Harry Kane is determined to seize a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to win a major tournament on home soil. The England captain intends to feed off the passion of a 60,000 crowd at Wembley when his team take on Denmark in the Euro 2020 semi-final on Wednesday.
On a day when Harry Maguire said the pain of defeat in the 2018 World Cup semi-final against Croatia would be an invaluable lesson, Kane outlined the emotions driving him and the other more experienced members of the squad.
“It’s going to be an amazing atmosphere,” he said. “It’s going to be an experience that we probably won’t have as players again, unless we have a home tournament for the younger boys. For me and a few of the older more experienced ones it will be the last chance to play a major tournament game at Wembley. What an opportunity. What a moment it will be. Hopefully we can win and have similar scenes to what we had [in the last 16] against Germany.”
Kane admitted he had pictured leading out England in the final. “I try not to let my mind get too far ahead,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live, “but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it … Of course it would be a dream come true but I always go back to Russia. It was such a great tournament but it can be cut short so quickly.
“You lose a semi-final and all of a sudden it is what we could have done better, where we can improve and we’ve had to wait a long time – three years – to have the chance again. We have that chance again to go one step further and it is about grabbing that with both hands.”
Maguire said the belief and big‑game experience in the squad were far higher than in Russia. He described England’s progress to a second successive tournament semi-final as “a great achievement” and said the events of three years ago had left a fierce desire to go one step further.
“Losing in the semi-final of the World Cup hurt a lot, so we need to make sure that, on Wednesday, we get a positive feeling rather than the one we got against Croatia,” the 28-year-old said. “We’ll probably have a little bit more belief going into the Denmark game than what we did in the Croatia game. We hadn’t been to a semi-final in so long as a country, so the belief wasn’t there. I’m sure the fans are believing a lot more now. As players and staff and everyone involved in the bubble, we’re all believing as well.”
Maguire is one of eight players in the squad who started the 2018 semi‑final and at least six of those are likely to be in the XI to face Denmark. He believes important lessons have been learned.
“Could we have been a little more brave or composed?” he said. “Could we have taken the ball when we were leading the game, rather than sit back and soak up the pressure? Is that something we could have done better? We’ve looked at that over the three-year period and for sure we’re in a much better place now than when we played Croatia.”
Maguire was sent off in a Nations League fixture against Denmark at Wembley last October, which England lost 1-0. “When I was walking off the pitch of course I felt low,” he said. “I felt like I was letting my team down. But that is part and parcel of football. I am proud of the way I have handled myself from then on.”
Luke Shaw is another United and England defender to have flourished after a difficult period and Maguire credits a change in mentality with his teammate’s revival. The central defender said: “Luke has every attribute to be one of the best left-backs in the world. I would say the main difference I feel within Luke is his mentality. He is really pushing himself now not just to be a 6/10 in every game but to be the best player on the pitch. There is no reason he can’t do that.”