A record set, an astounding statistic and a Kalvin Phillips trademark as Leeds United man helps England to Euro 2020 final against Italy

Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips' entire career has been about ascending to the next level, so his performance against Denmark in England's Euro 2020 semi-final win was entirely on brand.

Thursday, 8th July 2021, 1:18 pm
ON BRAND - Kalvin Phillips of Leeds United and England found a new level again after the break against Denmark in the Euro 2020 semi-final at Wembley. Pic: Getty

Everything about this game took Phillips to heights not yet reached, from the record 27.6m peak audience watching on television to the 64,950 inside Wembley stadium. It was the largest crowd the 25-year-old has played in front of and they saw him at his best - eventually.

There's no doubt Whites head coach Marcelo Bielsa would have had a thing or two to say about what Phillips did in the first half but what he produced for the other 75-plus minutes delighted a nation.

Finding another gear is quickly becoming Phillips' trademark and he played the second half and the extra-time period in fifth.

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By the time Danny Makkelie blew his whistle to send England into a Wembley final against Italy, Phillips had covered an astounding 15km and seen off Thomas Delaney, one half of the tigerish Danish midfield duo who, according to the other half Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg, were going to give England a 'big, big fight.'

It took 45 seconds for Phillips to crunch Höjbjerg and accept the challenge laid down before the game.

But despite a solid first few minutes, the Leeds man and his England team-mates struggled as the first half developed.

He was involved in some nice moments, linking up well with Mason Mount on the right once or twice and releasing Harry Kane with quick thinking that allowed the striker to create

England's first chance for Raheem Sterling, but call it nerves or sloppiness, the hosts were soon second best.

Phillips lost out to Höjbjerg who stormed forward and shot low, Jordan Pickford saving easily before giving the ball away himself, Denmark taking control and stripping the ball too easily in the middle of the pitch.

The opening goal from Mikkel Damsgaard's blinding free-kick at least prompted the correct response from England, who levelled and then, after the break, set about taking back control.

Phillips was at the heart of it, his early pressing and ball recovery work setting the tone. He fed Bukayo Saka who won a free-kick in a good position, then played a lovely ball in behind for Mason Mount to create another half chance.

When he legally felled Damsgaard like a tree, right under the referee's nose, it was clear a new Phillips had emerged from the changing room.

He demanded the ball and grew in confidence and influence, just as he did against Manchester City at Elland Road, just as he did against the Germans, just as he has since Bielsa got hold of him in 2018.

Another good tackle in the middle set Jack Grealish on his way to perform his own trademark and win a free-kick from Daniel Wass, before Phillips' pièce de résistance - a glorious touch that took the ball down out of the air and fed Declan Rice in one movement.

It would only have been topped with a goal and glory did flash before his eyes with 10 left, lining up a shot that flashed wide.

As his confidence grew so too did his time on the ball and he popped up yet again on the edge of the box to try and win it in stoppage time, his left-foot strike blazing over.

Extra-time saw no let up. Rice departed, bringing Jordan Henderson into the game and allowing Phillips to move back into his club position, from where he began to pull strings, sending passes that were simple but accurate left and right to move tiring Danes around.

Even as the game went into marathon territory, his defensive workrate remained high, with important challenges and a sharp interception halting moments of Danish momentum.

The full-time whistle, the place in history, the celebrations in front of his family and a starting role in Sunday's final are so deserved.

Gareth Southgate showed he can make the tough decisions when replacing his substitute Grealish in extra-time but the manager is not a man prone to folly and removing the midfielder he has trusted for more tournament minutes than any other would feel distinctly out of character and unnecessary.

Italy and the players they possess will of course ask more of Phillips. He will need to find another level. But that's what he does.