Midfielder Henderson’s first goal for his country on his 62nd appearance was the crowning glory which showed everything was going the Three Lions’ way in a 4-0 win over Ukraine. By then the result was beyond doubt thanks to two Harry Kane goals sandwiching one from Sheffield’s Harry Maguire.
In the last seven days England have won their first knockout ties in European Championship history via actual football, as opposed to penalty shoot-outs, beaten their traditional nemesis Germany in a knockout game for the first time since 1966, quadrupled their goal tally for the tournament and kept their record of being the only team not to concede at Euro 2020.
But their next game on Wednesday is against a team they lost and drew to at the start of the season just gone.
“We need to quickly turn the focus and use Saturday,” said Liverpool captain Henderson, who came off the bench for the win in Rome. “We can still use it in a positive way to turn the focus to Wednesday and a tough opponent in Denmark.
“We’ve got momentum and we’re feeling confident but at the same time we’ve got to give Denmark full respect because we know they’re a fantastic team and we’ve played them not so long ago so we know how tough it will be.
“We can enjoy (the win) a little bit on the way home but not too much because we’ve got a huge game on Wednesday and the focus needs to turn to that straight away.”
Denmark were the first team to qualify for the knockout stages of a European Championship after losing their opening two games. Their midfielder Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest on the field during their first, against Finland, but rather than derail them, it has inspired them.
In their own way, England have also forged an outstanding team spirit and it was typical of manager Gareth Southgate that one of the first things he said in his post-match comments to the media was about his thoughts being with the three players – Ben White, Reece James and Bukayo Saka – who did not make Saturday’s bench.
Henderson’s role on the pitch has been limited too, yet to start a proper match of any description since injuring his groin against Everton in February.
“The most important thing is the things you don’t see behind the scenes, from the lads not playing so much and training the day after games, putting the work in and pushing the lads that are playing, supporting the lads that are playing around the dressing room and the training camps,” stressed the Wearsider. “You can see the celebrations when we score a goal, the whole bench is up.
“That makes a big difference on the pitch.
“Behind the scenes I can see a great togetherness and you need that to be successful. We need that not only for the next few days but long-term going forward.
“Three players miss out on the squad each game and mentally that can be very difficult, especially when you’re away for a long time.
“I try to take as much responsibility on myself as I can to try and make those players feel better and feel a part of it but training levels have been so high, even the day after a game.
“Everybody’s dug in and pushed each other to be there and ready if they’re called upon. I have to say that’s been first-class. You need that when you’re trying to be successful and we’ve certainly got that.”
There is, though, a determination to win a tournament that the world and European champions have both been knocked out of, rather than simply think the job is done because England have reached the semi-final, as they did at the last World Cup and Nations League. Saturday’s game was the only one England will play away from Wembley, which on Wednesday will be allowed six times the Covid-restricted capacity for sporting events in this country because it has been designated as a ‘test event’.
“We have a vision of where we want to be and it has to be winning major tournaments,” insisted captain Kane, who ended a personal barren spell with England’s second goal in Tuesday’s 2-0 win over Germany.
“We’re on the right track. We’re going to have our supporters (at Wembley on Wednesday) as well, 60-odd thousand in the stadium, so we want to do them, our friends and family proud. It’s a great occasion to be involved in. We need to be free, we need to enjoy it and take all the positives we’ve been gaining along the way and try and win that match.”