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'The only difference now is my reasons for thinking England won't win the Euros have changed'

The Football Family podcast look back on England’s wretched draw with Scotland and the rest of the Euro 2020 action.

Harry Kane during the draw with Scotland.
Harry Kane during the draw with Scotland.
Image: PA

OUR FOOTBALL FAMILY podcast has been assembling for the Euros, and our latest episode was recorded in the breathless aftermath of Germany 4 Portugal 2 yesterday evening. 

The podcast is exclusively available to members of The42, so if you want access to the podcast (and the many, many other perks) subscribe at members.the42.ie. 

Gavin Cooney dialled up Shane Keegan to talk about Saturday’s terrific action, and the lads discussed Jogi Low’s tactical triumph, and whether Ireland can exploit the Portugal defence as Germany did. (Spolier: probably not.)

There was also a look back on England’s goalless draw with Scotland at Wembley, and here’s an excerpt of the transcript as the lads turned to England’s many problems…

Shane Keegan (SK): I don’t know if you saw it popping up, but the Scottish midfield three of McGregor, Gilmour and McGinn finished the first half with a 100% pass completion rate. That is excellent on their behalf and atrocious on England’s behalf.  

The bit that amazes me in terms of the English set-up is the non-entity that is England’s full-backs from an attacking perspective. I can’t get over it. I’m trying to put myself in Gareth Southgate’s shoes and ask, why? If it happened in one game we’d be saying it might have been a coincidence or the fault of that player, but the fact we’ve had four different full-backs now all sitting really deep and not contributing to the attacking game-plan means it must be by direction.

The two England full-backs put in a combined total of three crosses and Andy Robertson put in 11. I’d love to hear the explanation as to why he wants them sitting so deep. Whichever two he goes with, I feel that if the full-backs get forward and play as they do with their clubs that has knock-on effects for everyone.

Now the inside forwards have some more space, and I think it opens everything up and now Harry Kane may become more involved in the game. 

Gavin Cooney (GC): Harry Kane had as many touches in the Scotland box as Declan Rice did, which was two each. Kane doesn’t look fully fit to me, but they are asking him to drop so deep – sometimes to the halfway line – and then trot forward, but the team doesn’t move along with him. 

It seems so obvious a set-up to me: you have Grealish and Foden, two players who are unbelievable at cutting inside off either flank, so play them wide, send the full backs around them, and then you have so many options in attack to get Kane involved. 

Southgate has set that team up quite rigidly. I came into the tournament wondering whether this guy knew his best team, but I actually think he has too good an idea of his team. The team is set up very rigidly and play on the counter attack against the likes of Portugal, France, Germany or one of the big sides. 

SK: And maybe that will work for them, when they don’t have to seize the initiative. 

GC: You could say it’s an extreme pragmatism from Southgate. He said afterwards, ‘I understand we’re at Wembley, it’s a game against Scotland where everybody wants us to win. We wanted to win but it is in the context of a tournament and qualification is the first and most important thing.’

But I couldn’t believe how defensive they were. 

SK: It will be interesting to see if they change it for the final group game. Maybe it’s a case of, ‘this is how we intend to beat the bigger teams’, so this is how we’ll play against lesser nations too. And maybe that’s how it will play out. 

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britain-england-scotland-euro-2020-soccer Luke Shaw. Source: Carl Recine

GC: You also wonder how much of an advantage home advantage is to them. To hear them booed off at half-time…that connection between the team and the crowd from 2018 is broken. I know Uefa are threatening to move the semi-finals and final to Budapest, at the moment I think the team who should be in most favour of that is England. 

SK: Yeah, and if the style of football is going to be that pragmatic, it risks turning fans against you if you’re not winning  given you’re not providing a lot of excitement. 

GC: A friend of mine texted me after the game to say, ‘I must say, any concerns I had of England winning the Euros are now gone.’ Do you share that sentiment, that the Scotland game shows they won’t win it, or could they still do it? 

SK: No, I’d be amazed. I’d have said that from the off. The only difference now, my reasons for thinking they won’t win it have changed. Initially I didn’t think they could win it without a rock-solid defensive pairing and a top, top keeper. I did expect them to do well at the other end of the field. And maybe that’s the answer as to why the full backs aren’t flying forward, maybe he’s looking at his centre-backs and his keeper and saying he doesn’t have faith in them and needs to keep bodies around him. 

I would have at least four teams ahead of England, I would be very surprised to see them pop up in the semis at this stage. 

To listen to the full episode, subscribe at members.the42.ie. 

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