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5 things we learned as England won Group D at Euro 2020

By June 23, 2021No Comments

England are through to the European Championship knockout phase as group winners but the hard work starts now.

Gareth Southgate knows the Three Lions need to go up a gear after 1-0 wins against Croatia and the Czech Republic bookended the 0-0 draw with oldest rivals Scotland.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the things, both positive and negative, that became apparent on the way to England’s Group D win.

England need to score more

Raheem Sterling’s strike against Croatia and his header from Jack Grealish’s pinpoint cross early against the Czechs on Tuesday were the only goals England managed across their three pool matches. Southgate’s side are the lowest scoring side ever to top a European Championship group – a far cry from the 37 goals they plundered in qualification for this tournament. Harry Kane scored 12 of those and provided five more assists, but the top scorer in qualification has not looked anything like the sharpshooter club and country are used to seeing. The 27-year-old showed sparks of life against the Czechs but England need to provide better service, as well as add goals around him.

5 things we learned as England won Group D at Euro 2020 PLZ Soccer
Harry Kane has yet to find the net at Euro 2020 (Nick Potts/PA)

The defence looks miserly

England may be lacking a killer instinct but their defence has been impressive. They have gone through the group stage at a major tournament without conceding for just the third time in their history, taking their record to 15 clean sheets in the last 19 matches in all competitions. Rejuvenated Manchester City centre-back John Stones has performed admirably, with Tyrone Mings putting in what Southgate said were colossal displays before Harry Maguire made an encouraging return from his ankle issue on Tuesday. The full-backs offered more attacking threat against the Czechs than they had in the previous two group games, while oft-doubted Jordan Pickford has been assured between the sticks when called upon.

The Three Lions boast impressive depth

Trent Alexander-Arnold’s selection among four right-backs was a big talking point when Southgate named his 26-man selection – an expanded squad that was without talents like Jesse Lingard, James Ward-Prowse and Ollie Watkins. Alexander-Arnold’s injury saw Ben White added to a group that is heavy in options across the squad, allowing Southgate to seal progress while gradually building performance and changing things up. It has, though, brought increased scrutiny and bemusement from afar, with the feelings on the manager’s choices running deep.

5 things we learned as England won Group D at Euro 2020 PLZ Soccer
England are blessed with plenty of attacking talent (Carl Recine/PA)

Playing in front of fans brings new pressures

Continuing that theme, the first Wembley match in front of England fans in 18 months was beginning to run flat against Croatia and impatient supporters started chanting Jack Grealish’s name just before Sterling’s winner. There were more ‘Super Jack’ chants calling for the playmaker to come off the bench against Scotland, then audible disgruntlement when he was taken off against the Czechs. Fan frustration reached such a level on Friday that England’s efforts in the 0-0 draw against Steve Clarke’s Scots were booed at the final whistle, leading Southgate to urge fans to stick with his young players. It is a huge change in atmosphere after more than a season behind closed doors.

5 things we learned as England won Group D at Euro 2020 PLZ Soccer
Some England fans vented their frustration at the performance against Scotland (Nick Potts/PA)

Expect the unexpected

While Southgate is not universally popular right now, he is as clued up as anyone about how to react and adapt at major tournaments. The former defender represented England 57 times as a player and led England to a World Cup semi-final three years ago. He brought up his 57th match in charge against the Czechs on Tuesday, when preparations were rocked by Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell being forced into isolation as a coronavirus precaution after coming into contact with Scotland’s Billy Gilmour. But the 50-year-old was not flustered by the challenging change in circumstances, nor has he been when faced by a variety of issues down the years.