England might have failed in their bid to win the UEFA Nations League. However, Gareth Southgate’s men have still left England fans with a realistic hope that sometime over the course of the next nine months, football could still be coming home, and if that hope fades, there is always the finals of World Cup to look forward to in 2022.
Bad luck contributed to England’s exit
England didn’t actually perform too badly in their 2-0 defeat by Belgium in their last Nations League match. We had more of the play than the Belgians, and their both their two goals had an element of luck about them. Their first, scored by Leicester City’s Youri Tielemans from 20 yards out, was slightly deflected off Tyrone Mings; not a massive deflection, but enough so that Jordan Pickford could only get his fingertips onto the ball, and it went in off the near post.
Belgium’s second goal was from a free-kick, which arguably should not have been given in the first place. Without VAR, much hated by many in the Premier League this season, the kick was awarded, and beautifully taken by Dries Mertens leaving Pickford no chance.
Lack of goal scoring opportunities
On a night when England had most of the possession, it was their lack of creating goal-scoring opportunities that cost them, dear.
Kane, although he played well and had a header cleared off the line by Lukaku, didn’t get the service he needed, and when he dropped deeper, as he often does for Spurs, there was no Son Heung-min to release. It might have been different if Rashford and Sterling were available, but alas they were not, and England’s chances remained few and far between.
The only brightness to come out of the game was the performance of Jack Grealish. He had a good match, frequently causing the Belgians problems with his skill, and deservedly taking the England man of the match award. Perhaps he should become a permanent squad fixture?
Looking forward to Euro 2020 now 2021
Twenty-four teams will be competing in the Euro 2020 competition with the finals taking place a year behind schedule because of the COVID-19 pandemic, between the 11th of June and the 11th of July. The matches are still scheduled to be held in the 12 countries originally designated, Coronavirus permitting of course.
England are in Group D along with Croatia, the Czech Republic, and Scotland. The games will take place in London and Glasgow. Two teams from each of the six groups will go through to the knockout phase, plus the four best third-placed nations. England are, of course, expected to qualify.
According to Betfair, there are three joint-favourites. They are Belgium, England, and France. Harry Kane is the favourite to win the Golden Boot award, ahead of Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, and Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappé.
But is here a real chance of football coming home?
How the England squad shapes up
If you look at the monetary value of the various nation’s squads in Euro 2021, England are well ahead. Here’s how they compare.
- England – £1.26 billion
- France – £931.95 million
- Spain – £758.25 million
- Portugal – £686.25 million
- Germany – £663.75 million
- Belgium – £641.41 million
Good news for England. However, we all know that it is not just about transfer values. It is more about how a team of players, play together, and that is all too often where England fall down
Playing to our players’ strengths
We have great players who regularly sturt their stuff in the Premier League week after week. But when then don a shirt with Three Lions on it, they very often don’t reproduce their league form. Sometimes it’s because they are played out of position. Other problems include the way they are told to play and the system that the team is made to adopt.
Although England’s attack never really look like scoring, apart from Kane when he had a glimmer of a chance, it was the lack of creativity from midfield that is the real problem. We have strikers aplenty Kane, Rashford and Sterling are all world-class. We also have good back-ups with the likes of Danny Ings and Jamie Vardy. But we lack that all-important midfield playmaker.
The need for a world-class playmaker
Jack Grealish could be that man. He certainly played well against Belgium, and if he were to be given the playmaker role, it could be exactly what England need. Grealish has the dribbling skills to run at defenders, as he amply demonstrated against Belgium. Now all he needs to do is show his ability to make killer passes, splitting defenders and putting chances on a plate for our strikers.
Mount is acquitting himself well but lacks killer passing ability. Perhaps its time for Leicester City’s James Maddison to be given another chance? He is certainly the sort of playmaker England desperately needs and arguably should be given a place in the squad for Euro 2021.
There is no doubt that Gareth Southgate has brought passion and belief back into being for fans of the England team, but he cannot afford more performances like the one against the Belgians. Especially on the back of the defeat by Denmark.
We have the players, and there is a definite feeling that football could be coming home, but we must fill that midfield playmaker position if we are to make it happen
Looking forward to the World Cup Finals in 2022
As for the World Cup finals in 2022, there is still a long time to go, but not that long. Euro 2021 will provide an excellent opportunity for Southgate to continue to firm up his squad. Players like 20-year-old Jadon Sancho and 19-year-old Bukayo Ayoyinka can be given time to establish their claims, while, the Kanes, Rashfords and Sterlings have plenty of mileage left on their clocks to still be at the top of the games. It holds real promise.
Coming home in a different way
Off the field, recent rumour has it that the FA are in talks with UEFA about the possibility of the UK being the single host nation for 2021. At the moment, it is said to be a potential back-up contingency measure, dependent on what happens with the COVID-19 pandemic in the coming months.
It could mean that football might be coming home, but not quite in the sentiments of the Baddiel, Skinner and Lightning Seeds’ song with which we are all so familiar.