What does England need to improve before Euro 2024?
DOHA, Qatar — England’s wait for victory at a major tournament will now be extended by at least 58 years. Manager Gareth Southgate is considering whether he is the right man to lead the Three Lions to Euro 2024 as the Football Association conducts an internal review into a highly promising World Cup campaign but ended in a painful quarter-final exit to France.
Southgate’s six-year tenure has brought England closer to ending their trophy wait than ever before, but here ESPN is looking at what can be done between now and the next Euros in Germany to help boost their chances of success.
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Keep it up Southgate
Public opinion is divided on whether Southgate has taken this England squad as far as he can go, but let’s not forget the progress made in his tutelage: England won six knockout games at major tournaments between 1968 and 2016; Southgate has won six between 2018 and 2022.
This generation of players wants to represent their country again and is inspired by opportunity rather than weighed down by the weight of history. Southgate has been a driving force in redefining this relationship with the national team, creating a positive environment at the camp and encouraging a genuine emotional investment in England’s fortunes.
There are better tacticians out there – although Southgate has progressed significantly in that area – but any potential replacement must ensure the same culture persists, and there are no guarantees of that, of course. His tournament experience is invaluable. England have improved as a team every two years – being knocked out in the quarter-finals feels like a step back considering it came after reaching the final of Euro 2020, but the quality of their football has been better, and they are very close to beating world champions France.
Thomas Tuchel and Mauricio Pochettino have star quality but don’t share the same deep knowledge of England’s past and present. England’s top candidates — Chelsea’s Graham Potter and Newcastle’s Eddie Howe — don’t (yet) share the same pedigree while Brendan Rodgers’ stock has dropped precipitously at Leicester. If Southgate has the energy and desire to continue, he is the best option England have. The FA and the players certainly want him to stay, while the shorter 18-month tournament cycle increases the need for continuity.
Create better in-game substitutions
That’s not to say Southgate is perfect. The 52-year-old’s substitution remains a source of debate. Rarely has he turned the game proactively to positive effect. Some of the criticism in this regard against France is debatable, as England were the better team at 1-1, so why change a team playing with momentum to win the game? Plus, Southgate was preparing for Mason Mount and Raheem Sterling before Olivier Giroud scored France’s winner and there were suggestions that Bukayo Saka had picked up an injury, prompting a substitution.
That said, Jack Grealish arrived late and the decision to use Sterling appeared to be based on loyalty rather than the ruthless streak England may have needed at the time, given the Chelsea winger had flown back to London following his conceding. came home and took part in a training session on his return to Qatar.
More generally, this is an area where Southgate could be more clinical, especially given the wide range of options he has. This is, of course, something we are all wiser to look back on, but ultimately this is why managers are in the position they do: to make the right decisions at the right time.
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Improve big game mentality
England did not reach Russia 2018 (semi-finals) or Euro 2020 (finals) but there is a clear step forward in Qatar. It is a historical fact that England did not beat any elite nations in a major tournament knockout game away from Wembley. And they’ve found success in the last two tournaments through a largely pragmatic and conservative style informed by a belief that they haven’t caught up with the best teams in the game.
It has changed. The squad has openly spoken of being good enough to win the World Cup and the approach against France was one of Southgate’s boldest team choices given the size of the game, opting against a five-man defense previously used in big games to try and progress. to toe” as he said with France in a 4-3-3 shape.
In context of what was at stake, the second-half display was one of England’s best under Southgate, but they were unable to display the same efficiency as France, who happily bided their time and picked the moment to attack. It was a game by a fine margin but the idea that England must not have inferiority complex against the biggest teams has to stay and thrive into 2024. Relegation from the top tier of the Nations League won’t help.
Find a top class centre-back
There is no doubt that Harry Maguire left his indifferent form at Manchester United in Qatar. Southgate took risks for the 29-year-old, including not only by naming him in the squad but by keeping him for all four games, and Maguire proved that loyalty to some extent with a string of solid performances. However, he missed Giroud for France’s winning goal, and suspicions remain that England are still too vulnerable to play the expansive style that demands depth in their attacking options. John Stones is having a fine tournament but England will be boosted by the emergence of an elite centre-back in the next 18 months.
In this context, it is vital that Fikayo Tomori is given the chance to establish himself between now and Euro 2024. Tomori played a key role in AC Milan’s first Serie A title win in 11 years but has only earned two caps since moving to Italy from Chelsea last year, which led to the last came in June. If he maintains his club form, Tomori, 24, should get a fair chance to make his mark on international level.
Marc Guehi is far behind in his development at Crystal Palace but has great potential, while Ben White is another possible option if nothing remains of the Arsenal defender’s sudden departure from England’s camp in Qatar for what the FA describe as “personal reasons.” “
Steve McManaman praised England’s performance despite losing 2-1 to France at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
More creative in midfield
Jude Bellingham’s emergence is one of the biggest positives Britain can take from Qatar. The 19-year-old has shown maturity far beyond his years to add dynamism to areas of midfield that have needed it for quite some time. Southgate wanted to show that Bellingham had more freedom to express himself with Declan Rice in the holding role and Jordan Henderson as the No. The slightly more conservative 8 alongside him in the British 4-3-3 system.
But, as good as Henderson is in Qatar, can England play with a more attacking player in that role? Mason Mount is the obvious candidate but he has struggled for form and, after losing to France, it’s easy to wonder if Southgate can do what Phil Foden did like Didier Deschamps did to Antoine Griezmann? Finding a more central position for Foden would allow England to introduce another attacking player in one of the forward positions alongside Harry Kane, where they are so blessed with options.
Foden didn’t play there for Manchester City, but Deschamps used Griezmann in a different position to solve specific problems created by injuries to N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba. There’s no guarantee of success, but using Foden in this way is at least worth exploring.
Another option is Leicester City’s James Maddison who, like Tomori, should have been given his chance long before now. Taking him to Qatar without a cap in three years — and recovering from injury — is one thing, but he didn’t play at all. And the bigger mistakes were made before — if you can’t trust him in a Nations League game, how can he suddenly be thrown into a World Cup knockout game?
Work on more penalty curses
Southgate dives into the history of England’s painful relationship with penalties. After missing the decisive penalty kick in England’s Euro ’96 semi-final loss to Germany, he understands better than most the pressure and psychology involved in the tournament’s defining moments.
As a result, England undertook months of work including a study commissioned by former FA technical director Dan Ashworth which showed England were converting penalty kicks quicker than any other nation. They took a penalty at the end of an intense training session to recreate that true “leg tired” feeling. They used goals with nets spread across a line that only showed four corners in a bid to improve accuracy. And when England beat Colombia in the last 16 in 2018, that curse appeared to have been lifted as they won the first ever World Cup penalty shoot-out in their history.
Yet England’s recent history would have been very different had their penalty problem not been reversed: they lost the Euro 2020 final on penalties to Italy and were knocked out of this World Cup when Kane converted a second penalty with six minutes remaining against France to come. possibly taking their quarter-final to overtime.
Kane is England’s most accomplished penalty taker — and there are extreme situations in play, not least the lengthy delay for a VAR check and facing his Tottenham team-mate Hugo Lloris in the France goal — but if he can go wrong, so can the squad. this. common, and further work needs to be done.