All roads lead to Rome for England on Saturday as Gareth Southgate’s men attempt to join Italy and Spain in the Euro 2020 semi-finals.
Playing away from Wembley for the first time in the tournament, they will return to familiar territory on Wednesday if they can find a way past Ukraine at the Stadio Olimpico to continue their climb up the “Everest” they have set themselves.
The winners will know what lies ahead by the time they kick off at 8pm with the Czech Republic and Denmark, fuelled by their desire to succeed for stricken midfielder Christian Eriksen, meeting in Baku three hours earlier.
Italy have already secured their last-four berth with a fine 2-1 victory over FIFA’s number one ranked team Belgium in Munich, courtesy of goals from Nicolo Barella and Lorenzo Insigne with Romelu Lukaku’s penalty proving insufficient to rescue Roberto Martinez’s men.
There, they will face another mouth-watering clash with Spain, who had to hold their nerve to beat 10-man Switzerland 3-1 on penalties after Xherdan Shaqiri had cancelled out Denis Zakaria’s early own goal.
Italy’s victory over Belgium extended their unbeaten run to 32 games dating back to a 1-0 Nations League defeat by Portugal in September 2018. In the process, the Azzurri also stretched their winning sequence in European Championship qualifiers and finals matches to a record 15.
Switzerland defied the odds to take Spain all the way, but ultimately fell tamely at the final hurdle. The shoot-out could not have got off to a better start for them when Sergio Busquets fired Spain’s first attempt against the post and Mario Gavranovic took full advantage. However, although Sommer saved Rodri’s attempt, Dani Olmo, Gerard Moreno and Mikel Oyarzabal all scored as Unai Simon denied Fabian Schar and Manuel Akanji before Ruben Vargas blasted over the bar.
Italy full-back Leonardo Spinazzola’s Euros appears to have come to a premature end after he was carried off on a stretcher as his side battled to victory over Belgium. Manager Roberto Mancini began his post-match press conference by saying: “The first thing I want to say is we’re very disappointed, we’re gutted for Leonardo Spinazzola for that injury. He didn’t deserve that because he was playing extraordinarily well. He’s been one of the best players at Euro 2020 and we are absolutely gutted and we would like to send him our best wishes.”
We’ve achieved one challenge but that’s not the Everest we set ourselves, really. We want to push on from where we’ve got to now.England manager Gareth Southgate
Czech Republic v Denmark (quarter-final, July 3, Baku, 1700 BST)
Ukraine v England (quarter-final, July 3, Rome, 2000 BST)