Finalist In Focus: All eyes on England as Southgate’s Lions bid for glory

class=”styled__BannerImage-sc-1wadlxz-1 iLJqYu styles_articleMainImage__Lj_Qv”>Harry Kane celebrates after England’s 2-1 extra-time victory over Denmark in the Euro 2020 semi-final

Harry Kane celebrates after England’s 2-1 extra-time victory over Denmark in the Euro 2020 semi-final

England went into Euro 2020 as one of the favourites, yet few truly believed they would make it all the way to the final.

But the nearly-men ended their final-four hoodoo on Wednesday evening, overcoming a spirited Denmark side in extra-time to claim a place in Sunday’s showpiece event.

Their reward is a partisan Wembley against arguably the most in-form side in the world, Italy.

Ahead of the final, we have delved into the numbers and analysed Gareth Southgate’s tactics as England go in search of their first major trophy in 55 years.

How did they get here?

The Three Lions did what was required to top Group D. A scoreless draw with Scotland was sandwiched between 1-0 wins over Croatia and the Czech Republic.

Southgate’s men controlled games without having to get out of first gear.

Then they ran out 2-0 winners in the round of 16 clash with Germany, as goals from Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane in the final 15 minutes booked their place in the quarter-finals.

Against Ukraine, England found their scoring boots and, in truth, the 4-0 scoreline didn’t do justice to how dominant they were that night in Rome.

Then, in the semi-final, Southgate’s men fell behind for the first time to a blockbuster free-kick from Mikkel Damsgaard.

It was the first goal they had conceded at Euro 2020 and it was the first opportunity for them to show their resilience. They did just that.

A Simon Kjaer own goal restored parity before Kane reacted quickly to his penalty being saved to fire past Kasper Schmeichel in extra-time.

Talking tactics

Gareth Southgate has proved be something of a tactical chameleon at Euro 2020
Gareth Southgate has proved be something of a tactical chameleon at Euro 2020

In the opener against Croatia, he went with Kieran Trippier at left-back in a 4-3-3 formation.

When Scotland made the trip to Wembley, Southgate changed his personnel but not the system — Luke Shaw and Reece James replacing Trippier and Kyle Walker in the full-back areas.

The final group stage clash saw England set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Jack Grealish playing as a No10 and Bukayo Saka coming in to replace Phil Foden on the right side of attack.

It was all change again against Germany as Southgate matched up with the opposition’s 3-4-3 system. Walker slipped into a centre-back role on the right, with Trippier coming in at wing-back.

England reverted to a 4-2-3-1 against Ukraine, but Jadon Sancho replaced the injured Saka on the right. His natural dribbling game caused problems for Andriy Shevchenko’s men and proved to be yet another inspired Southgate decision.

In the semi-final, England started in a 4-2-3-1 but finished in a 3-4-3.

Crunching the numbers

England's collective defensive efforts mean that Jordan Pickford has not had to face many high quality shots on goal
England's collective defensive efforts mean that Jordan Pickford has not had to face many high quality shots on goal

England have conceded just one goal during Euro 2020 and have the lowest expected goals against total (3.4) of any side to progress past the last-16.

They do not allow the opposition to have many shots and those that do reach Jordan Pickford do not tend to originate from dangerous areas.

Key to this is how well they press as a team. It is very much a collective effort, but Kalvin Phillips ranks first in the competition for pressures (172).

Their success has been built on solid foundations and a ruthlessness in attack.

The Three Lions are second only to Hungary (50%) for shooting accuracy (43.3%), while no player can better the eight shots on target that Kane and Sterling have managed. 

Southgate’s side also rank first for headed goals (5).

Star man

No player has been more important to England's successful European Championship than Raheem Sterling
No player has been more important to England's successful European Championship than Raheem Sterling

Sterling has played like a man possessed at this tournament.

He scored winners against Croatia and the Czech Republic, notched the opener against Germany and assisted Kane’s goal after just three minutes against Ukraine.

He should have scored against Denmark but was thwarted by Schmeichel from point-blank range, while he probably would have scored a few minutes later had Kjaer not slid in to put the ball into his own net.

It was Sterling who was fouled for the decisive penalty and the Manchester City man caused all kinds of trouble by driving at the Danish defence from inside his own half late on in extra-time.

You can understand why he is first for completed dribbles (19) at the tournament.

Weaknesses

England have been near perfect at Euro 2020, so finding a weakness isn’t easy.

However, if you had to pick one it would probably be their threat in the final third. Southgate’s side are ranked 17th for shots (10) and 11th for expected goals (1.34) per 90 minutes.

They are not a high volume team, but they have done enough in all but one game — against Scotland — to claim a victory.

Italy are one of the best defensive sides in the world and are currently 33 unbeaten across all competitions. Chances are already at a premium against them.

If England don’t find another gear, they might struggle to create game-winning openings tomorrow night.

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EnglandItalyEuropean Championship