England’s Euro 2024 Campaign- Challenges and Positives for Gareth Southgate: Eyeing on the Triumph

England kicked off their Euro 2024 journey with a narrow 1-0 win against Serbia, but concerns loom over the fitness of key players like Harry Kane and the optimal utilization of Phil Foden.

Declan Rice told me that he thought England’s first-round victory over Serbia embodied the classic “game of two halves”. He was accurate.

England’s Euro 2024 Campaign- Challenges and Positives for Gareth Southgate: Eyeing on the Triumph
England’s Euro 2024 showdown- Challenges and Positives. @Sky Sports

The first half saw England completely dominate, while the second half saw them become disorganized and lackluster. It makes sense that Gareth Southgate will be considering a number of advantages and disadvantages in the days ahead.

For the England manager, the most important thing right now is to deal with the negatives in time for Thursday’s second Group C match against Denmark.

Looking on the positives: Bellingham is outstanding

First off, just as they did in all three of the other big tournaments that Southgate has overseen, England triumphed in their opening match of the Euros.

That is something that shouldn’t be disregarded or ignored. In actuality, Southgate’s record defies historical trends: England’s victory in Gelsenkirchen was only their second in nine attempts to win their opening game at the Euros.

This provides the team tremendous momentum and a huge lift, and with the competition now extended, it is very impossible for England to miss out on qualifying for the knockout stages. Almost definitely, two more games and one more point would do it.

And Jude Bellingham, the second. Jude Bellingham did what he does best: he took the game by the scruff of the neck and insisted on playing the main role in the production.

His significance and influence have already been discussed extensively. We won’t spend any more column inches discussing England’s finest and most significant player here, other than to add that Southgate will be hoping he keeps up the good work.

Thirdly, there was no scoring for England. something they had only accomplished twice in their seven prior international matches. Furthermore, there were legitimate worries regarding the defense due to Luke Shaw’s ongoing injury and Harry Maguire’s absence.

In my opinion, there are still, but in the end, England’s back line was able to withstand the strong forward duo of Dusan Vlahovic and Aleksandar Mitrovic. Despite some fortunate moments and with the help of two outstanding saves from Jordan Pickford.

The fourth enormous bonus was the way Marc Guehi, who was playing his first game at a big tournament, marshaled Serbia’s front duo.

The Crystal Palace player finished with a 96% completion rate after beginning the match with 41 consecutive passes completed. Whoa. It’s as good as debuts in the European Championship get. He exuded confidence and calmness. Just what Southgate requested.

And lastly, there were no further injuries to report. After the game, Kieran Trippier told me that his cramping was the cause of his issue, but he was happy to experience it since he wanted the game time.

This brings me to my sixth positive: several England players, who entered this tournament terribly undercooked, saw crucial minutes. John Stones, Harry Kane, and Trippier were all given the full ninety minutes. Saka Bukayo received a score of 75. That will only make them more focused going forward in the matches.

However, that is also the point at which the benefits stop and the drawbacks begin.

Also Read: Romania Sinks Error-Prone Ukraine to End Long Drought with Victory at Euro 2024

England’s Euro 2024 Campaign- Challenges and Positives for Gareth Southgate: Eyeing on the Triumph
Bellingham's goal in the 13th minute gave Gareth Southgate's team the advantage. @Sky Sports

The Drawbacks: The Enigmatic Kane and Foden

First of all, despite his best efforts in games and on the practice field, captain Kane appears to be far from fully recovered. More competitive minutes don’t seem to be enough right now to get England’s talisman completely engaged.

This season, 49 goals in 52 games is an incredible feat. He missed the last three domestic season games due to a back ailment, but they seem to be just as important as the first 52.

Kane only made one touch of the ball at the Arena AufSchalke before the first half ended in injury time. It is true that he would have opened his Euro account with a soaring header but for Predrag Rajkovic’s incredible stop in the second half. Nevertheless, he has seldom, if ever, been so anonymous.

Phil Foden is the second negative. The season’s best player in the Premier League, who leads Manchester City like an orchestra, finds it difficult to convince his England teammates to play together.

Yes, he isn’t playing at number 10, which is his preferred position. As long as Bellingham is in this form, he won’t. However, he has not fared well even in his recent appearances for England, such as in the warm-up matches.

Typically, he is positioned far out on the left wing, where Southgate encourages him to intrude, create space, and impact the game. He was completely unable to achieve that when facing Serbia. And the England manager is starting to get a genuine pain in the neck on how to handle a situation like Phil Foden.

Thirdly, there was a concerning lack of inventiveness versus Serbia for a team whose attacking skill, in my opinion, is the envy of every other country competing in this tournament. During the entire ninety minutes, England managed just five shots on goal. Six were managed by Serbia.

Their 11 attempts as a group were the worst in 322 prior matches and the lowest ever in a Euros match since the format’s inception in 1980.

However, I would contend that England’s fourth negative was the root of the issue. England lost control of midfield in the second half, which made it impossible for their creative players to flourish.

The team’s usage of Trent Alexander-Arnold is crucial. Although it is not his natural position when playing for Liverpool, Southgate claims to have spent the last 12 months teaching him the art of the central defensive midfielder. Early in the game, Alexander-Arnold’s array of passing was evident to all, but as England withdrew, he became more vulnerable.

He lacks an intuitive understanding of his position when England is not in possession. Is it really right for him to be gaining experience in a European Championship?

England’s midfield looked more solid and their pressing approach started to pay off only when Conor Gallagher entered the game. Until then, it was all too frequent to witness Bellingham press the ball with his arms raised in desperation, only to have no teammates follow suit.

England’s Euro 2024 Campaign- Challenges and Positives for Gareth Southgate: Eyeing on the Triumph
Alongside John Stones, Marc Guehi made an impact for England in defense. @Sky Sports

Gallagher to lead off? The modifications Southgate may take into account

There’s not much time for Southgate to deal with these matters before Thursday’s trip to Frankfurt to face Denmark. These Euros games happen so swiftly that they require only two full training sessions.

I’ve made some suggestions about potential adjustments he may already be considering: Alexander-Arnold is replaced by Gallagher in the middle of the midfield. Kane should be replaced early in the second half to give Ivan Toney or Ollie Watkins their chance to compete in a major event. Although Kane will most likely start the game, I don’t think he can play two sets of 90 minutes in four days given his current level of conditioning.

Another intriguing dilemma facing Southgate is his abundance of offensive alternatives and whether or not he would be willing to bench Foden. It would be a daring and contentious decision. However, given Cole Palmer and Ebere Eze’s prolific goal-scoring and goal-creating abilities, this might be the most sensible course of action at this time.

The positive updates regarding Luke Shaw’s development in the treatment room and on the training field may also compel Southgate to make one more change.

If we speculate that England manager Kieran Trippier would rather see Shaw start at left-back, that is in no way a criticism of Trippier.

Trippier’s adaptability is commendable, and he has long been an exceptional representative of his country. However, England is frequently too limited. For this reason, instead of using the left-footed Foden, who has played frequently for City this season, on the right wing, Southgate has chosen to use him on the left wing.

England is not naturally wide; instead, Foden, Saka, Palmer, and Eze all want to cut off the flank and inside. Shaw is a left-footed left-back, which helps England advance the ball up the left flank in addition to protecting him from outside attacks by rival wingers.

If he can play higher up the pitch and provide more natural support, he might also solve some of Foden’s issues.

Neither Southgate nor England should be in a panic. They’ve got off to a great start, much like all the other major guns in this tournament. However, the Three Lions are currently far from peaking.

The show they are putting on is actually a little lackluster. A large number of critics have criticized it. If they are to be taken seriously as genuine prize contenders, they will require some astute direction from their circus master.

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