The long wait for England’s most promising batch of stars to assert themselves on one of football’s biggest stages of all is finally upon us, and the Three Lions go into the tournament as second-favourites to win Euro 2020 at 5/1.
The 2018 World Cup semi-final defeat to Croatia still lingers heavily amongst fans, but Gareth Southgate will be confident of taking his side to the next level and into the upper echelons of international football this summer. Expectations are high.
As ever, England go into a major tournament with a good qualifying record behind them — they also have a strong 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign due to the year long delay — and key players (see below) are going into the summer in the form of their lives. Tough selection decisions have had to be made; a good headache to have, as they say.
In part 2 of our Euro 2020 preview series here at Upper 90, we’re going to take a look into England’s form, playing style and key men for the upcoming tournament. As ever, there’ll be key odds and tips scattered into the research for your own reference.
Euro 2020 qualifying: WWWLWWWW
It’s always hard to gauge a team’s — especially England’s— chances of winning a major tournament from their qualifying record. To win the Euro’s they will need to beat the likes of France, Germany and Belgium. To qualify they had to beat The Czech Republic, Kosovo, Bulgaria and Montenegro.
You can only beat what’s in front of you, however, and England did exactly that in all but one of their qualifiers (a 2–1 defeat to the Czechs). They managed 37 goals in their eight games (4.6 goals per game) and conceded only six — the defeat in Prague was the only game in which Southgate’s side failed to score 4+ goals.
The Nations League provided opponents more indicative of a genuine Euro campaign. England finished third in their group and lost to the two teams that finished above them: Belgium and Denmark. They failed to score in either. Both of England’s warm-up games were uninspiring to say the least, winning 1–0 against both Austria and Romania.
Southgate is likely to deploy his usual 3–4–3 formation in June (especially with Harry Maguire’s doubtful fitness), the formation which he has entrusted in major tournaments since 2018. A sturdy back three is hoped to bring the necessary security to his England side against world-class opposition.
England will rely on their wing-backs to provide a high attacking output in wide areas, hugging touchlines and providing overlaps for the two wingers — in this case Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling— who will favour cutting inside.
A lot of pre-tournament discussion has been based around the midfield double-pivot and what this should look like. Once again, Southgate’s natural conservatism is likely to direct him towards an industrious duo such as Jordan Henderson and Declan Rice. Should Henderson still be injured, the case could well be made for the inclusion of someone such as Mason Mount.
Upfront there is no question. If Kane is fit then Kane starts. He is the talisman of this side and the focal point to England’s attack. As important as his finishers instinct is his ability to drop into a deeper role and facilitate the runs of the likes of Foden and Rashford.
Southgate will want England to dominate possession through the group stages as his side look to take control of games against lesser opposition. His conservative approach, should all go well, will shine against elite opposition, conceding possession and absorbing pressure before counter-attacking with devastating effect.
Harry Kane: A leader from the front, Kane is the focal point from which all positive attacking output comes for England. He won the Golden Boot at the 2018 World Cup (6 goals), turning up at vital moments to edge games in England’s favour.
In the Premier League this season Kane has the most goals (21), most assists (13), highest xG (18.3) and highest non-penalty xG (15.2). His goal contributions (goals + assists) per 90 minutes is 1.12.
As we have already mentioned, however, Kane brings so much more to this England side than pure goals. His intelligence on the ball means he can just as easily drop into a creative role as the two either side push in and up to put Kane in the 10 of a 3–5–2.
If England are to go far in this tournament they will need Kane fit and firing. He is joint favourite to win the Golden Boot (alongside Kylian Mbappe) at 7/1.
Harry Maguire: England’s success into the latter stages of the tournament will rely massively on their defensive cohesion, and despite his injury almost certainly ruling him out of most, if not all, group games, Southgate’s key man in the knockouts will be Manchester United’s Harry Maguire. He, John Stones and Jordan Pickford were the only players to feature in all seven games during the 2018 World Cup, whilst Maguire and Kane made the joint most starts (six) for the Euro qualifiers.
Domestically, Maguire has been a constant feature in a Red Devils side that boasts the third best defence in the league conceding exactly one goal per 90 minutes from an xGA/90 of 1.12. His consistency alongside a myriad of defensive partners has been a major factor in United’s successes this season.
Another huge benefit in a tournament of such fine margins can be set pieces, as shown by Southgate’s World Cup side. It was Maguire who opened the scoring in their 2–0 quarter-final win against Sweden, and he will continue to be a set-piece threat throughout June.
As we have already mentioned, England are 5/1 to win Euro 2020. They are also 13/5 to reach the final, 11/8 to reach the semi-final and 2/5 to win their group.
Kane is the favourite to win the Golden Boot at 11/2, whilst Raheem Sterling is 33/1, Marcus Rashford 40/1 and just-turned 21-year old Phil Foden is an outside 50/1 — the season he’s just had, you wouldn’t put it past him though.
England are 4/6 to win their opener against Croatia.
England are in Group D with Croatia, the Czech Republic and Scotland.
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