England Euro 2020 Preview

Harry Kane

English football has seen somewhat of a resurgence over the last 3 years. After reaching the Semi-Finals of 2018 World Cup and each of the so-called ‘Big Six’ English teams reaching at least one major European final, England is right up there with the strongest footballing nations again. This, along with an increasing development of high-quality English players, has helped culminate in England’s Euro 2020 prospects looking strong. With the depth of talent available, this squad is certainly capable of excelling at the big stage.

Key Players

The cliché ‘selection headache’ is certainly fitting when it comes to Southgate choosing his starting line-up from England’s Euro 2020 squad. How Southgate decides who starts in attack between Grealish, Foden, Mount, Rashford, Sterling, Saka and Sancho is not entirely clear. Each one of these players have made a strong case for their selection with their performances throughout the season. The one attacking player who is pretty much guaranteed to start is their captain and star striker. Harry Kane has had one of his most successful seasons, after winning the golden boot, with 23 goals. He has also shown his all-round capabilities with a league-high 14 assists and should carry on showing his class at the European Championships. A strong performance from him will continue to entice other clubs (including Manchester United) to snap him up, during this summer’s transfer window.

England’s other main area of strength is in their fullback positions. Ben Chilwell and Luke Shaw have both excelled at their respective clubs and will be competing to start at left-back. On the opposite side, Trippier, Walker and James will be in contention to start.

Southgate has often received criticism for not being more tactically brave. He tends to field two defensive midfielders thus not making the most of his attack-minded players.  This more conservative approach has frustrated fans, especially when the results haven’t gone England’s way. But teams need some degree of pragmatism for a successful tournament, particularly when facing stronger opponents. If he can utilise the creative players at his disposal without compromising on a solid defence, then this could be an exciting campaign for the Three Lions.

Recent Form

Many have asked questions about England’s results in the past year, after a largely disappointing Nations League performance, finishing 3rd in a group with Belgium, Denmark and Iceland. They are currently on a 6-game winning streak, albeit against teams where people expected them to win comfortably. Even their most recent wins in the warm-up matches for the Euros against Romania and Austria weren’t entirely convincing. However, England didn’t field their strongest line-ups, partly due to the rest given for players involved in the Champions League final.

How Far Will They Go?

England’s Euro 2020 group looks favourable and they should finish ahead of Croatia, Czech Republic and Scotland in Group D. Although England expect to win all their group games, these certainly won’t be easy fixtures.   Similar to the 2018 World Cup, how far England progress could be decided by whether they face an easier draw for the knockouts. But a strong performance in the group doesn’t necessarily correlate with easier opponents in the next rounds.  Finishing top will see them face the runner-up of Group F, where they could face Portugal, France or Germany. If England finish second, they will probably have an easier draw for the Round of 16, facing the runners-up of Group E. This will most likely be either Sweden, Slovakia or Poland. However, if England are to win the tournament, they must beat the big sides at some point.

Fans and pundits alike seem to be optimistic on England’s chances, especially compared to previous tournaments. This is an especially exciting group of players who are ready to shine on the international stage. An extra plus is that if England make it to the latter stages, they will have the home advantage – as both the semi-finals and finals will be hosted at Wembley.

Southgate and his staff were noted for how they lifted team spirits and improved bonding in the last World Cup. Previous managers have often overlooked this and which has contributed to failures at previous campaigns. If he can get the team gelling together on and off the pitch and make the most of the exciting talent, then perhaps they can end their 55 years of hurt.

Author: Joel Abraham