The routine is usually the same for England heading into a major tournament. Fans and the media alike hype up the team, they stumble through a competition before usually bowing out around the quarter-finals.
But something feels different this time. There is a palpable sense of belief coursing through the veins of the Three Lions. After steering England to the World Cup semi-finals three years ago, Gareth Southgate has brought about a feel-good factor, and with London one of the co-host cities, could football really come home this summer? In this preview, we will run the rule over Southgate’s squad, and assess their chances at Euro 2020.
On the face of it, Group D is an eminently winnable group for England. They will be joined by Croatia, Czech Republic, and Scotland. The Three Lions were famously paired with Scotland at Euro 96 where they prevailed 2-0 against the Auld Enemy. Paul Gascoigne turned in a virtuoso display, as he memorably left Colin Hendry flailing before he fired a volley into the bottom corner of the goal, prompting the infamous ‘dentist chair’ goal celebration. Scotland – who are appearing in their first international tournament in 23 years – are a much-improved outfit, and they shouldn’t be scoffed at. Arsenal full-back Kieran Tierney will be one to watch, as he likes to bomb down the left flank and whip balls into the box.
Moving onto Croatia, revenge will be firmly fixed on the minds of the England contingent following their World Cup semi-final exit. Luka Modrić is one of Croatia’s core players, and he will look to boss things in the middle of the park. They could well be in the reckoning again come the latter stages of the tournament.
Meanwhile, Czech Republic have some pedigree in the competition, and they reached the final at Euro 96. There are no particular standout players, although Premier League fans will be all too aware of Tomáš Souček’s exploits at West Ham.
The outright Euros 2020 betting market will spark a frenzy, and England will be among the contenders along with France, Belgium, and Italy. Whether England can end their 55-year wait for an international trophy remains to be seen.
England have an abundance of riches at their disposal. Southgate made the head-scratching decision to name four right-backs which left some befuddled.
Nevertheless, they can cause a lot of damage in midfield and up top. Phil Foden had a terrific season at Manchester City, and he continues to get better and better. His left foot is a wand, and he can pick up pockets of space easily. No defender will be able to take their eyes off him for a moment.
Harry Kane, naturally, is the talisman, and he is lethal inside the box. The Tottenham striker has sometimes shown signs of fatigue at previous international tournaments, but he will be crucial to England’s chances of doing well.
One to watch
Ultimately it depends on how much game time Southgate is willing to afford Jadon Sancho, but the Borussia Dortmund star has been ripping it up on a regular basis in the Bundesliga. He has an electric turn of pace, and he’s only 21, so his best years are ahead of him. Sancho is one of these fearless players, who if unleashed, could tear teams to shreds.