England Euro 2024 Preparation Faces Setbacks: Southgate’s Key Players in Question

England’s recent defeat to Iceland at Wembley has cast a shadow over their Euro 2024 preparations, raising significant concerns about the readiness of Gareth Southgate’s squad.

The 1-0 loss, England’s final match before the tournament, has highlighted fitness and form issues among key players, posing serious challenges for the Three Lions as they head to Germany.

England Euro 2024 Preparation Faces Setbacks: Southgate’s Key Players in Question
Before Sunday's opening Euro 2024 match between England and Serbia, Gareth Southgate has a lot to think about. Photo Credit: Sky Sports

The English team is still among the best at these European Championships. No team England plays against has a better midfield or attacking group at the moment, in my opinion. On paper, they remain the favorites to take home the trophy.

The fact that England’s standing as favorites is dependent on their track record and reputation, though, is what really worries them. In actuality, Gareth Southgate is currently dealing with a number of serious issues. Most of which he has no control over.

Iceland’s home loss cannot be written off as a minor setback. It is a warning to me. Additionally, it’s a hint at the larger issues Southgate is attempting to resolve. Even while we continue to lament the poor Wembley display, we must keep in mind that England has only triumphed once in their previous five internationals. Does that imply that they are the heirs apparent to the throne of Europe?

The shock of Iceland was described by Anthony Gordon as a “smack on the nose and a wake-up call.” That seems to reflect how the rest of the team feels, too, since they have been unsettled by England’s recent poor play.

They intend to take inspiration from this loss and remember that it will require much more work and dedication to win the Euros. In the same way regarding the manager. At Wembley, Southgate claimed that his team “didn’t show enough character” and that, “in a way, it will focus the mind and it shows that any complacency, or thinking that talent alone is going to get us this trophy, won’t be enough.”

However, I have never seen an England team that was so ill-prepared for a major competition. Too many of England’s main players are out of the game, injured, or simply worn out.

England’s five star players—Harry Kane, Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka, and John Stones—are sorely dependent on each other going into the tournament.

Without those key players producing at the highest possible level, England will not win the Euros. Let’s examine each of them separately.

Harry Kane

Due to a back issue, England’s all-time top scorer missed Bayern Munich’s final three games of the season. He is obviously still dealing with a back ailment, and he is far from being at his typical level of clinical match fitness.

This season, the England captain has played 52 games in addition to scoring an incredible 49 goals for both club and country. For a man who will turn 31 next month and is recovering from a bothersome injury, that’s a lot of labor. It has been five weeks since he last played a complete ninety minutes. It’s inevitable that he’s not as bright as usual given all those things.

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England Euro 2024 Preparation Faces Setbacks: Southgate’s Key Players in Question
Rob Dorsett thinks Harry Kane is still having trouble staying healthy after missing the last stretch of Bayern Munich's season due to an injury. Photo Credit: Sky Sports

As he plays and trains more, it might happen. Assuming he can manage it, and England guards his fragile back. Kane could be able to reach his peak just in time for the tournament’s final stretch. He will be hoping hard that is the case, as will Southgate.

Phil Foden

In an England uniform, the Premier League’s player of the year hasn’t been able to duplicate his incredible brilliance for Manchester City. There was a loud cry for him to play centrally as No. 10, rather than on the left wing. It was the role he performed against Iceland, where he had a promising start but gradually lost his way and proved unproductive. England lost the match because they could not score.

When Bellingham was sidelined due to injury in November, Foden was the only other English player to fill that role. Back then, Foden was also having trouble, and England and North Macedonia drew 2-2.

Foden is a true talent for the next generation. For Manchester City, he has consistently demonstrated that. However, it seems to me that Southgate and his team are baffled as to why he can’t consistently produce that kind of play for England. This week’s training will be focused on finding a solution to that conundrum.

Jude Bellingham

Bellingham is considered one of the best football players in the world, and he has had an amazing season. In addition to being UEFA’s young player of the season, he was selected the best U21 player in international football and went on to win the Kopa Trophy. Together with two other domestic trophies, he has won the Champions League. He finished his first season in Spain with 23 goals and 13 assists.

However, in the last two seasons, the 20-year-old has participated in 101 games for both club and nation. Given that he is fatigued, Southgate granted him a week off prior to the European Championship in order to allow him to rest and recuperate. Is a week long enough, though?

Upon closer examination of Bellingham’s latest performances, the numbers don’t quite add up. Throughout his first 29 games for Madrid, he scored 20 goals. However, in his last 13 club games, he has only managed three goals. Furthermore, he hasn’t been able to influence games with the same dominance as he had in the first half of the season, according to anyone who has watched him in the previous month or so. His vitality has diminished.

Bellingham will wait to train with the England team till they are in Germany. I hope and pray that Southgate’s world-beater is fit and ready to go.

Bukayo Saka

The golden kid of England, who was for many years one of the first names on the roster, is also having trouble staying healthy. He hasn’t been allowed to participate fully in England training because he missed Arsenal’s season-ending match, and he wasn’t deemed healthy for last Monday’s friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina. During his 25 minutes on the field against Iceland, he was unable to leave a lasting impression.

Although Southgate is optimistic that the winger will be able to increase the intensity of his training in the next few days, there’s a good chance he won’t be in England’s starting lineup for the opening Euros match against Serbia.

England Euro 2024 Preparation Faces Setbacks: Southgate’s Key Players in Question
How much will Jude Bellingham be needed by England this summer? Photo Credit: Sky Sports

If Saka doesn’t improve significantly over the next week, Southgate will find it more and more difficult to defend Saka’s participation given his club and national team performance.

John Stones

The England defense has always been the team’s weak point, and it appears to be a serious concern going forward as a number of injury issues plague Southgate’s squad.

John Stones, who hasn’t started a Premier League game since mid-March, takes on the role of senior martial as Harry Maguire isn’t healthy enough to be included in the tournament team. The last thing he needed was more game time to get match fit, and then an Icelandic striker went rogue and landed on his right ankle. The management said he was replaced at halftime as a precaution, but he was later observed exiting the stadium wearing some thick strapping.

After the Iceland match, there were questions over whether he would be fit to start against Serbia in Gelsenkirchen. However, the more recent prognosis seems to be improving.

Marc Guehi, an England international with eleven caps, will be the starting center-back if he is unable to participate. Ezri Konsa, who made his debut in March, or Lewis Dunk, who has six caps after making his debut six years ago, would be playing alongside him.

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