Written by Dave Stokes
The rescheduled Euro 2020 is just around the corner and European national teams are getting set to battle it out for the prestigious Henri Delaunay Trophy when the group stages begin later this year.
With plans for the final to be held in England, Gareth Southgate is the man tasked with leading a unique generation of England players to the finals in the iconic Wembley Stadium where he and the entire English nation missed the chance to go to the final in Euro 1996.
This time Gareth Southgate leads a set of English players that are considered among the best around. They may not have players that boast the technical ability of Gazza or the swagger of Gary Lineker, but they are sure blessed with unique talents and have been tipped as one of the favourites in this tournament.
With the groups drawn up and the final preparations of the rescheduled tournament being put in place, we look at the history of England in the European Championship and what we can expect from them in this year’s edition.
England have been to the Euros on nine occasions since its inception in 1960, and they enter this year’s showpiece as one of the teams with the most appearances.
However, among all the teams to have made nine or more appearances in the tournament, England are the only team who have not won the competition. Despite boasting one of the very best teams in the world in the 1960s, mid-1990’s and mid-2000’s they have failed to go above the semi-final in this competition.
The best they have achieved is a third-place finish in their 1968 appearance. They also come within whiskers of going to the final at Wembley Stadium in 1996, but Paul Gascoigne could only miss Alan Shearer’s 99th minute cross by a fraction, before eventual winners Germany won that tie on penalties.
Road to Glory
The journey to the Euros began for England in March 2019. The Three Lions kicked off the qualification campaign in style with a five-nil win over with the Czech Republic at Wembley Stadium. A hat-trick from Raheem Sterling and a penalty from Harry Kane sent the hosts on their way to a big win before an 84th-minute own goal from Czech defender Tomáš Kalas completed the route.
The opening win set the tone for the rest of the qualifiers game for England, who went on to win six out of the remaining seven games to top their group with 21 points, six points ahead of the Czech Republic, who finished second.
The Three Lions scored 37 goals in total, with further big wins over Bulgaria, Montenegro and Kosovo cementing their place as one of the tournament’s favourites.
Gareth Southgate’s side conceded only six goals in eight games, keeping five clean sheets in total.
- England 5-0 Czech Republic
- Montenegro 1-5 England
- England 4-0 Bulgaria
- England 5-3 Kosovo
- Czech Republic 2-1 England
- Bulgaria 0-6 England
- England 7-0 Montenegro
- Kosovo 0-4 England
Only Belgium bettered England’s 37 goals in the qualifying round with Italy the only other nation to score up to that number of goals.
Meanwhile, England had 13 different goal scorers in the qualification round, with three goals coming from own-goals.
Harry Kane finished as the top-scorer in the qualifying round with 12 goals to his name, while Raheem Sterling chipped in with eight goals.
Ross Barkley (four goals), Marcus Rashford (three goals), Jadon Sancho (two goals) are other scorers with over one goal. While Michael Keane, Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Harry Winks and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain complete the list with one goal to their names.
Gareth Southgate has at his disposal a team that is full of exciting young players and world class players who can compete favourably with players from other nations.
The nation has certainly benefited from the presence of top coaches like Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp. Both managers are known for making players better and England have enjoyed their touch of genius with the likes of Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, John Stones and Kyle Walker improving from the tutelage of Guardiola, while Liverpool’s Trent-Arnold, Jordan Henderson and Joe Gomez (who could miss out through injury) have also gained from the training of Klopp.
Southgate’s continuous tinkering and change in formation has not allowed for easy prediction of a possible formation. But from the evidence of past games and personnel available, it appears that he might be employing a 4-3-3 formation that will maximise the use of the abundance of attacking talent available.
The likes of Raheem Sterling, Jack Grealish, Harry Kane, Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson are nailed down to make the final squad for the tournament. But questions continue to be asked of the likes of Ross Barkley, Mason Greenwood, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Tammy Abraham, who are struggling to impose themselves in their respective clubs.
Gareth Southgate will look to become the first manager in English history to lead the Three Lions to the finals of the European Championship this summer when the Euros begin. The former Three Lions player has proven how good he could be as a coach with impressive wins in the qualifiers.
However, his team has also shown to be lacking in experience and a fighting spirit when it matters the most with their semi-final loss against Croatia, and Belgium in the third-place play-off in the 2018 World Cup a prime example of how Southgate’s team capitulates when they face real battles.
The hope is that The Three Lions will have learnt from those experiences and from their recent exit from the UEFA Nations League, to put together a performance that their nation will be proud of.
Southgate certainly has the players and talent to go the distance with the mix of flair and steel available at his disposal, to mount a very serious push for a place for the final in Wembley. In players like Jack Grealish and Mason Mount, he has two outstanding midfielders that can match any midfield in Europe. And in Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Harry Kane, they have an attack that can scare any defender in the world.
After missing the decisive penalty in Wembley that sent England packing from Euro 96, Southgate has the opportunity to rewrite history and bring a smile to the English people who are still waiting for football to “come home”.