THE dream that ‘football is coming home’ is fast becoming a reality.
As the England supporters echoed out those famous words during the Three Lions match against Germany, it’s hard to see past England winning Euro 2020.
Before the tournament, England’s defence had been highlighted as the team’s weakness but having yet to concede a goal, Gareth Southgate side’s stubborn defence, might be the difference between England and the remaining sides in the competition.
Of the remaining teams, apart from Italy and England, every team looks vulnerable defensively.
Tournament football is more often than not won by the team with the best defence.
When Portugal won the Euro 2016, although they had world-class players in attack, they were known for being defensively organised.
Greece’s triumph in 2004, was one of the biggest surprises in international football and their success was built on the way they defended.
Against Germany, England showed their adoptability by switching to a back three to matchup the Germans.
Southgate was being criticised by some before for changing the way England had played throughout the tournament to matchup Germany, but he showed good management.
He backed his players that if they go man for man against Germany, then they would come out on top and he was proven right.
What the England players will love about their manager is the loyalty he shows them.
Southgate has proven to be a man that doesn’t give in to pressure from the media or supporters.
Question marks were raised before England’s opening game against Croatia about the inclusion of Raheem Sterling in the starting 11, and the Manchester City player has repaid his manager’s faith by scoring three of England’s four goals in the competition.
Southgate’s faith in Sterling hasn’t only benefitted England, but it might have also saved the former Liverpool player’s career at City.
Although, Sterling started the Champions League final against Chelsea, he had found himself out of the City side towards the end of the season and there were questions as to whether he had a future at the club.
There were reports he could be used as bait as part of a deal for Harry Kane. Seeing how Sterling has performed in England’s four fixtures will have convinced City manager Pep Guardiola that he would be foolish to let the England international leave the Etihad Stadium this summer.
It’s hard to believe people were questioning Kane’s inclusion in the England side. Yes, he hasn’t had the greatest of tournaments but he is one of the best strikers in the world and will always come good.
As a striker, knowing that your manager will always back you in difficult times, means a lot to the player. Strikers always want to score but there will come times when they are out of form and it’s important that a manager sticks with them.
That way, players like Kane, will know that they don’t have to score in every game to play in the team and will feel less pressure.
During my career, I rarely felt managers had that belief in me and it always led to a lack of confidence in myself.
Most managers I played under, I always felt that one poor game or if the team had a bad result, I would be taken out of the team.
More times than not, I was right, and it always made me doubt my ability as a player and also showed the lack of belief the manager had in me.
The worrying aspect for the other remaining teams in the competition is that Kane has been off form in the competition to date but the goal he scored against Germany was obviously a massive relief for the striker and potentially could change his tournament.
It’s not surprising Kane hasn’t been in top form at the tournament when he is distracted by where his future lies.
He’s made no secret of his desire to leave Tottenham and with potential suitors watching, perhaps he is feeling extra pressure.
Even though Kane has been one of the best strikers in the world for the past several years, he will still feel he will have to perform at this tournament, to convince the top clubs to pay the hefty fee Spurs will demand to let him leave.
With England’s defensive record and now, Kane has got that monkey off his back by scoring against Germany, Euro 2020 is England’s to lose especially because the semi-finals and final will be played at Wembley.