England cruised into the semi-finals of the European Championship with a breathtaking 4-0 hammering of Ukraine in Rome on Saturday evening, setting up a last-four clash with Denmark at Wembley.
A brace from skipper Harry Kane and headers from Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson sealed the Three Lions their biggest ever win in a knockout match at a major tournament, moving them to within 90 minutes of their first major final since winning the World Cup all the way back in 1966.
Having conquered Germany in the last-16, winning 2-0 at Wembley, England had a weight of expectation on their shoulders to get past Ukraine and seal a semi-final spot at the European Championship for the first time since 1996.
However, Gareth Southgate’s men passed their latest assignment with flying colours, producing one of the best performances at a major tournament in living memory.
What made the Three Lions’ demolition of Ukraine all the more impressive was that Southgate, as he has done throughout Euro 2020 so far, opted to make changes again, one of which was enforced, with Arsenal starlet Bukayo Saka forced to miss out through a minor knock that he had picked up in training.
The 19-year-old had started England’s 1-0 win over the Czech Republic and historic triumph over Germany, but a knock ruled him out of the clash in Rome, meaning he was replaced by Jadon Sancho, who came into the starting line-up to his first start of the tournament.
It was an impressive showing from the soon-to-be Manchester United winger, who caused no shortage of problems for the Ukraine defence.
Having made his first start of the tournament on Saturday evening, Sancho was put up in front of the cameras for questions on England’s YouTube channel on Sunday, following the Three Lions’ return to St George’s Park.
As well as being quizzed on Saturday’s historic win, Sancho was also asked about the man he had replaced in Italy, that being Saka. Sancho used the opportunity to open up on a joke that had unfolded between himself and the Arsenal winger ahead of the Ukraine clash, admitting that he had to ‘humble him’ when comparing the amount of goals they had each scored during the 2020/21 season for their respective clubs.
“I had to humble him,” said Sancho, appearing on the Lions’ Den. “He had to (run away really quickly after Sancho asked Saka how many goals he has scored this season). He knew.
“Things like that, people don’t take it personally. But that’s the banter we kind of have. So, it’s fun.”
The 2020/21 campaign proved to be a hugely successful period for both of the young, exciting talents. Saka scooped endless awards for his Arsenal showings, which produced seven goals and ten appearances in 46 appearances in all competitions.
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Sancho, meanwhile, netted 16 goals and claimed 20 assists in a total of 38 appearances, highlighting that he outweighed Saka’s tally in both departments by some margin.
Nevertheless, for Sancho to have made that comment and for Saka to respond in a light-hearted and joking manner, it provides clear evidence as to just how much spirit and togetherness there is within the England camp that has been generated by Southgate.
Saka is believed to be back in contention for Wednesday evening’s huge clash with Denmark and it remains to be seen whether or not he will regain his place, most probably from Sancho.