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3 things we learned from England v. Ukraine

Joe Prince-Wright, Andy Edwards and Nick Mendola look ahead to the EURO 2020 quarterfinals, outlining how the bracket shaped up with England-Ukraine, Spain-Switzerland, Belgium-Italy and Denmark-Czech Republic.

Even the most cautious and pessimistic England supporters must believe “It’s Coming Home” after the Three Lions thrashed Ukraine to the tune of 4-0 in the quarterfinals of EURO 2020 in Rome on Saturday.

[ MORE: EURO 2020 hub ]

Harry Kane scored a pair of goals to get both the first and second halves off to a flying start for England, and Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson each chipped in with a goal of their own. Gareth Southgate’s side grew more and more dominant as the game wore one, just as they appear to be doing throughout the whole tournament.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned from Czech Republic v. Denmark ]

Up next for England is a semifinal clash with Denmark, in London, on Wednesday (3 pm ET).

Three things we learned: England - Ukraine

1. Sometimes, talent matters: Anytime England head to a major international tournament like EURO 2020, it’s easy to look at the roster and say, “That’s easily the most talented team in the field, they must be favorites.” As we’ve witnessed time and again over the years, winning an international tournament is more about being a cohesive unit and having a solid, yet fairly straightforward and simple, game plan which can be consistently executed at a high level. So, what happens when arguably the most talented squad, from player no. 1 all the way down to 26, is also a very close-knit group with a clever coach putting forth the effective ideas? That’s England at EURO 2020.

2. Kane getting going, slowly but surely: Through England’s first four games at EURO 2020, Kane was largely an invisible figure for England as he averaged only 30 touches per game (1 touch every 3 minutes), took all of six shots (1.5 per game, compared to 3.9 per game for Tottenham last season) and provided just one key pass in 360 minutes of action (he averaged 1.4 per game for Spurs). After scoring in the 86th minute against Germany in the round of 16, Kane picked up in the quarterfinal right where he left off, bagging his second goal of the tournament after four minutes against Ukraine. Kane’s first-half involvement waned, though, as he had just 19 touches in the first half, including a 14-minute period in which he touched the ball zero times.

3.Luke Shaw appreciation post: Shaw assisted England’s second and third goals with a pair of pinpoint balls played into the box from the left flank, and the 25-year-old looks like fulfilling his potential as perhaps the best left back in the world right now. After suffering a double leg fracture, struggling to return to fitness and sharpness and falling completely out of favor under Jose Mourinho, Shaw appeared another cautionary tale of a player overhyped at a young age, so it’s nothing short of brilliant to see him do what he did on Saturday, and all season for Manchester United.

Man Men of the match: Harry Kane and Luke Shaw - Raheem Sterling might feel hard done by as he was fantastic in the first half (just as he has been throughout EURO 2020), back when the victory was anything but certain, but Kane and Shaw lifted England to a different level at various points. If they do that twice more, England will be champions of Europe.

England needed fewer than four minutes to open the scoring, and for Kane to make his mark on EURO 2020 in a way he was yet to do in the Three Lions’ first four games. Perhaps most telling was the ease with which Sterling picked apart Ukraine’s defense with a simple ball to play Kane into acres of space.

[ MORE: Southgate pushes all the right buttons as England “peak at the right time” ]

Jadon Sancho nearly put England 2-0 ahead with his first real involvement in the 39th minute. Shaw overlapped down the left side of Ukraine’s penalty area and picked out his soon-to-be teammate at Man United, and though Sancho did well to collect the ball, turn toward goal and fire a shot on target, he thumped it straight at Georgi Bushchan, who made an easy save.

England scored even quicker to start the second half than they did in the first, with Maguire heading home Luke Shaw’s sensational free kick with 45:54 on the clock.

Four minutes later, it was again Shaw who delivered an exquisite ball into the box. This time, Kane rose above his marker and headed the ball down, between Bushchan’s legs, to make it 3-0.

Kane went inches from completing his hat trick in the 62nd minute as he smashed a left-footed volley toward the far post, only for Bushchan to make an improbable save at full-stretch. Alas, it mattered very little, as Henderson headed Mason Mount’s ensuing free kick home for 4-0 and his first international goal.

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