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.
And while England haven’t been perfect at Euro 2020, they have qualified for the quarter-finals unbeaten without conceding a single goal, most recently beating Germany 2-0.
Southgate wary of ‘dangerous moment’ as England advance beyond Germany
After beating Germany at a major tournament for the first time since Euro 2000, the mood among England supporters is understandably high. Many now see the Three Lions’ path to the final as a sure thing, with Ukraine awaiting in the quarter-final and a clash with either Denmark or the Czech Republic in the final four should they get that far.
But Southgate is working hard to ensure his players don’t succumb to complacency, warning their tag of tournament favourites doesn’t give them a divine right to reach the final and lift the trophy.
“It’s a dangerous moment for us,” he said following the win over Germany. “We have a feeling round the country that we only have to turn up to win the thing now, but it’s going to be an immense challenge from here on.
“The players’ feet are on the ground, they should feel confident from the way they’ve played, but we came here with an intention and we’ve not achieved that yet.
“To see the second goal in was a really special moment. But we’ve not achieved what we want to achieve yet. We can look back on a day like today in the future, but I want to get my focus right and look ahead to Saturday.”
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, has seen him continue between the sticks and he’s been superb across his four appearances at the tournament so far.
Defender: John Stones
Having Harry Maguire coming in carrying an injury was 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 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). Stones anchored the England defence brilliantly in Maguire’s absence and has continued his strong form since Man Utd man’s return.
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 a young England Euro 2020 squad. Henderson has started making some substitute appearances as he regains fitness, so expect his role within the squad to increase as a result.
Forward: Harry Kane
England are blessed with a number of talented wingers but without Harry Kane, they wouldn’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. Kane finally got off the mark against Germany, so expect the goals and assists to come pouring in from here on out.
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
The manager: Gareth Southgate
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 and was vindicated with that 2-0 win over Germany.
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 and carried that through the group stage.
Pickford, between the sticks, excelled with his distribution, Kieran Trippier sprinkled some Diego Simeone gold dust on the left flank 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 have been threatening as well, with the former scoring both of England’s goals, while Kane was slightly subdued by his standards.
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.
Southgate switched back to that three-centre-back system for the clash with Germany at Wembley, brilliantly nullifying the threats of wing-backs Joshua Kimmich and Robin Gosens.
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: WWDWWWWW
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 now the favourites to win Euro 2020 and Sky Bet are offering odds for 2/1 for England to end those 55 years of hurt. The exits of France, Portugal and the Netherlands have certainly helped their odds.
(Odds in this article are correct at the time of writing. 18+ only, BeGambleAware.org)
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