I have not yet played in this stadium," Benzema said. "Coming back to my city, where it all began for me, is special." 

Didier Deschamps insists he has no concerns over the atmosphere in the France camp after his side's winless run continued with a 1-1 draw against Ukraine. 

Les Blues suffered a shock Euro 2020 exit at the last-16 stage in June following defeat to Switzerland on penalties and have now drawn five games in a row for the first time ever. 

France's latest underwhelming performance came in Kiev on Saturday as Anthony Martial's first international goal in five years cancelled out Mykola Shaparenko's excellent opener. 

However, the reigning world champions are still in a strong position to qualify for Qatar 2022 and Deschamps has refuted suggestions there are some issues behind the scenes. 

"You have external impressions which are not the same as from the inside," he told Telefoot. "There really is no problem on this side of things. 

"I can assure you the group is concentrated, even if we are in a period with less success. Everything is linked in terms of confidence and success." 

Despite having 61.5 per cent of the ball and managing 16 shots, five of which were on target, Deschamps' men could not find a winning goal. 

France have now conceded the opening goal in five consecutive matches, their longest such run since the days of Raymond Domenech from November 2009 to June 2010. 

"The opponents offer us the same pattern in front of goal with group blocks," Deschamps added.  

"We have the annoying habit of chasing after the score now. There are times like that, you have to accept it." 

 

France are four points clear of second-placed Finland in Group D, though their next opponents have two games in hand. 

Ahead of Tuesday's clash between the sides in Lyon, France striker Karim Benzema accepts it is down to him and his team-mates to take the game to Finland if they are to return to winning ways. 

"There is nothing to worry about," he told Telefoot. "We have to set the pace and manage our efforts. It is up to us to set the speed.  

"If we keep the ball behind, we have to play fast and vertical passes to hurt the opponent. We have the players needed for that. We can't fall into the pace set by the opponent. 

"We need to enter the field with the desire to win." 

The match at Groupama Stadium will be an emotional occasion for Benzema, who spent 12 years at Lyon before joining Real Madrid in 2009. 

"It's very special. I have not yet played in this stadium," Benzema said. "Coming back to my city, where it all began for me, is special." 

Hugo Lloris told France to put the "euphoria" of their World Cup triumph firmly behind them following another disappointing performance against Ukraine.

Les Bleus were held to a 1-1 draw in Kiev on Saturday in their latest qualifier for Qatar 2022, meaning they have now drawn five matches in a row for the first time in their history.

Anthony Martial's first international goal in five years cancelled out Mykola Shaparenko's excellent opener but, despite having 61.5 per cent of the ball, Didier Deschamps' men could not create enough meaningful chances to find a winner.

Substitute Moussa Diaby hit the post, but only five of France's 16 shots were on target, as they made it five games in a row in Kiev without a victory.

Lloris thinks his side need to put their 2018 triumph in the past if they are to get their qualifying campaign for next year's finals on track.

"There was a lack of commitment, of aggressiveness. The euphoria of the 2018 World Cup is over," he told M6.

"We're feeling a little lack of confidence. There's also a lot of development in terms of players, but it's up to everyone to increase their level of performance.

"We must remain positive and make a success of the start of the match against Finland."

Deschamps felt there was an improvement to France's display in the second half, although he was frustrated at their inability to create opportunities.

"It was much better in the second half after the scene in the first where we could have opened the scoring and, in the following minute, we were behind," he said.

"The sequence of matches is difficult, but it's not an excuse. Of the 11 who started, many had never played together.

"You can always do better against a very tight opponent. You need a little more accuracy and movement. We had the ball but we must be able to create a few more chances."

Anthony Martial was delighted to end his long goal drought for France despite their failure to beat Ukraine in Saturday's World Cup qualifier.

Les Bleus were held to a 1-1 draw in Kiev, meaning they have now drawn five consecutive matches in all competitions for the first time in their history.

With Kylian Mbappe having been allowed to return to Paris Saint-Germain, Martial partnered Antoine Griezmann in attack for France, who drew with Bosnia-Herzegovina by the same scoreline last time out.

The Manchester United forward missed a great chance to break the deadlock, his shot saved by Andriy Pyatov following Paul Pogba's throughball. To compound his frustrations, Ukraine launched a counter-attack that ended in a sublime opening goal from Mykola Shaparenko.

That miss took Martial to 28 consecutive shots for the national team without scoring, but he fared better with his 29th, a half-volley from six yards out too much for Pyatov to keep out.

Martial's only previous France goal was in a 3-1 friendly win over Italy in September 2016, and the 25-year-old admitted it had been a frustrating wait.

He has now set his sights on beating Finland next week, a result that would go a long way towards solidifying France's place at the top of Group D.

 

"It's true that it feels good to score, especially after such a long period. It's been a long time!" he told M6.

"It was a difficult game for us, but we were able to come back to score, and that's the most important thing.

"We have one game left before the end of the international break, and we'll have to win it.

"I tried to slip it through the legs of the keeper but, unfortunately, he saved it. And then, they score at the other end.

"We were all disappointed, but we were able to come back and we will do the job against Finland."

Anthony Martial scored just his second goal for France as the world champions were held to a 1-1 draw by Ukraine in World Cup qualifying.

Mykola Shaparenko's sublime strike had put the home side in front just before half-time, but Martial forced home an equaliser five minutes after the restart.

Substitute Moussa Diaby hit the post as Les Bleus toiled in vain to find a winner, with Didier Deschamps' men having now drawn five matches in a row in all competitions.

France were winless in four games in Kiev heading into this contest and there was little that was confident about their early play, Antoine Griezmann flashing a shot wide with one of his few openings.

Ukraine looked more dangerous on the break and Andriy Yarmolenko spurned a good chance when his header was saved by Hugo Lloris.

The breakthrough came just before half-time. Martial was denied by Andriy Pyatov after being played in by Paul Pogba, and the home side broke forward, Roman Yaremchuk's cross was cleared by Kurt Zouma to Shaparenko on the edge of the box, and he swept a stylish first-time strike high past Lloris.

Martial's miss took him to 28 consecutive shots without scoring for France, but he had more luck with his next attempt. Adrien Rabiot's header dropped kindly for the Manchester United forward, whose half-volley from six yards was too powerful for Pyatov to keep out.

Diaby skipped into space after good work from Benzema but his low strike clattered off the base of the right-hand post, before Pogba tried his luck with a long-range strike that Pyatov held, as the visitors toiled to no further avail.


What does it mean? France solid but unspectacular in qualifying

France have nine points from five matches in Group D, giving them a five-point lead at the top having played two more matches than second-place Finland.

The world champions are unbeaten in qualifying for Qatar 2022 and remain in a good position, but there is growing concern around their uninspiring performances.

France's five successive draws include three games at Euro 2020, where after a 3-3 draw with Switzerland in the last 16 they lost a penalty shoot-out.

Ukraine are third in the World Cup group, having drawn all five of their games.

Pogba pulling the strings

Almost all of France's good work came through Pogba, who attempted a huge 66 passes in the Ukraine half as he tried to pick through a resolute defence.

There was little creativity aside from the United midfielder, which explained his ambitious shot as the clock began to tick down.

Can the rescue act continue?

France have conceded the opening goal in five consecutive matches, their longest such run since the days of Raymond Domenech from November 2009 to June 2010.

There is over a year to go until Qatar 2022, but France at the moment appear to be limping their way towards defending their crown.

What's next?

France host Finland in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday, with Ukraine heading to the Czech Republic for a friendly a day later.

France head coach Didier Deschamps has opened up about the decision to let Kylian Mbappe return to Paris Saint-Germain after sustaining a minor injury.

Mbappe was taken off in the closing stages of Les Blues' 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw with Bosnia-Herzegovina on Wednesday with a calf problem.

The French Football Federation announced on Thursday that Mbappe had been granted permission to leave the camp ahead of the games with Ukraine on Saturday and Finland on Tuesday.

The 22-year-old's injury is not considered serious, but Deschamps was not willing to take any risks by using the prolific forward in France's next two matches.

"I'll be clear about this. Kylian felt something late in the game," Deschamps said at a news conference on Friday.

"We have done all the tests. The recovery period is very short and a muscle problem was ruled out, but an issue persists.

"It is an injury he had with his club in May. He felt the same pain and missed the second leg against Manchester City in the Champions League.

"I felt there was no possibility he could be used before Tuesday so didn't see the point in keeping him."

Despite fielding Mbappe in a front three with Antoine Griezmann and Karim Benzema, France were held by Bosnia-Herzegovina in Wednesday's Group D clash.

That was Les Blues' first match since exiting Euro 2020 at the hands of Switzerland in the last-16 stage, but Deschamps is not worried about his side's form ahead of facing Ukraine in Kiev.

"I have enough experience to know how the qualifiers work," Deschamps said. "The result against Bosnia was not what we wanted, but we are in the best possible place. I am calm and serene."

France are top of their group, four points better off than second-placed Ukraine, who have drawn all four matches.

"With four matches to play, Ukraine are behind us in the table. A win would consolidate our position, but the Ukrainians also want to win," Deschamps added.

"We'll go into the match with the same intentions as we did against Bosnia. Every match is important and tomorrow's in particular."

France striker Kylian Mbappe has been granted permission to return to Paris Saint-Germain after suffering a right calf injury.  

Mbappe will miss the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Ukraine on Saturday and Finland on Tuesday as a result. 

The French Football Federation confirmed that no replacement would be called up.  

Mbappe was taken off in the closing stages of France’s 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw with Bosnia-Herzegovina on Wednesday. 

Despite the draw, Les Bleus sit top of Group D, four points clear of their next opponents Ukraine with four games remaining.  

The 22-year-old will hope to recover in time to return to league action for his club against Clermont on September 11. 

Andriy Shevchenko has left his role as head coach of Ukraine after a five-year spell in charge following the expiration of his contract.

The 44-year-old stepped up from his position as assistant to take over the Ukraine senior side in July 2016.

After missing out on qualification for the 2018 World Cup, Shevchenko guided his country to the delayed Euro 2020 finals, where they reached the last eight for the first time in their history.

However, the legendary former Milan striker announced on Sunday that he will not be extending his contract to stay on as Ukraine boss.

"Today, my contract with the Ukrainian Football Association came to the [sic] end," he posted on Instagram. "I spent five years with the national team. 

"It was hard work that proved that we are capable of playing modern football. I am grateful to the president and the executive committee of the UAF for the opportunity to work with the Ukrainian National team.

"I am thankful to every player, every person who helped and was involved in the team. Many thanks to all the fans for their support and criticism.

"Together, we managed to show that our football can be competitive, productive and exciting. With faith in Ukraine."

Ukraine advanced as one of the best third-placed finishers in the group stage of Euro 2020 and beat Sweden 2-1 after extra time in the last 16.

However, their campaign was ended in the next round with a resounding 4-0 defeat to eventual runners-up England.

Gareth Southgate is daring to dream of lifting the European Championship trophy at Wembley after England thrashed Ukraine 4-0 to reach their first semi-final in 25 years.

A couple of goals from Harry Kane and one apiece for Harry Maguire and substitute Jordan Henderson earned the Three Lions a routine win at Stadio Olimpico on Saturday.

It is just the second time England have scored four goals in a knockout match of a major tournament, the other instance being the 1966 World Cup final against West Germany.

That was the last occasion England reached the final of a major competition, while only three times since then have they made it as far as the semi-finals.

After losing on penalties to Germany at Italia '90 and Euro 1996, as well as to Croatia in extra time at the last World Cup, Southgate is hoping for a different outcome this time around.

"It's fabulous for our country - a semi-final at Wembley," Southgate, who missed the decisive penalty in the 1996 shoot-out defeat to Germany, told BBC Sport. 

"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.

"I suppose it's still sinking in that it's another semi-final. Everyone can really look forward to that – it's brilliant. We want to go two steps further than last time."

 

Denmark stand between England and the final after overcoming the Czech Republic 2-1 in Saturday's other quarter-final in Baku.

Southgate will be just the second manager to take charge of England in the semi-final of both the World Cup and the European Championship, after Alf Ramsey in 1966 and 1968. 

"It is an absolute honour to be in that company," Southgate said. "It's lovely to be able to get the results that are putting our country on the football map again."

Southgate reverted to a back four against Ukraine and brought in Mason Mount and Jadon Sancho, the latter making his first start of the tournament.

The England boss now has some big selection calls to make for the semi-final with Denmark, but he is more concerned about which three players miss out on the squad entirely.

"I'm spending more energy worrying about the three I have to leave out because they're all good players," he said. "None of them deserve to be left out. 

"They're all giving everything in training. None of it is because I don't think they're up to the level but we have to make the decisions. 

"We have to make the right call for the right game with the right system. All of the players have been brilliant. Tonight all the way through the group they've been fantastic."

Ukraine were competing in just their second major tournament quarter-final, but the demands of their extra-time win over Sweden on Tuesday seemingly took their toll.

The Blue and Yellow enjoyed a spell on top at the end of the first half, though they ultimately only managed a couple of attempts on target in what was a one-sided contest. 

Three of England's goals came from headers and Andriy Shevchenko, though pleased with his side's run to the last eight, acknowledged that aspect of his side's game let them down.

"I think small details played a key role in the game," he said at his post-match news conference. "We didn't cope well with the high balls. England have a big advantage in that area.

"But in general we played our football; we didn't turn our back on our principles. We tried to put up a good fight against this opposition, but this mountain turned out to be too big for us to climb. 

"It's probably a bit too early for us to be climbing mountains like that. The guys did everything they could, and I want to thank them for that today."

Denmark and England have joined Italy and Spain in the semi-finals of Euro 2020, with the Czech Republic and Ukraine sent packing following their respective defeats.

England seemed to back up pre-tournament suggestions of them being among the favourites when they dumped Germany out in the last 16, and they picked up where they left off to make light work of Ukraine.

It was a slightly trickier occasion for Denmark in Baku earlier in the day, though ultimately the efforts of Patrik Schick weren't enough for the Czechs as they failed to emulate the 2004 vintage that reached the last four.

Following the conclusion of the quarter-finals, Stats Perform looks at the key data takeaways from Saturday's action.

 

Ukraine 0-4 England: Record-breaking Three Lions ruthless in big win

The odds were stacked against Ukraine ahead of this clash in Rome, but even the most ardent England fans probably wouldn't have predicted such a comprehensive win.

England quickly had the advantage as Raheem Sterling sliced open the defence and fed Harry Kane to open the scoring with three minutes and 32 seconds played, their earliest Euros goal since 2004 (2:25).

Ukraine may have taken some encouragement from the fact England's previous record when scoring in the first four minutes of a Euros game equated to no wins from five matches, but the game was effectively put beyond them within a four minutes of the restart – Harry Maguire and Kane nodding home Luke Shaw deliveries.

 

The Manchester United full-back reached three assists for the tournament in the process, tying an England record for a single European Championship (David Beckham, Euro 2000), while Kane's second of the game means he is level with Alan Shearer on nine major-tournament goals for the Three Lions, behind only Gary Lineker (10).

Jordan Henderson then completed the scoring off the bench with his first senior goal on his 62nd appearance, the longest ever wait by a player before breaking their duck for the Three Lions.

Ukraine's inability to breach the England defence meant the Three Lions have now kept seven successive clean sheets for the first time in their history.

But most impressively of all, this was England's biggest-ever win at the Euros and largest victory in the knockouts of any major tournament.

 

Czech Republic 1-2 Denmark: Schick ties with Ronaldo but Danes seal historic semi-final

Given their run in Euro 2020 has come against the backdrop of Christian Eriksen's health emergency on matchday one, it's little wonder Denmark have seemingly become the neutrals' favourites.

They moved a step close to emulating their remarkable Euro 92 success as they edged past the Czech Republic. Their 29-year gap between Euros semi-finals is the longest ever by a single nation in the competitions.

They prevailed despite the efforts of Patrik Schick. The striker got the Czechs back into the encounter with a tidy second-half finish that made him only the fourth player to score five goals in a single major tournament for Czech Republic/Czechoslovakia, also drawing him level with Cristiano Ronaldo in the race for the golden boot.

 

Earlier, though, Denmark had enjoyed a great start as Thomas Delaney headed in Denmark's second-earliest Euros goal (4:52) to level the country's all-time record for goals (10) at a single major tournament.

That record was then broken just before the break. Kasper Dolberg became Denmark's joint-top scorer in Euros history (three) with the effort that proved decisive, though Joakim Maehle's assist got most of the attention.

His outside-of-the-boot cross took him to three goal involvements (two goals, one assist) in his past three Denmark games, more than in his other 12.

Denmark certainly didn't have it all their own way, with the Czechs' 16 shots more than they managed in any other Euro 2020 game, but Kasper Hjulmand's men held firm to secure their passage to Wembley.

 

 

Harry Maguire talked up the belief in the England camp and said his side will not settle with reaching a first European Championship semi-final in 25 years.

The Three Lions eased to a 4-0 win over Ukraine in Saturday's semi-final at the Stadio Olimpico to set up a showdown with Denmark at Wembley on Wednesday.

England lost their most recent semi-final appearance in the competition on penalties to Germany in 1996, while also losing at that stage to Croatia in the 2018 World Cup.

On the back of that extra-time disappointment at the hands of Croatia three years ago, Maguire is desperate to go one better this time around with victory against Denmark.

"It's a great feeling. Back-to-back semi-finals at a major tournament is a great achievement," Maguire, who scored the second of England's four goals, told BBC Sport. 

"I don't want to be a party pooper. We have another big game coming up. We want to go further this time than at the World Cup. 

"It is a great feeling that we are here and the way we have done it shows the progress we are making. Long may the improvement continue.

"It is hard to soak it up when you have another big game coming and you know who you are playing and when. 

"There's a great atmosphere in the dressing room, but we will wake up tomorrow and be focused again. This group are not settling for a semi-final, we want to go further."

 

Harry Kane opened the scoring for England inside the first four minutes – the Three Lions' earliest European Championship goal since Michael Owen against Portugal in 2004.

England endured a difficult period at the end of the first half after Andriy Shevchenko tweaked Ukraine's system, but Maguire scored 55 seconds into the second half to settle nerves.

Kane's second of the match four minutes later put the game out of Ukraine's reach and substitute Jordan Henderson rounded off the routine win with a fourth just after the hour.

It is only the second time England have scored four goals in a major tournament knockout game, the other instance being the 1966 World Cup final against West Germany.

"We have great belief in the dressing room," Maguire added. "The first half was tough. We got the early goal we wanted but they caused us problems with their change of shape. 

"The second goal settled us down a lot and from there we controlled the game. The third and fourth were deserved on the night. It was an impressive performance. 

"We spoke about being better on attacking set-plays. We hadn't scored one before the two tonight. It's nice to chip in with a goal but the main thing is the victory."

 

Kane's double made it three for the striker at Euro 2020 and nine in major tournaments for England, moving him level with Alan Shearer and behind only Gary Lineker (10).

The Tottenham star finished as the Golden Boot winner at the 2018 World Cup, but he is hopeful of a different outcome to that semi-final heartbreak this time around.

"What a great performance in a big game," he told BBC Sport. "We were favourites, there was a lot of pressure and a lot of expectations. The performance was top-drawer. 

"We set out a vision before the tournament of what we want to achieve. We're knocking it off step by step. The World Cup was great but we fell short, and in the Nations League.

"Now it's about getting over the line, the next step that we have got to do on Wednesday."

England have kept five clean sheets in a row from the start of the tournament, something only Italy in 1990 have previously managed at a World Cup or Euros.

But Kane is not getting too carried away ahead of facing Denmark, 2-1 winners over the Czech Republic in Friday's other quarter-final, on home soil next week.

"Another clean sheet, four goals, it was a perfect night for us," he said. "We're building on [clean sheets]. 

"We have a great unit here from front to back. It's a vital part of winning games and tournaments. The job is not done yet. There's a lot more football to play."

Throw them to the lions!

England's bloodlust was dramatically sated in Rome's modern sporting colosseum as Ukraine were ruthlessly torn apart, victims of such savagery that might make an emperor think he could soon rule Europe.

Four-nil, and even Jordan Henderson scored. England doubled their goals haul for Euro 2020 and have still yet to concede. This is Italian-like behaviour by the Three Lions. Where was the drama, where was the pain? This team rarely make it easy for themselves but here they trampled all over the opposition.

Goodness knows what Denmark made of it all, given they are next in line.

Home advantage at Wembley seemed to serve Gareth Southgate's players well in their early games at this tournament, and being taken out of that comfort zone triggered all sorts of concerns. If goals had been hard to come by at home, then would this be one of those nights of England toil, where perhaps they might grind out something ugly and winning but perhaps their bubble might burst too? Would it all end miserably, probably on penalties in that great English tradition.

By the time substitute Henderson nodded Mason Mount's corner past Georgi Bushchan for the fourth goal of the night, any such concerns had long been banished.

The Liverpool captain's first senior England goal arrived on his 62nd appearance. Of all England's goalscorers in their history, nobody has waited longer for that magical moment. Sol Campbell had been the previous holder of that curious record, scoring his first in his 47th appearance.

It was a third headed goal of the night, England now Europe's masters at using their noggins, netting 10 headers across this campaign and their 2018 World Cup semi-final run, where no other European side has managed more than four.

This team plays some beautiful football on the floor, with Jadon Sancho coming into the England ranks for this game and looking like he had been playing there all throughout this run, which will come as good news to Manchester United. Raheem Sterling's winding run and super throughball for Harry Kane to prod the fourth-minute opener was typical of this new England.

 

"I think rotations in the forward area for this team is so important," Rio Ferdinand said on the BBC at half-time. "People that run off the ball, run people away – it's not there for the naked eye sometimes, but it's people who are running people away, opening space and creating space."

Alan Shearer chipped in too: "Everyone's on the same wavelength, everyone wants the ball, backing each other up. It's really, really intelligent, exciting play."

But England do not eschew the direct stuff; Luke Shaw with a free-kick bang into the heart of the penalty area to set up Harry Maguire for the thumping 46th-minute header that made it 2-0, sparking joyous celebration.

And then Shaw with the delicious cross to give Kane the chance to nod England three clear just four minutes later.

Shaw, it should be said, was exceptional.

In the stadium where Jose Mourinho will resume his coaching career in the new Serie A season, as boss of Roma, Shaw provided the perfect response to his former Manchester United manager's recent criticism.

Mourinho reckoned Shaw's set-piece delivery in England's group game against the Czech Republic had been "dramatically bad", but even the Portuguese might shrink from picking any holes in this display.

It was remarkable that Kane finished as the Premier League's top scorer in Mourinho's muddle of a Tottenham side last season, and absurd that a couple of so-so performances for England early in this tournament should have led to doubt being cast on his place in Southgate's team.

He now has three goals in Euro 2020 and nine major tournament strikes across his England career, one behind all-time leader Gary Lineker.

Kane almost reached 10 in Rome, lashing a brilliant volley that was beaten away by Bushchan for the corner from which Henderson scored.

History told us that this game would go to penalties – all three of England's previous European Championship quarter-finals had.

Yet new England have little respect for anything that history might dictate, and now Wembley awaits them on Wednesday. England return home as heroes.

"It's the hope that kills you," Lineker joked on the BBC. To any English person used to failure, this all feels too good to be true.

But as Southgate said, teeing up the Denmark game moments later: "Everybody can really look forward to that, it's brilliant."

Harry Kane scored twice as England eased to a 4-0 victory over Ukraine at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday to set up a Euro 2020 semi-final with Denmark on home soil.

England were riding the crest of a wave after beating Germany in the last 16 and, in their first game away from Wembley this tournament, took the lead inside four minutes when Raheem Sterling played in Kane.

That was England's earliest European Championship goal since Michael Owen against Portugal in 2004 and the Three Lions added two more quickfire goals to their tally in the first five minutes of the second half through Harry Maguire and Kane.

Substitute Jordan Henderson's first international goal gave Gareth Southgate further reason to cheer as his side kept their fifth clean sheet in a row from the start of the tournament, something only Italy have previously managed at a World Cup or Euros.

Sterling and Kane scored in England's last-16 win against Germany and the pair combined for their side's early opener in Rome, the Manchester City winger threading the ball through for his team-mate to poke past Georgi Bushchan.

England had failed to win any of the previous five European Championship games in which they had scored in the opening four minutes and they were given a warning when Jordan Pickford was tested by a Roman Yaremchuk strike.

The Three Lions continued to dominate possession but their only other on-target attempt of the first half came via a powerful Declan Rice drive that was routinely dealt with by Bushchan.

Ukraine were making just their second quarter-final appearance at a major tournament and ended the opening period on top, though they found themselves further behind 55 seconds into the second half when Maguire headed home.

Luke Shaw set up that goal and also played in the cross that Kane headed through the legs of Bushchan for England's third, effectively killing off the contest with 40 minutes to play in the Italian capital.

England continued to search for goals and Henderson, just six minutes after replacing Rice, made the most of some terrible Ukraine defending to head in a fourth for Southgate's side, who had little trouble in seeing out the win.

Gareth Southgate has a reputation for matter-of-fact sincerity in news conferences but it felt like even he was laying it on a little thick last October.

Luke Shaw was fit and a fixture in Manchester United's first team but had ticked past two years without an England call-up.

For Nations League matches against Belgium and Denmark and a friendly versus Wales, Ben Chilwell was unavailable. Southgate selected and split left wing-back duties between Kieran Trippier, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Bukayo Saka – none of whom are specialists in the position.

"The door is certainly open," he replied when asked about Shaw's seemingly dwindling prospects.

"I don't think we've ever closed the door on any player - and we certainly wouldn't on Luke.

"He's more than capable of being the best left-back in the country in my opinion."

A scroll through some of the social media responses to that assertion suggests not too many agreed.

After his starring role in the stirring 2-0 Euro 2020 win over Germany, it is hard to argue against the notion that Shaw – despite everything he has endured since becoming the most expensive teenager in world football back in June 2014 – is England's premier left-sided defender.

 

Dark days at Old Trafford

"If I'd flown back, I would probably have lost my leg because of the blood clots."

It is an incredibly stark statement. A tackle by PSV's Hector Moreno during a September 2015 Champions League match left Shaw with a horrific double leg fracture that threatened to become worse than that gruesome description.

As Shaw recuperated from surgery at St Anna Ziekenhuis hospital in Geldrop and United made plans to fly him home, doctors discovered two blood clots and scheduled an emergency operation.

"I've got two scars down the side of my leg where they had to cut me open and pull them out," said the former Southampton youngster, when discussing his ordeal while on England duty three years later.

"I'd be lying if I said I hadn't sometimes thought about stopping playing football [during rehabilitation]. It went on for a long period, doing the same things every day.

"I couldn’t do anything else because of the break. It was frustrating but I came out the other side."

When he returned to action the following season, Shaw had another draining, sapping problem - Jose Mourinho was the Manchester United manager.

After starting the season as first choice, Mourinho singled out Shaw for strong criticism after a 3-1 defeat at Watford.

Things came to an unsavoury head in April 2017, when the former Chelsea boss first questioned "the way he trains, the way he commits, the focus, the ambition" ahead of a game with Everton.

 

Then, after Shaw came off the bench and impressed to help United salvage a 1-1 draw, Mourinho claimed: "He had a good performance but it was his body with my brain. He was in front of me and I was making every decision for him."

The relationship remained strained, even as Shaw was handed a five-year contract extension in October 2018 - two months before Mourinho was sacked.

"There is no hiding that we didn't get on," Shaw told reporters last week, after Mourinho – now working as a pundit after his Tottenham tenure went the same way as his United reign – criticised his "dramatically bad" corner taking during England's 1-0 group stage win over the Czech Republic.

"I think he was a brilliant manager but, you know, the past is the past. It is time to move on. I am trying to move on but, obviously, he can't. He continuously talks about me, which I find quite strange."

The long road to Wembley

The raucous din as Shaw drove forward from midfield and fed Jack Grealish on Tuesday meant he would have been unlikely to hear instructions from the touchline or anywhere else inside Wembley. Funnily enough, his football brain was in good order.

Grealish crossed and Harry Kane stooped to head England to a 2-0 win over Germany, their first knockout stage victory over any team with a world title to their name since 1966.

Southgate's Euro 2020 side have worn their pragmatism proudly. Despite an enviable array of attacking talent – Shaw described it as "absolute madness, so frightening" this week - they go forward with cautious calculation and are yet to concede a goal.

As well as being part of that watertight defensive unit, Shaw has proved invaluable to an attacking approach that values quality over quantity. His five chances created, with four from open play, are the most of any England player, as are his 18 passes into the opposition box. An expected assists (xA) figure of 1.08 also shows him to be cumulatively laying on a better quality of chances than any of his team-mates.

Those attacking gifts were a large part of what persuaded United to pay Southampton £27million for his services, with Shaw following Wayne Bridge and Gareth Bale off the St Mary's production line as a left-back with game-changing qualities.

Initially, he appeared inhibited at Old Trafford, as then-manager Louis van Gaal questioned his fitness in an early taste of what was to come under Mourinho. Then the injury nightmare began.

It has been a long road back, but in 2020-21, United got their most sustained look at the player they hoped they were buying six years earlier.

 

Shaw's 47 appearances were his most in a single campaign and culminated in Europa League final heartache against Villarreal. It was his first United appearance in a major final, representing a personal triumph over a catalogue of fitness problems amid penalty shoot-out woe.

He claimed six assists in all competitions, the most of his career, while 90 chances created was more than double his previous best of 41 in 2018-19.

Shaw averaged 6.88 passes into the opposition box per 90 minutes, having never averaged above 3.5 before, despite some of his previous sample sizes being far smaller due to injury interrupted campaigns.

Southgate's faith repaid

If those performances made Shaw impossible to ignore last season, he was easily forgotten in March 2017.

Injuries and Mourinho's ire had combined to mean a solitary Premier League start in a five-month period, but he received a call-up from the recently installed England manager to take on Lithuania and Germany.

"Generally, we've tried to pick players who are playing regularly, and one or two have missed out because of that. Luke is probably the exception. He's a player we have a lot of belief in," said Southgate, his former England Under-21 boss.

"Having worked with him before we think he can be an important player for the future. Now would be a good time to give him that confidence boost."

The progress from that point has been far from linear. Shaw was absent when England reached the semi-finals of Russia 2018, indeed this is his first tournament since the 2014 World Cup, when everything felt possible for a prodigiously gifted teen.

 

His latest recall only came in March but, with Ukraine up in Rome on Saturday as the first in a potential three-game shot at sporting immortality, the possibilities are opening up again.

Having made his debut in March 2014, this weekend is set to mark Shaw's 14th cap. At 25, there should be plenty more to come for an easy going member of the squad, visibly a friend to everyone who fits perfectly with Southgate's team ethos.

"I remember at the [2018] World Cup seeing all these videos of the fans celebrating, going wild. And I thought: 'I want to be a part of that'," Shaw told England's YouTube channel in the aftermath of his hard-earned part in the historic win over Germany.

"I'm [feeling] brilliant, it's so good. Everything about the last day or two has been unbelievable. I've not felt this happy in a long time."

History and odds will be stacked against Ukraine in their first ever European Championship quarter-final against England on Saturday.

The Three Lions have only lost one of their previous seven meetings with Ukraine, who never scored more than once in any of those matches.

That does not bode well when you consider England are yet to even concede once at Euro 2020, having become only the third side in Euros history to keep clean sheets in all of their first four games of a tournament.

If England do shut Ukraine out, they will match the record set by Italy at the 1990 World Cup of five successive clean sheets from the start of the competition.

 

While England fans may already be mentally preparing themselves for a second successive major tournament semi-final, Gareth Southgate acknowledged the Three Lions will arguably be out of their comfort zone for the first time in Euro 2020 as they travel to Rome.

"We've got to go away from Wembley, into a potentially quite hot climate, hardly any England fans in the stadium, and maybe a not particularly full crowd full stop," he said.

"And then there is this perception that all we've got to do is turn up, and we are on our way. We're very clear now that the total focus is on Saturday. We have to prepare the game in the right way, and our mentality is critical."

'The bigger they are, the harder they fall,' Ukraine will be telling themselves.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Ukraine – Georgi Bushcan

The performances of Ukraine goalkeeper Bushchan have been largely positive, though the odd mistake has crept in – for example, he gifted Memphis Depay the opener in the group stage defeat to the Netherlands. Further to this, the goals prevented metric puts him at fault for 1.2 goals, the joint-third worst record at Euro 2020. If Andriy Shevchenko's men are to progress here, they will need Bushcan at the top of his game.

 

England – Harry Maguire

Manchester United defender Maguire has been a rock in his two Euro 2020 games, winning every single one of his aerial duels so far, but his importance to England goes beyond his physicality. His forward-thinking nature has been notable since his return, with his 11.5 progressive carries per 90 minutes being the best of everyone in the squad, while he and John Stones are also England's most direct carriers in possession, bringing the ball upfield 20 per cent of the time. With Ukraine likely to sit deep, Maguire will see a lot of the ball and therefore have significant influence in starting attacks.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Andriy Yarmolenko has either scored (two) or assisted (three) five of Ukraine's eight European Championship goals. Indeed, his five goal involvements is level with Shevchenko (four goals, one assist) for the most by a Ukraine player at major tournaments (World Cup and Euros).

- Raheem Sterling has scored three of England's four goals at Euro 2020 so far, while only two players have ever scored more for the Three Lions in a single edition at the tournament – Alan Shearer in 1996 (five) and Wayne Rooney in 2004 (four).

- Coming into the quarter-final matches, only Italy (2.1) have a lower expected goals conceded total than England (2.7) at Euro 2020. England have faced just eight shots on target in their four games (two per game), their lowest ratio on record in a major tournament (since 1966 for World Cup and since 1980 for the European Championship).

- Ukraine's only previous quarter-final appearance in a major tournament ended in a 3-0 defeat to Italy in the 2006 World Cup. Ukraine have won two of their last three European Championship matches, more than they had in their first seven in the competition (W1 L6).

- Each of England's previous three quarter-final matches at the European Championship have gone to extra-time and penalties – after progressing from the first of these against Spain in 1996, England lost in penalty shootouts against Portugal in 2004 and Italy in 2012.

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