England and manager Gareth Southgate can lay a few ghosts to rest on Tuesday when the Three Lions face their bitter rivals, Germany, at Wembley Stadium in a massive last-16 clash at Euro 2020.
It was 25 years ago Southgate had his penalty kick saved to deny England a place in the Euro 1996 final, and no matter how much the England fans have forgiven him for that over the years, there will be no better way to refocus his England legacy than to defeat the Germans this time, then go one better and take advantage of a favorable draw to get to an elusive historic European Championships final.
Southgate certainly has had his detractors during this present tournament, and to my mind, quite rightly so. During the group games, England has been incredibly frustrating to watch given its abundance of talent. Aside from France, England’s squad is arguably the best at these championships. Of course, the players can’t all be out there at the same time and Southgate has had to make some tough decisions picking his starting 11s.
That’s really not where the problems have been, though. The players have seemed stifled by too much micromanagement regarding formations and attacks. There has been a complete lack of flair with England’s best players such as Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling, Jack Grealish and Mason Mount, while the near complete absence of Dortmund star Jadon Sancho has left many Southgate critics bewildered.
Man for man in midfield and forward positions, England has been far superior to its rivals thus far, which is why it’s wholly frustrating to see attacking moves in transition being, essentially, broken up by themselves by often playing the ball backwards and giving the opposition time to reorganize. Of course, they need to retain structure but with a mix of flair and guile, with more penetration and decisive runs in the final third.
This just hasn’t been evident against Croatia, Scotland or the Czech Republic so far, and subsequently, England has found the net twice.
Southgate’s counterpart, Joachim Low, has had even more critics in his homeland despite bringing home a World Cup in 2014. His 15-year tenure as the German manager comes to an end no matter what happens at these championships.
The display against Hungary wasn’t what was needed for German fans, nor bettors of Germany who backed their odds considerably to win the tournament after the 4-2 win against Portugal.
Taking everything into account and hoping there will be some balance of both caution and flair with some occasional fast free-flowing attacks, England is definitely worthy of some support at Wembley to reach the quarters against a wildly inconsistent and confused Germany. My heart is not overruling my head, I genuinely think England will win what I believe will be a very entertaining match. Both teams to score at (-125) looks a great bet, and for some pizza money, England to win 2-1 is a great price at +950.
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