sport news EURO 2020: Five things we learned including England mastering game management

sport news EURO 2020: Five things we learned including England mastering game management
sport news EURO 2020: Five things we learned including England mastering game management

By the end, few people will have cared how England got it done. On a historic night at Wembley, with the most rapturous atmosphere seen since the stadium was rebuilt, they got over the line and into the final.

But there was method behind the madness. They had to come back from a goal down for the first time and withstand their first major tactical challenge.

Eventually they were dominant with Gareth Southgate demonstrating that he is a man who embraces a steep learning curve

England players celebrate during their 2-1 Euro 2020 semi-final victory over Denmark

England players celebrate during their 2-1 Euro 2020 semi-final victory over Denmark

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England’s semi-final taboo broken

The semi-final has been a step too far for England since 1966. And though Russia 2018 was a blast, in the aftermath there was a sense of failure.

With a World Cup final in sight, England retreated into their shell, lost control of the game against Croatia and Southgate couldn’t do anything to stem the tide.

That seemed to be his major failing; was he really a coach to affect the big games under pressure? As 65,000 roared ‘Southgate you’re the one!’ at Wembley, we had our answer.

He and assistant Steve Holland had vowed to learn from Russia and there was no repeat. Denmark posed many questions, especially in the first half, but as their intensity waned, England grew into the game.

Against Croatia in 2018, they had faded away. Here they never lost sight of their game plan, kept pushing onto the front foot and were dominating by the end of normal time.

And they had a plan for all eventualities. Hence hooking golden boy Jack Grealish to go to a back three in the final 15 minutes. That never looked likely to be breached.

Whereas in Russia, they looked suffocated by the enormity of the occasion, here they embraced it.

Despite having brought on Jack Grealish (above) as a substitute at 1-1, Southgate was not afraid to take off the playmaker to help England see out the game after taking the lead

Despite having brought on Jack Grealish (above) as a substitute at 1-1, Southgate was not afraid to take off the playmaker to help England see out the game after taking the lead

The art of game management

Leaving aside the dubious penalty, about which there will be endless debate, Southgate’s team should be commended for the lessons they have learnt.

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They managed the game out beautifully at 2-1. Denmark were shattered by then but they were limited to two corners and the Martin Braithwaite shot from outside the box.

Where once England might have endured a tense last five minutes, here they simply kept the ball between 116 minutes and 119 minutes, a sequence which even included a chipped ball from goalkeeper Jordan Pickford to left back Luke Shaw. Even our goalkeepers can play now.

England’s ability to play out of tight spaces from the back is the line in the sand that marks this team’s era from the past. It affords the team multiple attacking options.

No-one can scoff at English technique now. In Euro 2012, when England beat Sweden 3-2, both sides were so technically poor in the last five minutes that the ball whizzed around like a pinball machine, as it bounced from side to side. England needed possession to kill the game, Sweden to stay in it. Neither were capable

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