England have reached the semifinals of Euro 2020 and the feel-good factor is clearly running through the squad as they stand one victory away from reaching the national team’s first major final since 1966.
After Saturday’s 4-0 drubbing of Ukraine in the quarterfinal at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, their first match of the tournament away from Wembley, Gareth Southgate’s team now face Denmark in the final four Wednesday and will do so back on home turf (live on ESPN and ESPN+ at 3 p.m. ET in the U.S.).
The squad returned to their base at St George’s Park on Sunday and enjoyed a day of rest and recuperation. After experiencing the stifling heat of the Italian capital, some of the players gravitated toward the swimming pool, where a few familiar faces were waiting there to greet them.
— England (@England) July 4, 2021
The inflatable unicorns that proved such a viral hit during England’s 2018 World Cup journey made a grand return, and several of the newer members of the squad couldn’t wait to get acquainted with the iconic inflatables.
Declan Rice, Mason Mount, Jack Grealish, Jadon Sancho, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Bukayo Saka, Sam Johnstone and Aaron Ramsdale were all in attendance — with Marcus Rashford, the only player to have been part of the World Cup 2018 squad that first frolicked with the unicorns, providing the adult supervision.
As if he couldn’t be any more adorable, Saka was having more fun than anybody as he went bounding into the pool on unicorn-back.
The 19-year-old Arsenal player has been one of England’s stars of the tournament, and he’s clearly having the time of his life.
Manchester United new boy Sancho did his best to keep an air of cool while floating around the pool on his rainbow-coloured ride.
But after zig-zagging his way through Ukrainian defenders on Saturday on his first tournament start, staying atop his steed proved too much of a challenge.
Best buddies Rice and Mount formed a formidable duo in the centre of the pool.
This guy set up the winning goal in the Champions League final just 37 days ago.
– Euro 2020 on ESPN: Stream LIVE games and replays (U.S. only)
– European Soccer Pick ‘Em: Compete to win $10,000
– Euro 2020 bracket and fixture schedule
We know you’re a creative lot… so let’s see what you’ve got.
— England (@England) July 4, 2021
The image of Saka was so iconic that England invited fans and followers to create their own photoshopped images of the youngster.
— Jonny Sharples (@JonnyGabriel) July 4, 2021
As you might expect, Twitter meme maestro Johnny Sharples was quick on the scene with a revised prototype of his bank-note design. You may recall his semi-serious campaign three years ago to have an image of Harry Maguire riding a unicorn put on the new £50 bank note. Alas, the honour was instead granted to pioneering computer scientist and World War II codebreaker Alan Turing, though Maguire must have run him a close second in the Bank of England’s selection process.
“Look to my coming at first light on the fifth day. At dawn, look to the east.” pic.twitter.com/ICFf2pmLcB
— James Benge (@jamesbenge) July 4, 2021
One mythical horse was swapped for another as Saka on his unicorn replaced Gandalf mounted on Shadowfax in this excellent “Lord of the Rings” pastiche.
— Kick Arse (@kickarseHD) July 4, 2021
Another effort inspired by a major movie franchise — with Saka added to the Marvel cinematic universe on the front line of the final battle in “Avengers: Endgame” — that the player himself shared it on his Instagram story.
— Matt Large Designs (@MattLargeDesign) July 5, 2021
The movie poster for “Jaws” was reworked to feature both Saka and England left-back Luke Shaw.
— Vithushan Ehantharajah (@Vitu_E) July 4, 2021
Saka also made his way into Paul Gascoigne’s famous “dentist’s chair” goal celebration from Euro ’96.
— bøøtifulgame (@bootifulgame) July 4, 2021
Other classic England moments cropped up too, with Saka pipping Peter Shilton to score with “the horn of God” at the 1986 World Cup.
WE’VE DONE IT NOW PLEASE STOP TWEETING US pic.twitter.com/7iCpsDCACy
— No Score Draws (Sian & Alex) (@CheapPanini) July 4, 2021
The 19-year-old winger also received the esteemed “badly drawn Panini sticker” treatment, which is just about the highest honour any professional footballer can have.