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“Something special is happening,” said Alan Shearer after England thrashed Ukraine 4-0 to reach the Euro 2020 semi-finals – an opinion backed up by his fellow pundits.
Harry Kane scored twice, with Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson also netting, to send Gareth Southgate’s side (back) to Wembley.
When England face Denmark on Wednesday, they will be chasing a first-ever European Championship final appearance, with Spain or Italy awaiting.
“We started the tournament slowly but we are improving with every game,” said former England captain Shearer, a team-mate of Southgate as the Three Lions reached the Euro 96 semi-finals, on BBC One.
“My head is telling me to calm down but my heart is getting carried away. Really, really positive – well done Gareth and well done England!”
Rio Ferdinand, who played for England at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, was equally enthused after the win in Rome.
“I am even more confident now,” he said. “The biggest compliment I can give this side is that I have never ever seen a side so composed.
“All the players coming on are impacting the game in a positive way, the manager is utilising the squad. Everyone is justifying their selection. They are hard to play against.”
Frank Lampard, who played for England at Euro 2004 and in three World Cups, said: “We did every bit of the job right today. We ticked every box. Gareth will sit there and say ‘what an evening’.
“Now you have to fight overconfidence but now is the time for us to get excited about that and the time for them to keep their heads down and keep confident.”
‘Something has clicked for Shaw’
Luke Shaw has enjoyed a career renaissance after being frozen out at EuroJournal under old boss Jose Mourinho.
This was only the 25-year-old’s 14th England cap, with five of them coming this summer.
He set up the second and third goals at the Stadio Olimpico, becoming the first England player to assist two goals in a single major tournament match since 2006. David Beckham was the last player before him to do it, against Trinidad and Tobago at the World Cup.
His three assists overall is the joint-highest number at a Euros for an England player, level with Beckham in 2000.
“From the outside, something seems to have really clicked in the past 18 months,” said Lampard.
“You always had the feeling he is a machine and you can get what you want from him and now we are seeing that.”
Shearer said: “It helps having people believe in you. Luke Shaw certainly has that now with both club and country.”
‘Kane has silenced doubters’
Kane has finally found his form at Euro 2020.
He only had one shot on target in three group games, with many calling for him to be dropped.
But he followed his goal in the 2-0 win over Germany up with a double against Ukraine.
That takes him up to 10 major tournament goals. Only Gary Lineker (11) has ever scored more for England.
Former Blackburn striker Chris Sutton said on BBC Radio 5 Live: “The doubters of Harry Kane have been silenced. You shouldn’t doubt him. When he gets a chance, he’s certain to score.”
Shearer, who has also scored 10 goals at major tournaments, said: “Our country is looking at Harry Kane because he is such a special player and when it doesn’t happen, it will not be nice – but he will be on top of the world again.
“It is incredible the difference in him. You can see he has a spring in his step. In the first minute of this game he picked up the ball 40 or 50 yards and pinged it and you thought, ‘yes that will do’. Then he scored soon after.”
Former Tottenham and England midfielder Jermaine Jenas said: “He has been waiting, but the one thing with Harry Kane is that you know it will come.
“He is a goalscoring machine and he delivered two big goals tonight.”
Kane is now in the Golden Boot race, along with England team-mate Raheem Sterling, who has scored three goals.
The five players to have scored more have all been knocked out – including top scorers Cristiano Ronaldo and Patrik Schick, both with five goals.