Gareth Southgate leads England into Euro 2020 with the expectation of a nation once again on his team's shoulders, but can England really win a first major tournament since 1966?
England Euro 2020 Squad: Strengths
At last, one of England’s strengths going into a major tournament is their form at the last competition, with the Three Lions seemingly eternally suffering from a hangover from the tournament before. However, this time around the side go into the Euro’s following a run to the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2018 which was followed by a strong Euro qualifying campaign. Gareth Southgate will be looking to add to the experience his squad had in 2018 and the natural progression for the side would be to make the final this summer, something they really should have managed before falling to Croatia at the last-four stage two years ago. The pressure on Southgate and his squad this time will be that they go into the tournament with actual expectation, rather than the ‘if we get out of the group-stage we will be happy’ mentality that the nation started 2018 with. Managing expectation has never been England football’s strong point, but this has to start somewhere, so why not in 2020?
Their second great strength is the depth of the tournament itself. England will enjoy a lot of games at Wembley which will be a huge benefit for the players, with all of England’s group-stage games and potential knock-out matches bar the quarter-finals being played there. England have always looked very strong at home and a tournament on home soil is something that invariably sees the hosts perform above and beyond, and we believe this will really help England. Along with this comes the relative weakness of the teams around them. The 2018 World Cup saw the best nations in the world looking beatable, with the likes of Germany, Portugal and Belgium not looking overly convincing, and we feel that they do not look unbeatable now. This time around, England go with a very strong squad with some world class talent and they will fancy themselves against most teams, although the likes of France and the Netherlands look very strong too.
Finally, the players England can call upon is a major reason why they are currently the favourites. Captain Harry Kane is one of the best strikers in the world, Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling have the tools to give full-backs nightmares for weeks, Jordan Henderson is a true midfield general that seems to get stronger as the game goes on, and young stars like Jack Grealish, Mason Mount, James Maddison and Trent Alexander-Arnold are exciting propositions that will have no fear in major tournaments. England’s current team looks even stronger than the one that played in Russia two years ago and it should excite English fans and worry the opposition this summer.
Euro 2020 Players to watch: England
On his day, Harry Kane is one of the best strikers in world football. The Tottenham Hotspur star just seems to love scoring goals however they come, whether this is by leathering a strike from outside of the box, hammering a penalty into the top corner, curling a delicious finish into the bottom corner, or finishing a flowing team goal with a tap-in, Kane can do it all. The worry for the forward is how much time he will have to prove his fitness prior to the competition, but such is the ability of Kane coupled with how much the country believes in him that if he can get minutes under his belt in the latter-stages of the league, then he will surely be in the squad.
As the current favourite to secure the golden boot at the tournament, the England captain will be the man to stop when any team comes up against England but such is the talent around him that opposition sides cannot afford to double up on Kane all the time, especially with players like Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford around, meaning Kane will get space and one-on-ones, and we believe that it is in this sort of battle that he thrives on.
Raheem Sterling has managed to transform himself from a tricky winger that seemed to so often lack that end product to one of the best forwards in world football. Credit must go to Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, who has had a huge hand in Sterling’s emergence as one of the best attackers in the game today. His blend of raw pace, tricky feet, clever positioning and his predatory finishing make him a nightmare for defenders to play again, while he seems as comfortable playing out wide as he does trying to play just off Kane, which constantly keeps the defenders guessing. If Sterling is able to carry his form with City into his England games, then we think that he will be incredibly tough to stop this summer.
England have seemed to have gone from having fairly few top quality wingers of note to boasting some of the best young wide players in Europe. As mentioned, Raheem Sterling has been in outstanding form over the last few years and is a mainstay of this England team, but battling Marcus Rashford for the other wide position is Jason Sancho, with this fight one English fans will be incredibly pleased to see. The Borussia Dortmund winger has been in scintillating form this year and has netted 12 goals and registered 13 assists in the Bundesliga at the time of writing. His raw pace means he is incredibly dangerous when countering or playing off the shoulder of the last man, but what has impressed us most is his ever-improving finishing ability and his eye for a pass and execution, with Sancho being directly involved in 25 goals this season, which is an incredible total. If Gareth Southgate is to trust the youngster this summer then we think he is another that could light this tournament up.
The three afore-mentioned players all add a lot of power and speed up front, but with that much focus on going forward, England simply have to have a man that can link the defence to their attack and that will be able to stem the flow of the opposition, and Jordan Henderson is that man. The Liverpool captain has been outstanding at both club and international level, and while he was disparaged earlier in his career for perhaps not being as good as some other English midfielders, he must, in our opinion, become one of the first names on the team sheet for the Euro’s. His willing to run, his engine, his passing range, aggressive defending and leadership make him a huge part of England’s engine room in a position that is so often under-appreciated. The Liverpool-man looks a good bet to win the Premier League Player of the Year at the time of writing and we can see why, with England’s defence likely to lean heavily on Henderson’s defensive ability.
England Euro 2020 Squad: Weaknesses
As has been the case for some time now, England’s glaring weakness lies in the heart of their defence. £80 million man Harry Maguire may have really enjoyed his time at the 2018 World Cup, but he has struggled following his move to Manchester United and despite being a real force from set-pieces for England, he does have his tendencies for defensive lapses. However, Maguire seems to have done enough along with Jordan Pickford to secure their places in the squad, although the goalkeeper, just like the centre-half has had a mixed season, with the stopper coming in for criticism of late, while pressure from Dean Henderson and his strong performances means Pickford cannot take anything for granted. Next to Maguire, Southgate must make a decision between Joe Gomez, John Stones and Tyrone Mings, although we would lean towards Gomez right now as the Liverpool centre-back has formed a solid partnership with Virgil van Dijk, and the experience he is enjoying right now could prove vital.
England Euro 2020 Squad: Who could miss out?
Worryingly for Mason Mount this summer is the form of Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish and Leicester’s James Maddison, with the duo playing above and beyond what was expected of them. While Mount has in no way slacked off, the eye-catching performances of the pair mean that the Chelsea star is under real pressure to step up his game and really shine above them. With much of the season still to go and Chelsea looking to battle to the latter-stages of the Champions League, Mount will likely have plenty of big game opportunities to show Southgate why he deserves that place on the plane.
Kyle Walker’s place in this English squad would never have been up for debate a few months ago but Manchester City’s purchase of Joao Cancelo along with the rise of Trent Alexander-Arnold means that the City defender will be sweating over his inclusion in the squad. Walker is a player that may not provide the most solid of defenders, but his pace and power make him very adept at tracking back and tidying things up at the back, while he is always willing to get forward and help attack. We feel that Walker will secure his place on the plane due to his experience and versatility though, with the defender able to play at right-back and on the right-hand side of a back three, which is hugely important as utility players are vital as the tournament wears on.
Southampton have enjoyed a real rejuvenation of late and are looking to forget what was a poor start to the 2019/20 Premier League season. Central to their run has been striker Danny Ings, with the forward already into double figures goals wise in the league at the time of writing. Long-term injuries to Ings mean Southgate will be worried about him both before and at the tournament, while players for the bigger teams have often been favoured in the England squads, and this could prove the reason why Tammy Abraham gets the nod ahead of Ings.
Predicted England Euro 2020 Squad with odds:
Jordan Pickford (1/10)
Dean Henderson (1/4)
Nick Pope (1/10)
Harry Maguire (1/20)
Joe Gomez (1/3)
John Stones (1/6)
Tyrone Mings (6/5)
Kyle Walker (6/4)
Trent Alexander-Arnold (1/20)
Ben Chilwell (1/10)
Danny Rose (10/11)
Jordan Henderson (1/20)
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (1/4)
Harry Winks (5/6)
Jack Grealish (4/6)
James Maddison (1/10)
Dele Alli (1/4)
Declan Rice (1/2)
Harry Kane (1/12)
Marcus Rashford (1/8)
Tammy Abraham (1/6)
Raheem Sterling (1/50)
Jadon Sancho (1/12)
*Squad odds correct as of 4/2/2020 on William Hill’s Sportsbook
Our Euro 2020 Prediction for this England Euro 2020 squad
Finishing spot: Semi-finals
England boast a very impressive squad going into the 2020 iteration of the Euro’s, with some truly world class players set to pull on that famous jersey across the summer. The likes of Kane, Sterling and Alexander-Arnold would walk into most teams when they are on form and, with the exception of Kane due to injury, all have been in fine form. Defensive issues have always been the worry with this English side and we once again wonder how the likes of Maguire, Gomez and Pickford will fare when having their backs against the wall against an opposition side that is dominating. Indeed, Croatia put England to the test in the second-half of their World Cup semi-final and scored two entirely preventable goals, with lapses in concentration for the English defence costing them. We believe that as beatable as England’s defence can be, their attacking options more than make up for this and, when on form, they boast arguably the best strike force in international football. We believe that they will be fighting it out in the latter-stages of the tournament but, with the final in sight, we think they will once again fall just short, although two straight semi-final appearances should not be sniffed at, with England’s last venture at Euro 2016 ending in utter humiliation at the hands of Iceland in the Last-16.