Sam Allardyce believes the coronavirus pandemic has helped ensure England have the strongest squad at Euro 2020 and has backed Gareth Southgate to keep getting his choices right ahead of Wednesday’s semi-final with Denmark.
A 4-0 win over Ukraine on Saturday following a Harry Kane brace and goals from Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson sent the Three Lions into the last four of the European Championship for only the second time.
Next up is a clash with Denmark at Wembley with the tournament, delayed a year due to the outbreak of Covid-19 across the world in 2020, now into its final week.
Speaking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, former England boss Allardyce said: “Throughout the whole of the tournament, if you look at the squad England have, it is the strongest squad.
“I think certainly the cancellation of the Euros last year has done England proud in terms of an extra year where these younger players have developed even more.
“They have had more experience of Champions League football and in the Premier League so I think that is coming to fruition now. The size of the squad and the talent is what it is all about and Gareth has used the talent of the squad very, very well indeed.
“He has made lots of big choices that could be criticised but at the moment every choice he has made has paid off and long may that continue.”
After scoring only twice in the group stage, both from Raheem Sterling, England have flourished in the knock-out phase with a 2-0 win over Germany followed by a thrashing of Ukraine at the weekend.
While the goals are now flowing, it is at the other end of the pitch where Southgate’s men have been consistent throughout with Jordan Pickford yet to concede a goal on his way to keeping five clean sheets.
“Form has come better and better and performances have got better and better as the tournament has progressed,” added Allardyce, who worked with England’s number one at Sunderland and Everton.
“The confidence in the side, particularly now with the defensive solidity and the defensive side of this team, is absolutely fantastic.
“Having conceded no goals at all yet means any team facing England need to be very good to break them down and that is a great platform for success in the tournament.
“If they keep that defensive record going and Harry Kane, Sterling and the frontline talented players gain more confidence, we will create a lot of opportunities against Denmark.”
The Danes lost their opening two games at Euro 2020, including their first against Finland when star player Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest.
Kasper Hjulmand has nevertheless managed to galvanise the group and secured wins over Russia, Wales and Czech Republic to reach the stage for the first time since they won the tournament 29 years ago.
Allardyce predicts a tough encounter on Wednesday but believes the Wembley support could be key.
He said: “It is not quite as easy as the Ukraine game, much more difficult and tactically we will have to be very careful about Denmark’s threats and they have a fantastic team spirit, as does England.
“It is looking to be a very good game, a very interesting game and we would hope our home advantage and our fans will play a big part in getting us over the line.”