Home advantage key if Three Lions are to roar
EURO 2020 GROUP D
GARETH SOUTHGATE was widely heralded after steering England to 2018 World Cup semi-finals but expectations have risen and the Three Lions are among the favourites for Euro 2020 glory. England’s record in the competition is the poorest among top-tier nations and they suffered an embarrassing exit at Euro 2016, losing 2-1 to Iceland. Supporters have fond memories of England’s run to the last four at Euro 96 and home advantage could have a major role to play. All of England’s Group D matches take place at Wembley and there is the potential to play only the quarter-final away from the national stadium. The pathway to a home match in the last 16 depends on winning Group D but England would then face the Group F runners-up – likely to be one of France, Germany or Portugal. And tackling elite opponents at an early stage would be very different from he 2018 World Cup when England’s path to the semi-finals featured matches against Colombia and Sweden. England followed up their World Cup adventure with some eye-catching victories in the inaugural 2018 Nations League. However, they were less impressive in last autumn’s second edition and still have a bit to prove against top-level opposition. Winning big matches requires talent, tactical awareness and a strong mentality and there are doubts over whether England possess the last two of those attributes. Southgate has ditched a back three in favour of a 4-3-3 and his favoured template for the most difficult matches is to defend solidly and hit on the counter-attack. Offensively he is spoilt for choice but there are weaknesses in the goalkeeping and centre-back positions which may undermine England’s pursuit of glory.