England exorcised their demons when they defeated Germany in a Euro 2020 round of 16 matchup.
The 2-0 victory was the first time The Three Lions beat die Mannschaft in a competitive setting since the 1966 World Cup final, which was also at Wembley Stadium. For context, Queen Elizabeth II gave the Jules Rimet trophy to captain Bobby Moore after that legendary victory. She was 40 years old. Today, the Queen is 95.
Head coach Gareth Southgate deserves credit for the triumph. For years, he mostly used a variation of a 3-4-3 and 3-4-2-1. In 2018, England finished third in the World Cup, but many doubted the achievement due to their style of play. In Euro 2020, he set up his side in a 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 to be more progressive in their approach but, once again, they were eking out results instead of imposing their will on their opponents. In their game with the three-time European champions Germany, Southgate reverted to a 3-4-3, to counter Joachim Löw’s 3-4-2-1. The chances were there for both squads but only England took advantage, thanks to their talented attacking unit.
Jack Grealish entered the match in the 69th minute and impacted the game instantly. The versatile attacker played on the left wing and combined with Luke Shaw on both goals. In the 75th minute, Kyle Walker passed the ball to his Manchester City teammate Raheem Sterling who drove into final third. Afterwards, Grealish received the ball in the inside left channel and he swung the ball to Shaw who crossed it into Sterling for a tap-in goal.
While the first goal came from build-up play, the second goal appeared from a quick counterattack. Shaw tackled Serge Gnabry for the ball at the halfway line and charged down the middle of the pitch uncontested. He then passed the ball to Grealish who was once again in the inside left channel and the Aston Villa captain delivered a crafty cross for a Harry Kane header in the 86th minute.
Those two glimpses displayed the untapped potential in England. They can control games in the future with their pace, directness and technique. Heading into their quarterfinal match against Ukraine, the Three Lions have only scored four goals in four matches. Three of them belong to Sterling, who has been a constant threat and assists in link-up play by occasionally dribbling the ball from deep positions in midfield. Kane is undoubtably one of the best strikers in the world. He is coming off a season where he led the Premier League in goals and assists, which is the first time that has ever happened.
Their other frontline options include Grealish, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Phil Foden, Mason Mount and Bukayo Saka can also be used in those places and in center midfield and in Saka’s case left-back. The average age of these seven players is 22. Jude Bellingham, who recently turned 18, has high upside and will hopefully be a mainstay in the national team for the next 15 years. Their fullbacks also will contribute to their creativity. Shaw displayed that he is a threat in the 18-yard-box, Ben Chilwell also has shown that ability, Trent Alexander-Arnold missed the tournament due to injury. Reece James has the pace and power to be effective on the right side, and Kieran Trippier is a dead ball specialist and an accurate crosser of the ball. The partnership that Grealish shares with Shaw should be exploited for England’s benefit for a long time.
The Three Lions have a great chance of winning their first European Championship. Whether it comes home or not, England has a bright future, thanks to their attack.
Author: Dan Adu-Gyamfi