England at Euro 2020: Is Football Returning to England?

Three years after leading England to the World Cup semifinals, Gareth Southgate is back in charge of the England national team in a major tournament. The Three Lions will start their Euro 2020 campaign on June 13. They are joined in Group D with pretty tough opponents: Croatia, Czech Republic, and commonwealth rivals, Scotland. Southgate managed to exceed expectations when guiding the national team in Russia 2018. He made “Football’s Coming Home” echo again. Now, Harry Kane and his friends are burdened with expectations of, at least, reaching the level stage.

“I will try to control the expectations of the players. I accept this situation as a manager. There are expectations, I have to give results,” Southgate said. The former Middlesbrough manager admits that the success of the World Cup brings demands to the team to be more accomplished. England, known for their consistent failure at major tournaments, are starting to be optimistic after reaching the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup.

The Three Lions public clearly has high hopes in this tournament. What’s more, the semifinals and final of the 2020 European Cup will be held at Wembley Stadium. Kyle Walker and colleagues themselves should be optimistic considering their record since the qualifying phase. England appeared convincing and won the qualifying Group A. They have seven wins and one loss, scoring 37 goals and conceding just six.

Since September 2020, England has also made some impressive performances. The Three Lions have won nine of their last 12 matches, including against Belgium and Poland. Nevertheless, Southgate’s team’s performance in the 2020/21 UEFA Nations League was quite disappointing. They had to settle for finishing in third place, behind Denmark and Belgium. Performance at UNL was England’s minor record before starting the European Cup.

Line of Young Talents in the England Squad

Gareth Southgate brought a relatively young squad to the European Cup. There are eight U-23 players who strengthen The Three Lions. Had Trent Alexander-Arnold not been injured, England sailed the tournament with nine young players. This line of talents has been combined with Southgate’s mainstay since the 2018 World Cup. England’s captain is still Harry Kane. The Tottenham Hotspur striker was accompanied by seven senior players who were regulars for the national team, ranging from Kyle Walker to Jordan Henderson. The seven players are the footballers with the most England caps in the Southgate era.

England also introduced a number of new players since the last three years. Declan Rice and Mason Mount, two Chelsea academy graduates, became an important part of the Three Lions midfield. The left-back post which was previously relatively vacant is now filled by Ben Chilwell and Luke Shaw.

Rice’s development so far should make Southgate heartened. The West Ham midfielder has consistently performed well since making his debut in 2019. The player is observant of reading the opponent’s game and is able to cover the middle area. Rice is reliable both as a single pivot and playing in a double pivot. Mount’s versatility gives Southgate plenty of options. The Chelsea midfielder is able to carry out duties both as a central midfielder and an attacking midfielder.

In addition, in midfield, Jude Bellingham and Kalvin Phillips present serious claims. Likewise with Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, and Jadon Sancho in the wing midfielder post. Southgate may still rely on old names like Henderson and Raheem Sterling if available. Nevertheless, the new names in the England squad contain a lot of potential and it is worth waiting to see if the coach is able to maximize them.

Gareth Southgate successfully penetrated the World Cup semifinals by relying on a three-back scheme. In the 2020/21 UEFA Nations League, England also used this formation. However, lately, the coach often uses the basic 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation. In the European Cup qualifiers, The Three Lions appeared impressive with a four-back scheme.

Although lowering the basic formation is different, the British approach is not much different. Harry Kane and his friends are still a team that is patient with possession of the ball. They are careful in rolling the ball forward. If you choose a four-back formation, Southgate can accommodate more attacking players. England itself has a promising line of offensive talents. Apart from old names like Kane and Rashford, new signings like Foden and Sancho have proven their quality at their respective clubs.

Phil Foden is the Best Young Player of the Premier League 2020/21. He was instrumental in Manchester City’s success in reaching the inaugural Champions League final. Pep Guardiola used to play him on the left flank and Southgate could accommodate him in a similar position. Foden’s former colleague at Man City’s academy, Sancho also performed brilliantly with Borussia Dortmund. Even though he just turned 21 last March, the player has appeared in 137 games,


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