Euro 2020 might be taking place a year later than originally scheduled but a few teams have already put their name out as the favourites. France are the reigning World Cup champions and have a stacked squad filled with talents.
Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante and Kingsley Coman are just a few household names that Les Bleus feature. In 2016, they reached the Euro finals and were defeated by Portugal.
France are possibly the strongest they have ever been, but England too have been slowly improving under Gareth Southgate. The former Middlesbrough manager didn’t have the flashiest resume before taking the Three Lions job, but he has done more than a decent job.
The 2018 World Cup was just an example of how close-knit this England team is. Southgate’s team didn’t impress the fans in all matches, but ending fourth in Russia was a commendable achievement from Southgate in his first major tournament.
This was also England’s best finish at a World Cup since achieving the same in 1990, and the omens are good for a decent showing at the upcoming Euros.
However, the favourites tag puts additional pressure on the team. England have come into many tournaments with great form and incredible teams, but for some reason or another, they just don’t click.
Southgate has a tough job on his hands, but this could finally be the year England break their 55-year struggle. Entering the tournament, England and France are the clear favourites and expectations are high for these two national teams.
Young talent improved the squad
The problem with any international tournament is that it usually takes place just after the club season. Players are tired after a crazy schedule, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and that has been one reason why England have struggled more in recent years.
But the 2018 World Cup proved that Southgate can get his team going, even if it is to just get the wins. That is all that matters in such tournaments. Winning counts more than flashy football, and this England squad can squeak out results when needed.
Of course, the 2018 World Cup run would have provided a lot of confidence to the team and handed them much-needed experience too. Southgate has also brought in a lot of young blood into the team in recent months, and many have linked up thanks to their club performances.
Conor Coady has been a rock at the back for Wolves and he finds himself in the fold to provide cover for the likes of John Stones and Harry Maguire. Ollie Watkins and Tyrone Mings, who have been great for Aston Villa over the past 18 months or so, and youngsters such as Phil Foden, Reece James and Dean Henderson, have also been added to the squad.
Harry Kane, the England captain, is also a huge boost for the side. He was injured leading up to the 2020 dates for the Euros, but is back at his best for Tottenham and would be starring for the Three Lions as well.
The 2018 World Cup was an eye opener. It provided hope to the fans for greater things to come and this team will have grown since that tournament. The majority of the squad is the same and with some young guns looking to make an impression, there could be some great things on the horizon for the Three Lions.
Could England break the 1966 jinx?
England’s only international trophy came in 1966 when they won the World Cup. They haven’t reached a final of the Euros or the World Cup since, but 2021 could be the year that they break all of this.
The team looks settled under Southgate and there are rarely any major scandals coming out of it. Yes, the COVID-19 breaches by a few players are something to worry about but that has been dealt swiftly by the FA and the manager.
They are carrying some decent form at the moment too, with four wins on the bounce. However, they still seem to have problems dealing with the bigger sides. They lost to Belgium in November 2020, a team that will also be keen on picking up some silverware in a few months’ time.
England have a few quality friendlies lined up before the Euros and they cannot mess that up. Further, the Three Lions face Scotland, Croatia and the Czech Republic in the Euro group, and that won’t be easy either.
However, Southgate and his lads have all the tools to navigate this group and, with a bit of luck, they could go two steps better than 2018 and finally win another trophy.