TV View: If football’s coming home, it’s taking the long way round

On ITV, Roy Keane reveals how he once got into an argument at a Neil Diamond concert

Jordan Henderson, Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling celebrate England’s victory over Denmark in the Euro 2020 semi-final after extra time. Photograph: Frank Augstein/Getty Images

Jordan Henderson, Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling celebrate England’s victory over Denmark in the Euro 2020 semi-final after extra time. Photograph: Frank Augstein/Getty Images

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First a pandemic, then England in the final of a major tournament. You’d be wondering what weirdness the planet will throw at us next. The 55 years of hurt aren’t done and dusted just yet, but there’s only 90 more minutes to go – plus, knowing England, possibly extra time and penalties. You’d always have had a notion that if football was to come home, it’d take a circuitous route.

Confidence had been high on the ITV News immediately before the game because Corbie the tortoise, a Jersey native, ate the dandelion placed on top of an England flag, rather than the one that sat on Denmark’s colours. Not that you want to be contrary about these things, but there was a hint of fake news about the report, the exceedingly juicy looking English dandelion about four times bigger than the Danish one which was so withered it looked like it was picked in 1966.

Also, you had to wonder about the wisdom of ITV having Lucrezia Millarini present the news from outside Wembley where she had to give sombre reports about the latest number of Covid deaths and the assassination of the Haitian president while in or around 50,000 exuberant England fans were singing Vindaloo over her shoulder.

Inside Wembley, meanwhile, were the ITV team of Mark Pougatch, Gary Neville, Ian Wright and Roy Keane, their build-up starting only 90 minutes before kick-off. Or 43 if you don’t count the ads. Gary and Ian were pumped, while Roy resisted what must have been an enormous temptation to wear a Viking hat for the occasion.

He did, though, provide one of the highlights of the entire tournament when he revealed that he once went to a Neil Diamond concert and “ended up arguing with the woman next to me – she kept singing the songs out loud”. This confirmed the suspicion that only Roy Keane could get in to a row at a Neil Diamond concert.

Later, Pougatch showed us a very lovely photo of Peter Schmeichel with a teeny Kasper, evidently moved by it, like us all. Roy? “Peter could be a bit of balloon sometimes.”

Match time and the atmosphere was ruddy marvellous, apart from the booing of the Danish anthem. The Vikings first invaded Britain in 793 AD, you’d think they’d be over it by now.

England’s Harry Kane vies for the ballwith Denmark’s Jannik Vestergaard during the Euro 2020 semi-final at Wembley. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/AFP via Getty Images
England’s Harry Kane vies for the ballwith Denmark’s Jannik Vestergaard during the Euro 2020 semi-final at Wembley. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/AFP via Getty Images

Sam Matterface talked about an Englishman writing about a famous Danish man and, so now, the only question was one Shakespeare once asked: “Is it ‘To be or not to be?’” This line was so criminally over-worked, Lee Dixon didn’t even bother replying, his only focus on whether the game would be a midsummer night’s dream for England.

He was highly confident, too, like Denmark were Oman or something, to the point where you reckoned he expected Gareth Southgate to be making five subs by the 20th minute so he could rest the starters for the final.

And then. “A dash of Danish dynamite,” as Sam put it, Mikkel Damsgaard, Denmark’s four-year-old winger, with a worldie of a free-kick, although if Jordan Pickford’s feet weren’t Sellotaped to the ground he might actually have saved it.

If our nation held its breath back in 1990, all of England was, by now, doing the same every time the ball was at Pickford’s feet, and sometimes heading in the direction of his hands.

But they exhaled merrily when England equalised through the tournament’s top scorer, Own Goal.

Half-time. Roy was chilled, Gary was panicking, and Ian was lodged in the rafters of the stadium.

Second half. Lee was peeved about Harry Maguire getting a yellow card for leaving Simon Kjaer needing an ice pack on the side of his head. “I’m not saying the referee’s not right, I just don’t agree with him,” he said.

Divil a sign of either side scoring a second, the game turning in to, what they call in the trade, a cagey affair. Emma Hayes, on the touchline for ITV, had a feeling in her bones that all would be well. “I think this is England’s time, Denmark are running out of steam . . . their three is starting to tie up.”

That sort of brought to mind Kevin Keegan declaring, at the 1998 World Cup, that “only one team can win this now – and that’s England!” seconds before Dan Petrescu scored the 90th-minute winner for Romania. But England’s survived Emma’s fate-tempting, the crowd’s spirits soaring when Jack O’Grealish entered the fray.

Still no breakthrough, so extra-time. “The next 30 minutes could change your life,” said Sam, without explaining how. And when Harry Kane scored that penalty, which proved to be the winning goal? “The good times never felt so good,” Sam bellowed.

Roy might have been tempted to argue with him over his loudness, but when you’ve been waiting 55 years to sing that loud, you deserve your moment.

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