Football Features

England Euro 2020: Best players, manager, tactics, form and chance of winning

By Squawka News

Published: 17:00, 14 June 2021 | Updated: 14:18, 22 June 2021

After the heartbreak of the 2018 World Cup, England will be looking to end 55 years of hurt at Euro 2020 this summer.

There were dreams of football coming home again almost three years ago as England reached the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time since 1990, before eventually losing to Croatia and finishing fourth.

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The Three Lions bounced back and, after also reaching the Uefa Nations League semi-final in 2019, set their sights on qualifying for Euro 2020 knowing the final would be at Wembley. It was an almost perfect run through qualifying with England finishing top of their group, winning seven of their eight games against Czech Republic, Kosovo, Bulgaria and Montenegro. The sole dampener was a defeat to the Czech Republic, ruining the perfect record.

However, it is a perfect record that has followed England after one game at Euro 2020, with Gareth Southgate masterminding the nation’s first ever curtain-raising win at a European Championship (incredibly), beating Croatia 1-0 at Wembley thanks to Raheem Sterling.

With that, let’s remind ourselves of who England have brought to the tournament, and what are the nation’s odds of winning Euro 2020 following that triumph on matchday one?

The best players England will bring to Euro 2020

Goalkeeper: Jordan Pickford

Jordan Pickford has been England’s first-choice goalkeeper for some time but after an up and down couple of seasons, faces serious competition from Dean Henderson. However, Pickford had a strong end to the 2020/21 campaign with Everton and has never let Southgate down yet. His habit of making big saves in big moments, coupled with elite distribution, should see him continue between the sticks, which he done so with merit against Croatia.

Defender: John Stones

Having Harry Maguire coming in carrying an injury is a huge blow but in John Stones, Southgate has a Premier League champion and Champions League finalist to call upon. After falling way down the pecking order, Stones has regained Pep Guardiola’s trust at club level with a number of top-class performances alongside Ruben Dias as Manchester City sealed another domestic double (also winning the EFL Cup). Can he step forth and be the man to anchor the Three Lions defence? Without Maguire, he doesn’t have a choice, and he looked comfortable against an elite frontline containing Ante Rebic and Ivan Perisic at Wembley.

Midfielder: Jordan Henderson

Over the last two years or so, the Liverpool captain has added an almost non-stop winning mentality to the midfield. Henderson’s tenacious, lead-by-example mentality will be integral to the Three Lions’ chances of success. His experience and leadership qualities will be crucial for what is likely to be a young England Euro 2020 squad whether he’s starting or playing a substitute role.

Forward: Harry Kane

England are blessed with a number of talented wingers but without Harry Kane they won’t be able to hurt opponents. The Three Lions’ captain is one of the best English strikers for quite some time and won the Golden Boot at the 2018 World Cup, scoring six goals. However, his game has evolved since then, particularly in a different role when he was playing under Jose Mourinho at Tottenham. Expect Kane to offer a lot more than simply goals for the Three Lions as well as he can also drop deep to free the space in behind for speedy wingers like Rashford, Sterling and Sancho.

England Euro 2020 squad

Goalkeepers: Aaron Ramsdale, Sam Johnstone, Jordan Pickford

Defenders: Ben Chilwell, Conor Coady, Reece James, Harry Maguire, Tyrone Mings, Luke Shaw, John Stones, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker, Ben White

Midfielders: Jude Bellingham, Jordan Henderson, Mason Mount, Kalvin Phillips, Declan Rice

Forwards: Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho, Raheem Sterling

Harry Maguire returns to training, but not expected but against Scotland

Ahead of England’s opening game against Croatia, Maguire was photographed back in training after sustaining an ankle while playing for Manchester United against Aston Villa. However, he was nowhere to be seen against Croatia despite Southgate refusing to rule him out earlier this month.

“It is going to be tight for the first game, there is no question,” he said in the build-up. “He is such a good player and because we had the additional size of squad, we wanted to take that opportunity to bring him into the squad.”

Maguire hasn’t played a single game since May 9th when suffering an ankle injury during that match at Villa Park. As a result, he was forced to miss the Europa League final as well as both of England’s pre-tournament friendlies.

Having not featured on Sunday Maguire remains doubtful for Friday night’s showdown against Scotland, with the convalescing star earmarked to return for the group-concluding match against Czech Republic.

The manager: Gareth Southgate

Gareth Southgate | Euro 2020

Southgate was brought into the England set up in bizarre circumstances in 2016, replacing Sam Allardyce after his very brief tenure. The appointment was overshadowed by the events that led to it and there weren’t many opinions on how Southgate would do, aside from drawing on his previous work with the Young Lions. After all, his only previous senior management experience was with Middlesbrough, where he was relegated and sacked in his final season.

But fast forward to the summer of 2018 and Southgate became a hero to England fans, leading the Three Lions to their first World Cup semi-final in 28 years, giving supporters of a certain age their first taste of such a deep run. It wasn’t perfect, and Southgate has since come under criticism, particularly for his record against the so-called bigger nations and squad decisions (with competition for places high) but the former Middlesbrough man remains England’s leader.

The tactics

Eyebrows were certainly raised before kick-off against Croatia as Southgate selected a right-back ahead of two in-form left-backs at left-back, while Jack Grealish was omitted for two ‘defensive midfielders’, and Jadon Sancho was nowhere to be seen, not even on the bench. Many were expecting a back-three as well given the injury to Maguire, but he stuck to his guns with a 4-3-3.

The head-scratching soon made way for a collective nod of heads as England produced a professional display against Croatia; nothing too fancy, but instead, pragmatic and mature, too traits synonymous with title-winners, and too traits that have often eluded the Three Lions in major competitions.

Pickford, between the sticks, excelled with his distribution, Kieran Trippier sprinkled some Diego Simeone gold dust on the left flank as he completely kept a lid on Andrej Kramaric, with Kyle Walker producing similar defensive heroics on the opposite side.

Tyrone Mings and Stones were sturdy, but it was the midfield where Southgate truly deserves plaudits. His use of Mason Mount and Kalvin Phillips in a double-mezzala link-up was a stroke of genius. The duo worked expertly in tandem to get up the turf and exploit the half space, safe in the knowledge that Declan Rice was there to sweep up if things went awry.

Sterling and Phil Foden were threatening as well, while Kane was slightly subdued by his standards, but the match was won in the middle of the park, with Rice and Phillips holding their own against Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic and Co.

The current England squad isn’t actually too different from the last Three Lions XI to take the field in a major international tournament at the 2018 World Cup (sorry Uefa Nations League), with the likes of Harry Maguire, Jordan Pickford, Raheem Sterling, John Stones and Kieran Trippier all involved.

However, Eric Dier has been left out of the latest squad while Danny Rose, Fabian Delph, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Phil Jones haven’t been part of the England set-up for some time.

The form guide

Euro 2020 qualifying: WWWLWWWW

England had a fairly routine path to Euro 2020, with Czech Republic the only team highlighted as capable of giving them an issue. But in England’s opening group game they beat the Czechs 5-0, showing a sign of things to come. Only once did England fail to score at least four goals in their eight qualifying games, although that did come in a 2-1 defeat to Czech Republic, the only blemish in an otherwise perfect group stage. Montenegro conceded 12 in two games against the Three Lions, Bulgaria 10 and Kosovo nine, with England only conceding six in return.

Recent fixtures: WWWWWWLWLWW

While England cruised to Euro 2020 qualifying, the 2020/21 Uefa Nations League campaign was not kind. Previously reaching the semi-finals, England finished third in their group behind Belgium and Denmark, winning three, drawing one and losing two of their six matches. However, the Three Lions put those results to the back of their minds and made a perfect start to World Cup qualifying in March, beating San Marino, Albania and Poland.

England’s Euro 2020 odds

It may be strange considering England haven’t won a tournament since the 1966 World Cup, nor have they even reached a final, but there is optimism surrounding the England camp thanks to the run in Russia. In fact, the Three Lions are one of the favourites to win Euro 2020 and Sky Bet are offering odds for 5/1 for England to end those 55 years of hurt (understandably 1/6 to win their group, ahead of Croatia, Scotland and Czech Republic).

England also have the near-favourite for the Golden Boot, with Kane coming in just behind Romelu Lukaku (who netted twice in Belgium’s opener) to win the accolade having done so at the 2018 World Cup. The Tottenham striker is 8/1 with Sky Bet to become the first Englishman to win the Golden Boot at the European Championship since Alan Shearer at Euro ’96, coincidentally the last time the competition was held in England.

(Odds in this article are correct at the time of writing. 18+ only, BeGambleAware.org)

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