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It’s been 55 years since England’s World Cup success on home soil, and with the talented players and squads they’ve had over the years since, you’d say that England have underperformed to not have any international honours since then. World-Cup semi-final appearances in 1990 and 2018 have been their best finishes since 1966 with no final appearances in the European Championships on record.
The last international tournament England hosted was Euro ‘96, where they were knocked out by Germany on penalties when now-manager Gareth Southgate missed the decisive spot-kick in sudden-death. England will be hoping to go one better this time around and their route to the final could easily see six of their seven games being played at Wembley.
Croatia – London: Sunday, June 13, 2pm
Scotland – London: Friday, June 18, 8pm
Czech Republic – London: Tuesday, June 22, 8pm
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
England had a quite straightforward qualifying group and as usual qualified comfortably with seven wins from eight games, losing just once to group runners up Czech Republic. They scored 37 goals and conceded just six. Harry Kane (12) and Raheem Sterling (8) scored 20 goals between them in qualifying.
Gareth Southgate took the national team role in 2016 after the infamous sacking of Sam Allardyce who had just one game in charge. Southgate has England’s second highest win per cent at 61.5 per cent, behind only Fabio Capello. ‘The Waistcoated One’ became a national hero in 2018 when nearly ‘bringing football home’ in guiding England to the World Cup semi-finals. Southgate will be under pressure to deliver a strong performance with England’s wealth of attacking talent and advantage of having most of their games at home.
Southgate has chopped and changed his formations over the past two years, usually between a 4-3-3 and a 3-5-2. It was the 3-5-2 formation England used at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Harry Maguire is struggling with injury and may not start the first couple of group games. Kyle Walker played alongside John Stones and Maguire in Russia and Southgate could opt for something similar this time around.
In midfield Southgate tends to plays it safe, especially against stronger opposition and will likely play two holding midfielders from Declan Rice, Jordan Henderson and Kalvin Phillips. Further up the pitch there is a wealth of talent and the game plan will be for England to break quickly using any combinations of Phil Foden, Mason Mount, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Jack Grealish behind star man Harry Kane.
With 34 goals in 53 international appearances, Harry Kane is England’s main man. The 2018 World Cup Golden Boot winner is at the centre of intense transfer speculation this summer, but if he can put that to the back of his mind, he’ll be crucial to England’s chances of lifting the European Championship.
It was a season to forget for his club Tottenham, but that didn’t stop Kane landing his third Premier League Boot with 23 goals and an impressive 14 assists. Give him a quarter chance and he can turn a game completely on its head.
ONE TO WATCH
Declan Rice. A sore sight for any Irish fans this summer will be Rice lining up for England. Despite being only 22 years old, Rice has been a main-stay in the West Ham midfield for the past four seasons and was integral to the Hammers claiming a top-six spot.
One of the first names on the teamsheet, he can take the ball comfortably and can help transition and play the ball from defence to attack quicker than his counterparts Henderson or Phillips.
Here’s all the key data on England’s squad.
- Squads and statistics correct at time of data sheet creation.
In Group D England shouldn’t have any problems qualifying and are long odds-on to win the group. With them are three familiar opponents in Croatia who knocked them out at the 2018 World Cup semi-final stage, Czech Republic who were also in their Euro 2020 qualifying group, and old foes Scotland.
England have all three of their group games at Wembley and would expect maximum points. However, winning the group may not be in their best interests. Winning Group D would pit England against the runners-up of Group F which contains Germany, France and Portugal. If they could progress through that Round of 16 tie, England would be in full football fever mode and with semi-finals and a potential final in Wembley, you would not back against them going all the way.
Despite having all three group games at home, England could easily take their foot off the gas for one of the games and see Croatia take top spot in Group D. England have been known to have some poor results in international tournaments over recent years and have only topped a European Championship or World Cup group once in their last six, with four runner-up finishes. There’s value in England being runners-up, especially considering it opens an easier route to the final on paper.
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