Euro 2020 is days away from kickoff and the excitement is through the roof. As another major tournament arrives the talk of the trophy coming home will arise. England have been underperforming on the world and European stage in the recent past. A semi-final run at the 2018 World Cup can raise hopes this time ahead of Euro 2020. Can they ride the wave and win the Euros. We assess the strengths and weaknesses of the England squad.
It all starts on Sunday! 👀 pic.twitter.com/vfYAy0lxlF
— England (@England) June 7, 2021
England are placed in a moderate Group-D. It has world cup runner-ups and dark horses Croatia along with eternal foes Scotland and tough nuts Czech Republic. England have enough quality to top the group. The task only gets tougher as they could face one of Portugal, France, or Germany in the round of 16. They have to be at their very best to go all the way and lift the title.
We at FootTheBall analyse England’s strengths and weaknesses and leave you with the decision of whether they could bring the trophy home or not.
STAR POWER IN SUPER FORM
England can take heart that they have few superstars all over the pitch. Their biggest leader is striker Harry Kane. The 27-year-old is in the form of his life. He finished the recent Premier League season with 23 goals and 14 assists. Kane was a lethal finisher from the beginning and now he has added assists to his game. He’s been sensational with his back to the goal this season. Strong in linkup play he brings wingers into play and finds them with razor-sharp passes. He’ll be determined to repeat his Golden Boot winning heroics from the 2018 World Cup and win the Euros this time.
✅ Premier League Golden Boot
✅ Premier League Playmaker Award
— England (@England) May 23, 2021
They also have superstars like Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford in the attack. The wingers are coming into the Euros in red hot form and their personal best seasons. The defence has seen John Stones rise to his fullest potential in a resurgent season. Jordan Pickford in goal has had a fine season and looks set to protect England’s backline.
YOUTH IS THE WAY
England have gone with a youthful approach this time. They have trusted youngsters this time over some wise experienced heads. They hope that youth can be their X-factor at the Euros and propel them to glory. Their squad is bubbling with youthful energy with the inclusions of Phil Foden, Mason Mount, and Jude Bellingham.
17 – Last night, Jude Bellingham became the first 17-year-old to play the full 90 minutes in a match for England for 140 years, since Thurston Rostron did so in a March 1881 defeat to Scotland at Kennington Oval. Hey. pic.twitter.com/XLRzJeBBwp
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 3, 2021
Jude Bellingham(17) and Bukayo Saka(19) are the youngest starlets in the senior squad. A year ago they wouldn’t have been in contention for Euros at all. A pandemic enforced one-year break has seen them burst into the national squad. Other stars like Phil Foden (21), Reece James(21), Mason Mount(22) and Declan Rice (21) are toddlers on the international stage as well. It is not to be forgotten that established superstars like Sancho(21) and Rashford (23) are young as well.
All these inclusions give England an average squad age of 24.8 years which is the third youngest at the tournament behind Spain and Turkey. These young stars who have limitless talent have no fear and can express themselves on the biggest stage. We can see a handful of them start for Euros and hopefully do something that their experienced stars have failed to do in the previous years.
DON’T OVERTHINK IT SOUTHGATE
Gareth Southgate has horrible memories of the Euros living in his mind. Ever since he missed a penalty against Germany in Euro 96 semi-finals he wasn’t the same. He’d like to banish those demons and make better memories this time. He took charge of the English side in difficult circumstances after a successful spell with the young lions. At times Southgate’s decisions were questioned.
'I have never believed that we should just 𝑠𝑡𝑖𝑐𝑘 𝑡𝑜 𝑓𝑜𝑜𝑡𝑏𝑎𝑙𝑙.'
— Players' Tribune Football (@TPTFootball) June 8, 2021
Southgate’s first major tournament was the 2018 world-cup. He led England to the semis for the first time in a millennium and let many English fans experience what it feels like for the first time. They lost the semis to a high-flying Croatian side. It was seen as the start of something and the English side was destined to explode. Things didn’t go exactly as planned a couple of years ago.
Southgate’s England struggled against top sides like Belgium and Spain. His squad selection at times was giving rise to doubts about his managerial capabilities. The way he sets up his team is also questionable. With all the firepower available he opts for a pragmatic approach to settle for a win by hook or crook. It is frustrating to see England waste their firepower and settle for tame 1-0,2-0 wins against lower oppositions as well. Southgate has to rework his big game strategy and go with a free-flowing approach.
THE CENTRE-BACK PROBLEM
England’s options at centre-back were severely dented by the injury of Harry Maguire. Maguire was injured on May 9th and the possibility of him making the opener against Croatia looks slim. England already lost Joe Gomez a definite starter at the back to a season-ending injury last year itself. A year ago Gomez and Maguire could’ve been outright starters for them.
This year has seen John Stones rediscover himself. The Manchester City defender has been in imperial form and made a starting spot his own. Stones partnering Maguire was a certainty until Maguire’s untimely injury. This has left them thin at the back. Natural replacement Tyrone Mings is struggling for form and Conor Coady isn’t trusted on the international stage. Southgate took a gamble by calling up Ben White for the injured Trent Alexander-Arnold. He’d be hoping that White would come good.
— England (@England) June 7, 2021
Southgate can gamble by playing full-backs at centre-back. Kyle Walker has played a centre-back in the past for England and can be expected to be deployed there again. Similarly, Reece James a right-back by trade can fill in at centre-back. It’s all down to Southgate and how he uses his troop to deal with this problem.