Southgate’s hand was forced

Highlights: Sterling header helps England top group | UEFA Euro 2020

what will he do now.

Two players that played a major part in England winning their final group game of Euro 2020, so topping the group, wouldn’t have played if Southgate hadn’t been forced into it.

I said before the tournament that England can only be saved from Southgate by injuries and suspensions, the final group game saw two players missing due to be sort of suspended while another was missing due to the threat of suspension.

If Southgate had his way the player who set up the winning goal, Grealish, and the man of the match, Saka, wouldn’t have started against the Czech Republic. His hand was forced by Mount having to isolate and Foden being on a yellow, so with Southgate’s logic a risk of missing the next game, which he thinks Mount won’t be available for either.

The fact that neither of them should have featured in this game and that neither should start in the next one is obvious to everyone but Southgate. Is there anyone actually calling for either of them back? Grealish crossed for the only goal, something neither Mount nor Foden managed in their two games, while Saka did more in the first half of his first tournament start, than either did in those two previous games.

Yes these two lit the place up but it was still another poor performance in general.

Things started off slowly, again and for most of the game stayed that way. Stats showing England are the slowest of all the teams at the tournament at getting the ball forward. The usual Chuckle Brothers routine at the back… to me… to you… to me. Getting nowhere but slowly going further back and back and back until they either really play themselves into trouble or it heads to Pickford and he launches up the park. And you’re thinking “Why didn’t you just do that in the damn first place?”.

Before the game Gary Neville was adamant that Southgate hadn’t told the fullbacks not to go forward, yet Walker set off up the park, with plenty of space in front of him, he stopped at the halfway line and passed the ball back.

There was one quick movement when Shaw played in Sterling, who when faced with the onrushing keeper, lobbed the ball so it curled away and hit the post. You could tell he was confused with which foot to play it with.

The only goal of the game started with one player who did go forward. Saka. Usually receiving the ball with his back to goal, his first instinct was to turn and run. It brought some life to England. Doing so from the England half he passed it out to Phillips on the right. Saka had continued his run into the box, where Phillips played the ball back to him. He put a cross which was over everyone but picked up by Grealish, who nodded it back to Kane, who controlled it before passing it back to Grealish, who then made for the byline and put a cross in – another stat where England lag behind everyone, crosses – a slight deflection took it onto the head of Sterling at the back post. We have to be thankful it was on his head, so he wasn’t confused by which foot to use.

I mean how many back post sitters has he missed for England and City. According to some, Kane should have passed to Sterling, when Kane went for his first shot on target all tournament long after. Kane was being greedy for not squaring it to Sterling…

Yes… that Sterling in the photo… the one standing offside. Jamie Carragher says Sterling should be the first name on the team sheet and more appreciated. But against the Czech’s he was permanently offside. Against the Jocks there’s that video doing the rounds of him turning in ever decreasing circles with players open around him that wouldn’t pass to. Hell they even highlighted it on the TV coverage before this game – it shows he’s not a team player. But apparently “Since 2018, at club level Sterling has recorded the most goal involvements (goals and assists combined) than any other England player (110)” is the reason. Though in the same time period, Sancho has just one fewer, 49 goals, 60 assists, he’s not calling for Sancho. Kane has just a handful fewer over the period and he wants Kane dropped.

The team still did not function. As said the fullbacks didn’t get forward. Bar that cross for the goal there was very little, if any byline action. The Czech could have and should have scored on a few occasions. They had more attempts , while there wasn’t much between the pair in attempts on target.

It was all very Southgate, especially after the break. Again I ask… what does he do with them at half-time. They always come out as if their oranges have been spiked with mogadon. The introduction of Henderson, a surprise omission from the starting line up, did not help. Though there was the fun moment when he thought he’d got his first goal for the country, only for it to be offside.

Southgate’s changes slowly made things even worse, leading to a totally disjointed ending.

And then the following day it all panned out for Southgate – just like the easy route in the World Cup. Is he the luckiest England manager since Bobby Robson. With the final group games going this way and that, England’s round of 16 opponent was at one point every team in Group F. Starting with Germany it went to France, then Portugal then Hungary, more twist and turns before ending up where we started, Germany.

One final hurrah for Low. But you know with the right team selection this German team are very beatable. Then what is there. Well on that side of the draw, only the Dutch – alongside Wales, Denmark, the Czechs, Sweden and Ukraine. All the big teams on the other side.

It’s just all down to Southgate, I mean they’re already talking about dropping Grealish for Foden because the set pieces were rubbish against the Czechs. And this news that Southgate has an Ed Sheeran gig lined up for them before the game…. getting his half-time dullfest in beforehand.

The team… well, I hadn’t thought about Saka before this game, he can play at wing back and if staying outside could provide more crosses. So I’d stick with most of what I would have gone with last time, but might stick with Maguire and Saka to replace Trippier.

England XI to play Germany in Euro 2020 round of 16
England XI to play Germany in Euro 2020 round of 16

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