Euro 2020: England fans' excitement builds for semi-final against Denmark

·4-min read

With just hours to go until the semi-final excitement is building across the country to a fever pitch.

For father and son Liam and Nolan - avid England fans from Wolverhampton - it's been an emotional journey.

They are putting up the bunting and the flags on the garden shed ready for the game.

Dad Liam was just eight when England crashed out of the Euros in the semi finals in 1996.

He's hoping his son - who's the same age as he was then - will be spared the pain and the heartache this time around.

He said: "Watching this tournament so far has been fantastic, we've played in a new style, we've got strength and depth, players to come off the bench and Gareth Southgate seems to be getting the tactics right each time so, so far so good.

"Semi-finals in '96, semi-finals now, we're at the knockout stages so you've got to get out there and win and hopefully we can do it this time and get to the final and who knows what happens in the final, who you play, you've got to win.

"As an England fan watching England growing up, there's been highs and lows but being able to do it with Nolan, he's at the age where he's starting to enjoy it and know more about the game. To sit down and watch it together is really special."

And it will be a special game - Nolan, like youngsters across the nation, will be rooting for his idols.

"It's good to see England playing well and them all trying their hardest for the country," he said.

Being an England fan has of course never been easy - particularly if you are of a certain age - but as this generation's heroes hope to become legends it does feel as though times may be about to change.

At the Fanatics fan store at Wembley England shirts and merchandise are flying off the shelves.

Fanatics general manager, Danny Downs, says momentum behind the national team just keeps building.

He said: "For most people alive, this is the biggest thing in our lifetimes. It's that serious and that important and you're seeing that reflected in everyone's behaviour.

"Not just in the type of work and sales we're doing but it's right across the board. I think it's the biggest thing in football in England since '66."

Gareth Southgate's team are no doubt stronger on paper than Denmark but as the team finalise their tactics they know it will be a difficult game.

The sense of expectation continues to grow and England are the bookies' favourites.

But we should not forget that Denmark as a footballing nation has not only been at this point before they went on to become the champions of Europe in 1992.

At Ekte, a Danish restaurant in central London, they're gearing up for the big match.

Owner Soren Jessen says England would be foolish to take victory for granted - especially facing a team that has dealt heroically and come through after the collapse of star player Christian Eriksen, who suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch against Finland.

He said: "A lot of people find that this team is the best team we've had in a long time, they're going from strength to strength.

"We had a terrible, awful start to the tournament that turned around and became a wonderful recovery story and the same thing seems to follow the team right now. I think they could go all the way."

Whoever triumphs in the second semi-final already know who their opponent will be, after Italy beat Spain 4-2 on penalties on Tuesday night to reach the final.

Italy scored first in normal time through Chiesa, only for Alvaro Morata to equalise for the Spanish side. The match ended all square after extra time before both teams missed their first penalties.

But it was the Azzurri who held their nerve to win the shootout at Wembley Stadium.

This will in many ways be England's biggest test in this tournament.

But there is an energy about the team and a belief that this is their moment - history beckons.

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