55 years after beating West Germany at the very same stadium, England came within a penalty shootout of finally winning a major tournament. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be and the years of hurt continue and the bitter disappointment of July’s defeat to Italy is still raw.
Looking back, we did incredibly well to reach the final and put in some great performances. The nation came together to cheer on Gareth Southgate’s men and although the performances were hardly exciting (bar the excellent victory over Ukraine), the results were what mattered most.
As crowds were slowly allowed back into the stadiums as the tournament progressed, the atmosphere at Wembley helped the players along. The dour group stage games were hardly memorable but the knockout games had more than enough tension to test the nerve of the most confident of fan!
The nain talking point of the group stages was the awful moment in the first half of the Denmark vs Finland game in Copenhagen when Christian Eriksen life was saved on the pitch after suffering a cardiac arrest.
Denmark captain Simon Kjaer along with the medical team that rushed to Eriksen’s aid were later awarded the UEFA President’s Award for their efforts. The image of the Denmark team in clear distress as they surrounded their stricken team mate as he was resuscitated will remain long in the memory of those who saw the awful event unfold.
Both teams decided to play out the remainder of the game and Finland beat the Danes by a single goal. Despite this, Denmark qualified for the knockout stages and the Finns went home early after finishing in third place in Group B.
Wales finished as runners up in their group and qualified for the knockout stage, just as they had in the last European Championship five years ago. They drew 1-1 with Switzerland, beat Turkey 2-0 and lost 1-0 to Italy.
Scotland were in the same group as England and were playing in their first major tournament since 1998. Unfortunately, the Tartan Army had a poor tournament, drawing 0-0 with England and losing to Czech Republic and Croatia. They only managed to score a single goal in their three games and finished bottom of the group.
The knockout stages started with disappointment for Wales as they were completely taken apart by Denmark in a very one-sided match in Amsterdam. The Danes looked very impressive and deserved their resounding 4-0 victory.
Monday 28th June will go down as the craziest day of the tournament with 14 goals scored in two matches. Spain beat Croatia 5-3 after extra time before Switzerland beat France 5-4 on penalties after the matched ended 3-3.
England were paired up with their nemesis Germany. The game was played at Wembley and the nation preyed for revenge for the defeat 25 years earlier when the current England manager missed a vital penalty in the semi final of Euro 96.
Harry Kane finally scored his first goal of the tournament after Raheem Sterling gave England the lead late in the second half. Thomas Muller also missed a relatively straight forward chance after being played through on goal. As his shot flew past England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, everyone expected the net to bulge. However, it went outside the post and the relief around Wembley was palpable!
England’s reward for beating Germany was a Quarter Final against Ukraine. It meant leaving their Wembley home for the first time in the tournament as the match was played in Rome.
The fans who were lucky enough to fly out to Italy were treated to a marvellous display as England dominated Ukraine and won 4-0.
In the other Quarter Finals, Spain beat Switzerland on penalties, Italy beat Belgium 2-1 and Denmark beat Czech Republic 2-1.
Both Semi Finals were held at Wembley. Italy beat Spain on penalties to reach their first European Championship final to avenge their 4-0 humiliation in the 2012 tournament.
Despite going a goal down in the first half, England were able to come back and win 2-1 in extra time.
In the Final, Luke Shaw scored an early goal to give England the lead. Gareth Southgate then decided to sit back on the lead and it backfired. The Italians came back with an equaliser and they then won on penalties. It was a hard defeat to take, but one that hopefully the players will learn from it and go one step further in Qatar next year.