‘My message to the England team – enjoy every minute of moments like this’

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July 6, 2021
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    Alan Shearer

    My message to England's players as they prepare for their Euro 2020 semi-final is pretty simple – everyone is behind you, so enjoy every minute of it.

    I'm talking about Wednesday's game against Denmark, but also all the noise and excitement and everything else that's going to be happening around the country in the next few days.

    On the pitch, the team just have to keep doing what they are doing. Off it, they need to try to take it all in.

    I've been here myself, the last time we got to this stage of a men's European Championship in 1996. I remember popping out of the team hotel and going to get my hair cut (yes, I used to have hair) and when I got out of the taxi in Burnham town centre, there was a kind of street party going on.

    There is going to be more of the same this time too. You can't escape the atmosphere, but then you don't really want to – it's an incredible feeling, knowing the whole nation is supporting you on a stage as big as this.

    The team are back on home soil now for the rest of the tournament and there is going to be one heck of a din when they walk out at Wembley.

    It was rocking when there were 40,000 fans there for the Germany game in the last 16, and things are going to crank up another notch with 60,000 inside for the semis.

    Bring it on, because I can't wait.

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    'No-one wants this tournament to end'

    Denmark are a completely different proposition to Ukraine, who we outclassed in our quarter-final on Saturday. They will offer a much tougher challenge.

    The Danes have built some real momentum now, after making such a traumatic start to the tournament with Christian Eriksen's cardiac arrest during their opening game against Finland.

    Thankfully Eriksen recovered and, with him watching on, they are playing with a purpose which makes them even more dangerous. On top of their ability, they also have the attitude that they can do something astonishing at Euro 2020 themselves.

    England will be ready, though. We showed that in Rome, and what a magnificent performance our 4-0 win was.

    When I spoke to manager Gareth Southgate afterwards he said he wasn't able to enjoy it all as much as the rest of us back home, but I hope he is smiling about it now – he should be anyway.

    I think what he meant was that, after a quick turnaround, it is back to work for him and the England players on Sunday, heading back to the team's Euro 2020 training base at St George's Park.

    If things had gone differently and they had been beaten by Ukraine, they would all have been going home instead – but that never looked like happening.

    No-one wants this tournament to end, including the England players who are giving us so much entertainment.

    They should be very proud of what they are doing, because they have lifted the entire country after an awful few months.

    Let's just hope it lasts for another two games and that next Sunday evening we are all euphoric for the same reason.

    'Gareth is a clever manager, and a winning one too'

    I can't help getting carried away about our chances of making it through to the final on 11 July.

    As I said on TV, it feels like something very special is happening with this England side and why shouldn't we get excited when the team are doing well? It's what we want, it's what we are here for, and it's what we needed.

    There's plenty of reasons to be confident too. We started Euro 2020 slowly but we are getting better every game. Everything seems to be clicking and the win over Ukraine was our best performance of this tournament so far.

    We'd already shown how strong we are defensively and, this time, we also showed what we could do going forward.

    We got our set-pieces working again like we did at the 2018 World Cup, which is important, but we were exciting in open play too.

    There were so many positives and, overall, it was pretty much a perfect evening, right from the start when Harry Kane scored again to give us the lead less than four minutes in.

    We never looked back from there, and we will need to have the same energy and intensity against Denmark and attack them in the same way.

    That hunger for goals didn't affect us defensively either. England ended up with another clean sheet and are still yet to concede after five games of this tournament.

    All over the pitch, we had players who put in huge performances. As I expected, Kane had a spring back in his step after scoring against Germany and he will be feeling on top of the world again after getting two more goals.

    He would probably be my man of the match, but he was pushed all the way by Luke Shaw. I thought he was magnificent down the left flank.

    Yet again, every decision Gareth made worked. He went back to playing with four at the back, and the players who came into the team, Jadon Sancho and Mason Mount, both did well and made a case to stay there.

    Afterwards, when Gareth mentioned the England players who haven't featured so far and said they are playing their part too, he knew exactly what he was doing. He wanted to keep them involved, and make sure he is looking after them as much as he can without playing them.

    He's a very clever manager, and a winning one too. Long may it continue.

    Alan Shearer was speaking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan.

    READ:  'I've seen enough to see we can compete'

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    July 6, 2021
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