Last night saw England lose to Italy on penalties in the UEFA European Football Championship (Euros) final. The Three Lions came agonisingly close to winning their first Euros but once again, the penalty shootout didn’t favour England.
However, despite coming away empty handed, Gareth Southgate’s men can be proud of themselves. They got to England’s second major tournament final with an incredibly young squad. In footballing terms, England can feel they have a good team to build with and have had a successful tournament.
Players like Kalvin Phillips came to the fore and showed his quality. At Leeds, he is the defensive midfielder but for England he was often deployed in a more advanced role, often leading the press. However, he would fall back into a defensive role if Declan Rice was taken off. Phillips played the third most minutes in the England squad behind Jordan Pickford and John Stones. This emphasises how integral the ‘Yorkshire Pirlo’ was to Southgate system. Going into the tournament, many who hadn’t watched him play, questioned his inclusion in the squad but he proved all doubters wrong.
Pickford also had an excellent tournament. The Everton goalkeeper won the golden glove award for his performances between the sticks. Five clean sheets in seven matches shouldn’t be overlooked. Although the team in front defended well, the former Sunderland star pulled off some huge saves at important times. He wasn’t called upon too often, but when he was, he delivered.
Away from the pitch, the squad have conducted themselves well which can’t be said for some previous squads. This hasn’t stopped them getting unnecessary hate.
Following their penalty misses in the final, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka have received a lot of hate on social media. The trio have done a lot for the nation from fighting for free school meals to continue to being a voice for the younger generation.
The 26-man squad have done the nation proud on and off the field. With the 2022 World Cup not far off, Southgate and England will be looking to do one better and bring football home. With three lions on the shirt and the nation behind them, anything can happen. The world will be watching, the only question is – can England step up when it matters?