Sterling dominates again as Three Lions come of age – England player ratings

Gareth Southgate’s England have answered a lot of questions this tournament. One that remained was how they would react to going a goal down as they did against Denmark in their 2-1 semi-final win.

They answered that question, but could they handle the rigours of extra-time? That was answered emphatically with a performance of maturity, direction and intelligence.

This was epitomised from minute 117 to 119 when they saw out the game with a spell of passing – that totalled 54 passes – befitting a team at the top of their game..

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FORMATION

There had been speculation that Southgate may switch to a back three for the test of Denmark. However, the England manager stuck with the 4-2-3-1 formation that brought four goals against Ukraine.

There was a slight switch in personnel, with Bukayo Saka taking the spot of Jadon Sancho on the right of the advanced midfield three.

However, when attacking, that advanced trio pushed right up, making it a 4-2-4. England wanted to control not just the ball but also territory and they did that for large swathes of the game.

TALKING POINT – A connection renewed

England and its fans have had – at times – a tumultuous relationship. It is perhaps Gareth Southgate’s greatest achievement that there is now a renewed connection between the national team and its fans.

It is – obviously – an intangible but that renewed connection underpinned the ferocity with which they chased the equaliser and then the winner. Every wave of attack was met with a wall of noise and, remarkably for modern football, the fans also showed patience when the ebb and flow of the game was not to their liking or in England’s favour.

PLAYER RATINGS

Pickford – 6: He was not as assured as he has been for England lately but – largely – did what was needed of him.

Walker – 8: The 31-year-old had been excellent defensively all tournament and was exactly that again here.

Stones – 7 : Denmark rarely asked questions of him but he was solid when required, and set attacks in motion from deep.

Maguire – 8: The Manchester United centre-half missed the first two matches of the tournament due to injury. Yet, he was probably the sharpest player on the pitch. He sets the tone from the back.

Shaw – 7: The difference he has made to this England side is palpable. He has an excellent understanding with club colleague Maguire and City rival Sterling. His presence makes England a far more fluid outfit.

Phillips – 8: The Yorkshire Pirlo played in an advanced role and at times found it difficult to evade the attentions of Delaney early on. But always showed for the ball and snapped into tackles where required; his influence grew as the game developed, and he began to set the tempo.

Rice – 7: Got a round of applause from Maguire after he had harried and harassed Denmark just after England had levelled. He was dogged throughout and always on the front foot.

Sterling – 9: His future at Manchester City is inexplicably in doubt. Yet, he has never let that affect him – it speaks to his remarkable mental strength. And it was Sterling who drove England forward after they went behind, jinking and probing the Three Lions up the pitch. The goal will go down to as own goal but he was, once again, exactly where he needed to be when England needed him to be there. Won the penalty with a typically positive run for the winner. What a footballer.

Mount – 6: A menace of a player who pops up all over the pitch whether in a defensive or attacking sense.

Saka – 8: The 19-year-old was not as influential as he was against Czech Republic but he played a crucial role in pinning Denmark back with his high starting position and, of course, set up the equaliser.

Kane – 8 This was his best all-round performance of the tournament; dropped deep and played with his head on a swivel. The complete forward did a complete job on Denmark. Missed the penalty but followed it up as cool as you like. Has also reached god-level ability to win free-kicks and is one goal off the Golden Boot.

Substitutes

Grealish – 6: Entered the fray to the reception of the cultural icon he has become and then immediately won a free-kick as he does. Was bright but was subbed for Trippier – more to follow on that.

Henderson – 7: Injected an energy and fizz to England’s play.

Foden – 6: An absolute dream of a footballer to bring on in any circumstance. Worked hard and knitted things together. Also his delivery from set pieces added another dimension.

Trippier – 7: Added an element of control that Southgate wanted.

VERDICT

England are in a final of a major tournament. And deservedly so. They have answered every question that has been posed of them. Gareth Southgate’s appointment was broadly met with indifference but what a job he has done. This felt like a coming of age performance.

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Southgate challenges England to go ‘two steps further’ after Ukraine win

England manager Gareth Southgate has tasked his charges with going two steps further to win Euro 2020 after they produced a scintillating display to beat Ukraine 4-0.

The Three Lions will face Denmark at Wembley on Wednesday for a spot in the showpiece final against either Italy or Spain.

Harry Kane (2), Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson got the goals as the Three Lions produced a statement performance at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

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However, Southgate, while delighted has challenged his players to win the whole tournament.

“It’s fabulous. I suppose it’s still sinking in that it’s another semi-final – three in three years,” he told the BBC.

We want to go two steps further. I know what will be happening at home. It’s lovely to see everyone on a Saturday night, beer in hand. They should enjoy it.

“It’s been a long year for everyone. I’m chuffed the two performances have brought so much happiness to people.

“We’ve known we had players we needed to look after physically. We’ve been able to introduce them. We know across seven games the squad is so important, trying to give people a breather at the right time. We learned a lot from Russia in that instance.

“We were trying to balance players with knocks and yellow cards. ‘Do we take the centre-back off? Because we’ve the game sown up he won’t need to make a tackle.’

“It’s fabulous for our country – a semi-final at Wembley. Everyone can really look forward to that – it’s brilliant.”

Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger expects England to make the final as a minimum.

“It was the perfect night for English football, a perfect night for England,” Wenger told beIN Sports.

“They didn’t concede a goal, they qualified easily and they could rest important players.

They scored three goals from crosses and sometimes small things cause big impacts, and that was certainly the case when Ukraine lost a centre back in the first half. They were free headers and that is not expected at this level.

“Ukraine conceded three poor goals and the second goal killed the game. It became an easy game for England but they did it well and what was important for them tonight is that they didn’t concede a goal.

“That will be an important quality to go to the final and win it. They look more stable, defensively.

“They are still looking for the perfect solution going forward I think but I’m convinced now they will be difficult to stop.

“They go home to London now for the semi-final so it will be difficult to stop them getting to the final.”

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'Difficult to stop them now' – Wenger backs England

Arsene Wenger thinks it will be a tall ask for Denmark to stop England reaching the Euro 2020 final.

England blew Ukraine away in a stunning performance in the quarter-finals on Saturday and are big favourites to sweep the Danes aside in similar fashion.

Gareth Southgate’s side finally found their scoring groove against the Ukrainians and former Arsenal manager Wenger gave his verdict on the victory.

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“It was the perfect night for English football, a perfect night for England,” Wenger told beIN Sports.

“They didn’t concede a goal, they qualified easily and they could rest important players.

They scored three goals from crosses and sometimes small things cause big impacts, and that was certainly the case when Ukraine lost a centre back in the first half. They were free headers and that is not expected at this level.

“Ukraine conceded three poor goals and the second goal killed the game. It became an easy game for England but they did it well and what was important for them tonight is that they didn’t concede a goal.

Harry Kane of England celebrates with Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, John Stones and team mates after scoring their side’s third goal during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Quarter-final match between Ukraine and England at Olimpico Stadium on July 03, 2021 in

Image credit: Getty Images

“That will be an important quality to go to the final and win it. They look more stable, defensively.

“They are still looking for the perfect solution going forward I think but I’m convinced now they will be difficult to stop.

“They go home to London now for the semi-final so it will be difficult to stop them getting to the final.”

Both Harry Kane and Harry Maguire said their focus was now squarely on beating Denmark and Southgate echoed his players’ sentiments after the result.

“It’s fabulous. I suppose it’s still sinking in that it’s another semi-final – three in three years,” he told the BBC.

We want to go two steps further. I know what will be happening at home. It’s lovely to see everyone on a Saturday night, beer in hand. They should enjoy it.

“It’s been a long year for everyone. I’m chuffed the two performances have brought so much happiness to people.

“We’ve known we had players we needed to look after physically. We’ve been able to introduce them.

“We know across seven games the squad is so important, trying to give people a breather at the right time. We learned a lot from Russia in that instance.

“We were trying to balance players with knocks and yellow cards. ‘Do we take the centre-back off? Because we’ve the game sown up he won’t need to make a tackle.’

“It’s fabulous for our country – a semi-final at Wembley. Everyone can really look forward to that – it’s brilliant.”

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'I'm ready' – Kane hits back at critics after brace in Ukraine rout

Harry Kane dismissed the criticism laid at his feet after the England captain scored twice in the win over Ukraine.

The emphatic 4-0 victory books England’s spot in the semi-finals at Euro 2020, with Kane finally finding his scoring groove after just one goal at the tournament before Saturday’s game.

England were unstoppable in the second half after Kane’s early opener and the Tottenham star responded to those calling for him to be dropped by saying he was ready to lead the Three Lions to the final.

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“What a great performance in a big game,” he told the BBC.

“We were favourites, there was a lot of pressure and a lot of expectations. The performance was top-drawer. Another clean sheet, four goals, it was a perfect night for us.

We’re building on [clean sheets]. We have a great unit here from front to back. It’s a vital part of winning games and tournaments.

“We’ve got a big semi-final coming up. We’re on the right path.

“It’s where we wanted to be. We set out a vision before the World Cup of what we want to achieve. We are knocking it off step by step. The World Cup was great but we fell short, we had a good run in the Nations League. We’re in another semi-final.

“Now it’s about getting over the line, the next step that we have got to do on Wednesday.

We have more experience [than 2018]. We’ve been playing for our clubs in big games – Champions League finals, Premier League title races. We’re looking confident. Hopefully we can continue that.

“The job is not done yet. There’s a lot more football to play.

Harry Kane of England celebrates after scoring their side’s first goal during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Quarter-final match between Ukraine and England at Olimpico Stadium on July 03, 2021 in Rome, Italy.

Image credit: Getty Images

“It’s always nice to score early in a game. It’s a great feeling to help the team. There was a lot of talk about me and my performances. But I’m just ready for the next game and try to lead this team to the European final.”

Kane was denied the chance to grab a hat-trick by being taken off for a rest by Gareth Southgate, and the England manager was able to hook several key players after the goal spree in the second half.

Alan Shearer was blown away by Kane’s performance upfront and said it was like watching a different player to the one who struggled in the group stages of the competition.

“It is incredible the difference in Harry Kane. You can see he has a spring in his step,” Shearer said on the BBC.

“In the first minute of this game he picked up the ball 40 or 50 yards and pinged it and you thought, yes that will do. Then he scored soon after.”

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Opinion: England win over Ukraine was the perfect night for Southgate

As much as England’s Euro 2020 last 16 victory over Germany clearly meant to Gareth Southgate, given his individual history with that particular rivalry, the 50-year-old surely hasn’t enjoyed himself as Three Lions boss as much as he did as his team dismantled Ukraine in Rome.

Indeed, it was the perfect night for Southgate. If he had any critics left on his back after the win against Germany, they have surely been shaken off now after a complete performance in the Italian capital. Ukraine weren’t up to England’s level, but they were never given a chance to pull off an upset.

As has been the case for every match England have played at Euro 2020, Southgate’s team selection for Saturday’s quarter-final caused much pre-match debate. Most notable was the sight of Jadon Sancho’s inclusion in the line-up for the first time in the tournament just one day after news of his £73m transfer to Manchester United broke.

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Mason Mount returned having missed the wins over Czech Republic and Germany in a move that hinted at a more attack-minded focus from England, with the shift back into a defensive unit of four creating another position for a player in the centre of the pitch. The sharpness of England’s final third play still exceeded those expectations, though.

Boosted by his first Euro 2020 goal against Germany, Harry Kane bagged a brace and gave England the sort of cutting edge in front of goal they have lacked at times. Sancho and Raheem Sterling intertwined and interchanged to keep the Ukrainian defence on their toes while Mount led the high press from deep in the knowledge Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice were anchoring things behind him.

Then there was Luke Shaw, who just one week after being publicly attacked by Jose Mourinho once again produced a demonstration of why he is now one of the best full backs in the game. It wasn’t just in the 25-year-old’s surging runs up and down the left wing, but in his final product too – two assists could have been three or four.

Harry Maguire, who only started his first Euro 2020 game against Czech Republic due to injury, got on the score sheet with a thunderous header from one of Shaw’s excellent deliveries, but the 28-year-old’s play out from the back had the biggest influence on England’s performance – nobody on the pitch made more passes (98).

Jordan Henderson is another who has battled injury at this tournament, but still managed to come off the bench to put the game beyond all doubt at 4-0. Southgate might not want to disrupt the balance of his midfield for the semi-final against Denmark, but the Liverpool captain can now be trusted to feature more.

Most impressive, though, is the way Southgate has managed games, and his squad, throughout the tournament so far. He has resisted the clamour to start certain players at certain points and has had the courage in his convictions to make his own decisions. As has been proven, Southgate clearly knows this squad better than anyone else.

Tougher tests await in the semi-final against a Denmark team with real momentum behind them, and in the final against Italy or Spain if England get that far, but the way they have grown with every round suggests there is still even more to come from this group of players. Saturday might have been Southgate’s best night as England manager, but there’s still a potential two more games for that to be surpassed.

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Hayward: England on the cusp of their greatest transformation

Denmark and Spain or Italy stand between England and the greatest transformation in their history, from the excruciating defeat to Iceland at Euro 2016 to the restoration of faith in a new, stellar crop of players.

Gareth Southgate’s men are through to their second consecutive tournament semi-final – their third, if you count the Nations League – with a dismissive 4-0 win over Ukraine, a fifth clean sheet in this competition and a dazzling display of depth. Five years after they imploded against Iceland, England made mass substitutions at 4-0 up in a European Championship quarter-final.

Denmark and the southern superpowers, Spain or Italy, will expose Southgate’s side to a much hotter test, but they have improved rapidly, through the Germany and Ukraine matches, and now return to Wembley for the climax of this far-flung jamboree. Southgate’s supposedly “cautious” gameplan has been vindicated. An infectious confidence now runs through this squad.

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The dream of international football is that players can live out their childhood fantasies in the most sacred jersey they can ever wear. No England player has felt the full thrill of that calling since 1966. It won’t be easy for Southgate’s lot to make that final jump. Already, though, his 2021 team are achieving personal highs on this cobbled-together tournament stage.

Harry Kane had still not scored 84 minutes into his fourth match – against Germany in the round of 16. Then he scored twice in nine minutes – once in London, and again in Rome, 3m 34 secs into the Ukraine game. Then he added another to end the evening one behind Gary Lineker’s England tournament record of 10.

Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson came into Euro 2020 in recovery mode, with many grumbling that they shouldn’t be here. Wayne Rooney, David Beckham, Bryan Robson and Ledley King were haunting examples of the dangers of picking players coming back from injury. Maguire missed the Croatia and Scotland games but stepped back in against the Czech Republic as if his ankle had never been hurt. A minute into the second-half in Rome, Maguire rose to meet a perfect Luke Shaw free-kick and headed England’s second.

And consider Shaw, who’s keeping a Champions League winning left-back (Ben Chilwell) out of Southgate’s team and was in the wilderness at Manchester United under Jose Mourinho. Hostilities between Shaw and Mourinho flared again, with Shaw calling out, in the England camp, Mourinho’s apparent obsession with him. He crossed the ball beautifully in Rome. Next season he will be playing at United with Jadon Sancho, another who has had to fight his way into Southgate’s starting XI but was assured from the start in Italy.

Quick feet, elusive running and a reliable end product are measures of Sancho’s talent and maturity. His first tournament start completed a spectacular 48 hours for one of the stars of the Bundesliga. His £73m move to Manchester United was agreed shortly before Bukayo Saka picked up an injury on the training ground and had to drop out of Southgate’s starting XI.

As for Raheem Sterling, his pass to Kane for England’s first goal consolidated his status as the team’s most influential player. From the start it was Sterling making the clearest statement of intent to Andrei Shevchenko’s side, whose defending fell apart and allowed England to score almost at will after a troublesome period of Ukrainian pressure before the interval.

Incredibly, England rattled off a 4-0 win without needing to call on Phil Foden or Jack Grealish, and were able to protect Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips from second bookings by replacing them with Henderson and Jude Bellingham. So much of the selection hoohaa before this tournament was about Grealish and Foden. Many were adamant both should play. Now each faces another struggle to make the team-sheet against Denmark and perhaps beyond.

For the team spirit to hold up so well with so much competition for places is unprecedented. Somehow Southgate has pulled off the trick of managing expectations through sheer decency, and by proving his plan is working. England are shifting easily between systems from five defenders (with wing-backs) against Germany to a back-four in Rome. His most contentious tactic of playing two screening midfielders, Rice and Phillips, has helped keep the ball out of Jordan Pickford’s net in all five games, or 450 minutes.

Denmark beat Czech Republic authoritatively, with goals by Thomas Delaney and Kasper Dolberg. The Danes are quick, decisive and are playing for a cause: the loss of Christian Eriksen to a cardiac arrest 41 minutes into their campaign. England’s long quest to repeat the ecstasy of 1966 can’t quite match that. But the craving to end 55 years without a trophy – or even an appearance in a final – runs marrow deep. It probably amuses people from other countries. In England itself, it stirs a deep well of yearning, frustration and, yes, embarrassment.

With a typically stylish sign-off, Gary Lineker ended his BBC interview with Southgate by saying: “We’ve got to get to the news. In fact, you are the news.” And it will stay that way, to the Denmark game on Wednesday. You wait all those years for a semi-final to come along – then they all come along at once.

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England player ratings: Resurgent Kane hits brace but Shaw steals the show

Even after finishing top of their group and beating Germany in the round of 16, England needed a statement performance to truly announce themselves as one of the frontrunners at Euro 2020. This was that performance, as goals from Harry Kane, Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson secured a 4-0 win over Ukraine.

As has been the case for every England game at Euro 2020 so far, Gareth Southgate’s team selection prompted much pre-match discussion. Most notably, Jadon Sancho’s inclusion in the line-up caught many by surprise. Less surprising was the return of Mason Mount after missing the wins over Czech Republic and Germany.

England will face Denmark in the semi-finals and on this basis they will take some beating at this tournament. Here is a closer look at how the 15 players who featured for the Three Lions performed and what England can take from this performance.

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FORMATION

Having matched up against Germany in a back three, Southgate reverted back to a flat back four with Kieran Trippier dropping out of the line-up as the wing back as Kyle Walker started as right back. The biggest pre-match headline, though, was the inclusion of Sancho for the first time at Euro 2020.

Sancho was charged with stretching the pitch on the right side, giving England an an out-ball. Mason Mount had something of a drifting role which saw the Chelsea midfielder get close to Sancho in order to prevent the Borussia Dortmund winger from becoming isolated on the touchline.

This isn’t to say Sancho was wedded to this position. Indeed, the 21-year-old surged through the middle on more than one occasion, with Walker pushing forward to maintain the width. On paper, Southgate’s shape was a 4-2-3-1 with Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice as the midfield platform, but it also shifted between a 4-3-3 and even a 3-4-3 as Luke Shaw pushed forward.

BIG WINNER – Luke Shaw

Just one week on from yet more critical comments of Luke Shaw from Jose Mourinho, the 25-year-old showed why he is now considered one of the best full backs in Europe. Indeed, Shaw was a constant threat down the left side against Ukraine, contributing two assists as England showed a different dimension to their play in the attacking third.

This was the perfect modern full back performance. Not only was Shaw mobile in the way he surged up and down the left wing for the full 65 minutes he was on the pitch, his final ball was sharp. The fact Southgate withdrew Shaw early with the game already won demonstrated his worth to England right now.

BIG LOSER – Gareth Southgate’s critics

If England’s win over Germany in the round of 16 wasn’t enough to get the critics off Southgate’s back, this surely was. While the 50-year-old still maintained the structure of his team throughout, he recognised the opportunity to truly press home England’s superior quality against an opponent that just couldn’t match them.

Southgate’s team selections at Euro 2020 have been analysed intensely, but his use of his squad as a whole at this tournament can’t be questioned. England managed this game, but in a way that still allowed them to attack. Southgate hasn’t just proved himself as a dressing room leader, but as a tactician.

PLAYER RATINGS

Pickford 5 – While Jordan Pickford made one solid save to deny Roman Yaremchuk at a crucial stage of the match in the first half, he was rash in coming off his line to make a clearance just after 70 minutes. It didn’t cost England, but Southgate didn’t look too pleased on the touchline.

Maguire 8 – This was another performance that underlined Maguire’s importance to this England team. He was crucial to the way the Three Lions played out from the back and effectively put the result beyond doubt by getting his head on the end of a Shaw freekick into the box.

Stones 6 – Yaremchuk gave the England defence something to think about, and got the better of Stones more than once, but it would be harsh to criticise the Manchester City centre back for another good performance.

Shaw 9 – Deployed in a higher position than was the case in his previous three games at Euro 2020, Luke Shaw was an attacking threat down the left side. His final product was good too, demonstrated by his free-kick delivery for Maguire’s header at the start of the second half. He could have finished with a couple more assists too.

Walker 5 – Favoured over Kieran Trippier on the right side of the defence, Ukraine identified Kyle Walker as something of a weak link in the first half. However, the 31-year-old fared better in the second period as Ukraine started to tire.

Phillips 7 – While many debated whether Kalvin Phillips should even be included in England’s squad for this tournament, the Leeds United midfielder has made himself undroppable with a series of composed performances. This was another one.

Rice 6 – Withdrawn just before the hour mark, this wasn’t Declan Rice’s most eye-catching display, but Southgate will be pleased with how the West Ham midfielder maintained the structure of the side in the centre of the pitch and kept things ticking over with his prudent use of the ball.

Mount 6 – Back in the team after a period of Covid-19 self-isolation, it was up to Mason Mount to lead the England press from deep. This might have been down to Kane’s lack of physicality, but it had the additional benefit of pushing England’s midfield further forward.

Sancho 8 – Selected to start his first match of the tournament, Jadon Sancho gave England forward thrust down the right side. He was also afforded the freedom to drift into the middle on the ball which helped create overloads for England.

Sterling 8 – This continues to be Raheem Sterling’s tournament. While the Manchester City attacker didn’t get on the score sheet here, he created the opening from which England took a grip of the game after just four minutes. Sterling played predominantly on the left, but also operated through the middle and even on the right at times. This gave England real fluidity in attack.

Kane 8 – Having faced much criticism for his performances earlier in the tournament, Kane is now well and truly up and running. The 27-year-old showed trademark goalscoring instincts to bag a brace to take his Euro 2020 tally to three goals. Even when only half-fit, Kane leads the line better than any other striker on England’s books.

Harry Kane of England celebrates after scoring their side’s first goal during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Quarter-final match between Ukraine and England at Olimpico Stadium on July 03, 2021 in Rome, Italy.

Image credit: Getty Images

Subs:

Henderson 6 – Making only his second appearance of Euro 2020, Jordan Henderson came off the bench to press home England’s advantage, scoring a header from a corner kick to make it 4-0.

Trippier 4 – Kieran Trippier’s main purpose in this match was to afford Shaw some rest on the left side, but he still offered England something of an outlet in his absence.

Bellingham 5 – Southgate still found time to give England fans a glimpse of the future as Jude Bellingham was introduced off the bench after 65 minutes. His energy kept England’s foot on the throat of Ukraine in the latter stages.

Rashford 3 – Given 25 minutes to make an impression, Marcus Rashford was a peripheral figure in the time he was on the pitch. This just hasn’t been his tournament so far.

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England cruise into semi-final with Ukraine rout

England put in an incredible performance as they breezed past Ukraine 4-0 in their European Championship quarter-final at the Stadio Olimpico.

In a game where many England fans were nervous before kick-off, the opening minutes of both halves would calm all nerves: Harry Kane netting three minutes in, and then doubling his tally with a poacher’s header from a Luke Shaw cross.

Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson also scored with towering headers from set plays; with Shaw again turning provider, feeding his Manchester United colleague with a sumptuous delivery, before the returning Mason Mount whipped in a delicious corner for super-sub Henderson to flick home.

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New Manchester United signing Jadon Sancho impressed on his first start of the tournament replacing Bukayo Saka on the right, and Raheem Sterling was also exceptional as he tormented Oleksandr Karavaev down the Ukrainian right, with Shaw a constant threat on the overlap, freed up by Sterling’s inward bursts drawing away two defending bodies.

The defensive quintet were sound – Jordan Pickford had a mere two saves to make, one each from Roman Yaremchuk and Yevhenii Makarenko, as the Ukrainians struggled to look like scoring.

Andriy Yarmolenko and Oleksandr Zinchenko couldn’t muster any sort of creativity for the underdogs, but the Three Lions march on relentlessly, doubling their goals tally for the tournament in one game. Denmark are what stands between England and a major final – surely they can’t?

TALKING POINT – IS IT ACTUALLY COMING HOME?

Many negative England fans thought that the performances prior to this game, no matter how positive the results and the number of clean sheets, were sub-par. They were right.

The Germany game gave them hope, but that was dashed in classic style before kick-off following some ‘suspect’ team selections. However, Kane struck early to ease the tensions between fanbase and management.

The attacking play was fluid and the pressing game was constant, and the gameplan was a simple one: control the game, blow them away.

Sancho and Sterling were supported superbly by the flying full-backs, and captain Kane gobbled up his service, as he found his shooting boots once more to fire the Three Lions into the last four.

England jubelt über den Einzug ins EM-Halbfinale

Image credit: Getty Images

PLAYER RATINGS

Ukraine: Bushchan 6, Zabarnyi 5, Kryvstov 5, Matvienko 5, Karavaev 5, Sydorchuk 5, Shaparenko 6, Zinchenko 6, Mykolenko 6, Yarmolenko 5, Yaremchuk 6, Tsgyankov 6, Makarenko 5.

England: Pickford 6, Walker 7, Stones 6, Maguire 7, Shaw 8, Rice 6, Phillips 6, Sancho 7, Mount 6, Sterling 8, Kane 8, Henderson 7, Trippier 6, Rashford 6, Bellingham 6, C-Lewin 6.

MAN OF THE MATCH – LUKE SHAW, ENGLAND

Another exceptional performance from an unsung hero.

He pocketed Yarmolenko, Ukraine’s main attacking outlet, bagging two assists in the process, with a complete performance that leaves England supporters baffled as to why he didn’t start immediately against Croatia in the opening game.

He was composed in possession, supported Sterling brilliantly, and deserves all his plaudits that he will surely get. Outstanding display.

KEY MOMENTS

4′: GOAL! The perfect start! Sterling darts inside off the left and slides a wonderful reversed ball into Kane, who finishes with aplomb!

17′: A pass from Maguire sells Walker short, and Walker’s following pass back for Stones is stolen upon by Yaremchuk, who drives into the box… and Pickford saves! Corner, Ukraine.

33′: Sterling does exceptionally to get around the outside of Kavamaev, pulling it back… it falls for Rice! Big save from Bushchan!

46′: GOALLLLLL!!!! Shaw with the delivery…Maguireeeee!!!!!! It’s two!! A towering header, thoroughly deserved.

50′: GOAL!!!! Harry Kane at the double, England at the triple! A great drive from Mount into the left half-space, feeding Sterling, who has the awareness to pick out Shaw on the overlap, and Shaw’s cross finds the talismanic captain, who nods it home with ease. 3-0. Game over, surely.

63′: GOALLLL!!!! From the resulting corner, it’s the super-sub, Jordan Henderson! The near-post run, flicked into the far corner. 4-0. Amazing.

KEY STAT

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Sterling set to quit City

The Mirror explains why Raheem Sterling is now keen to leave Manchester City. The 26-year-old England international had been due to start talks on a new deal to extend the contract he has that currently has two years remaining. However, as he was used in a part-exchange offer to Spurs for Harry Kane, he has decided to reassess his future and may run down his deal.

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Paper Round’s view: Sterling had a difficult year last season and was unable to produce the form that people had come to expect. Pep Guardiola appears to have little patience for his players being inconsistent, and that is no surprise if he can always ask for more money to have them replaced. Quite where Sterling would be able to go from the Etihad is unclear now that he is not as deadly a forward.

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‘You’ve got to see it to believe it!’ – Can England win the Euros?

Kabak Premier League move still possible

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp decided against making Ozan Kabak’s loan move to Anfield permanent, despite a clause requiring a payment of just £17 million to complete the deal. The 21-year-old Turkish defender does have interest from elsewhere though, with the Sun saying £13m would be enough to convince Schalke. Potential buyers are: Leicester, Newcastle and Crystal Palace, plus Ligue Un teams Nice and Rennes.

Paper Round’s view: Kabak did not do enough at Liverpool to show why he was one rated as one of the most talented young defenders in Europe. If any club is willing to take a gamble, then giving him the chance to show his ability and rediscover his performance might be a simple way to bring in a player with huge potential who was sidetracked by his club’s problems.

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Haaland against Bayern move

While Bayern Munich have been credited with an interest in Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Braut Haaland, Spanish newspaper Marca believes that the 20-year-old Norwegian striker is not keen on making a swap between the two Bundesliga sides. He remains keen on joining Real Madrid, and if he decides to try the Premier League, Chelsea are leading the pack for his signature.

Paper Round’s view: Haaland is one of the most exciting talents in world football, and one of the players who looks able to take over from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as one of those talents that put away at least a goal a game. Staying with Bayern might not be an option given the German champions are struggling with cash this summer, and Dortmund want more than 100 million euros for their man.

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Amos turns down United

Manchester United’s former goalkeeper Ben Amos has turned down the chance to return to the Premier League club. The 31-year-old last played at Charlton Athletic but has seen his contract expire, and there is now interest from Ipswich, who need to add strength in their goalkeeping department. The Mail suggests that Amos did not want to go back to United to add cover as he wanted more playing time.

Paper Round’s view: United appear to have secured a deal for Tom Heaton when his contract with Aston Villa expires, and in turn Sergio Romero is believed to be wanted by both Juventus and Everton. Amos showed little in his career to suggest that he would be a success at United but given Tom Heaton looks likely to turn up as third choice, it appears standards were not desperately high.

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Euro 2020

Opinion: Morata delivers for Spain – what more do people want from him?

YESTERDAY AT 14:28

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Opinion: Morata delivers for Spain – what more do people want from him?

Here’s a quick question: what do Kylian Mbappe, Harry Kane, Thomas Muller, Gerard Moreno, Eden Hazard, Gareth Bale and Bruno Fernandes all have in common?

They all have fewer goals at Euro 2020 than Alvaro Morata.

Here’s another one. If we use “forward” in the loosest sense to mean anyone in the frontline of Spain’s 4-3-3, then Morata is competing with Dani Olmo, Pablo Sarabia, Gerard Moreno, Ferran Torres, Adama Traore and Mikel Oyarzabal for a starting spot. Those players, between them, have scored 21 goals for La Roja.

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Morata alone has scored 20.

So what does he have to do in a Spain shirt to convince everyone he deserves to start for his country?

I know, you’re screaming “finish chances!” at your device right now. According to FBRef, Morata has scored just once this tournament from 2.8 expected goals. Reasonable people might argue scoring penalties is different to open play, but even so, that’s still an xG of 1.7. He’s not clinical.

Through all the competitions FBRef have advanced data on in the past few seasons, Morata has scored 53 non-penalty goals from 55.8 xG. It’s not anything special. But he’s regularly converting the chances he gets. And it’s not like strikers are generally overperforming their xG by huge margins. Someone like Jamie Vardy, who most football fans would consider a “clinical finisher”, has taken 54.9 xG from the data collected and converted 56 times.

It’s better, but we’re not talking about wildly different rates to Morata here. Part of this is just how we measure finishing. Morata’s errors can be about mistiming his runs to end up offside, or failing to connect with crosses. None of that shows up in the data.

And it’s not quite as though Morata has a glittering club career to back him up. After looking very promising in limited minutes as a youngster at Real Madrid, he got a move to Juventus in which he was expected to prove himself one of Europe’s finest marksmen. In reality, he found himself in and out of the team, getting goals and assists when he was on the pitch but never fully earning manager Max Allegri’s trust.

After a year back at Real Madrid that was arguably his best, scoring nearly a goal every 90 minutes, he had another fresh start at Chelsea. Again, he wasn’t quite trusted all the time. He started that first season in red hot form but badly tailed off, scoring 10 goals before the New Year and just one after. It’s not a satisfying narrative. Had he started slowly but ended strong, people would have felt good about him. This way around, it just feels like he crumbled.

After Maurizio Sarri seemed to grow bored of him the following January, Morata has spent time with Atletico Madrid and Juventus, not really setting the world alight in either situation. This is someone who scores a solid if not incredible amount without ever looking that comfortable doing it, and someone who many managers don’t quite seem to trust.

There is a view that Morata is too mentally fragile to thrive as a prolific goalscorer. He has a reputation for taking setbacks poorly, for finding it difficult to deal with the natural up and down rhythms of being a top footballer. Striker is a particularly tough position for this. Even the most clinical scorers only score about 20% of their shots, so the experience of a goalscorer is knowing you’re going to fail four out of five times, but keeping buying that lottery ticket anyway.
The best centre forwards often seem to have personalities where they can just brush off failure like it’s no big deal. You think of players like Vardy or Ian Wright, who had to fight and scrap their way to the top from the lowest levels. Or you can look at someone like Romelu Lukaku, who was so completely driven to help his family and play professional football by age 16, despite what anyone would tell him. Those kinds of people have the personalities to miss chances and just keep going.

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But for all this, he’s been scoring regularly at international level. Yes, some of those goals came against minnows Lichtenstein and Malta, but he’s also scored against Germany, Italy and Croatia. He’s the country’s first reliable goalscorer since David Villa and Fernando Torres retired. That’s the Alvaro Morata Luis Enrique sees. It’s the striker who makes his manager say Spain “play with Morata and 10 more”. Perhaps he looks at Morata as someone who needs all the support he can get. Perhaps this is simply his honest view.
Morata is not always the most refined player around. You expect a handsome Spanish striker like him to have the technique of an angel, but that’s not his game at all. Even when he scores, he doesn’t always look like he’s striking the ball too cleanly. He gets caught by the flag so often that a parody Twitter account of Morata lists his current location as “offside”. He’s rough around the edges. But is this automatically the worst thing in the world?

Spain are otherwise the most refined team at the European Championship. Every pass, every movement, every touch feels like perfect precision. Everything is always in its right place, slowly working its way forward, until it gets to Morata playing to an entirely different beat.

Alvaro Morata

Image credit: Getty Images

This might actually be a good thing. Morata’s offside record, while overblown, speaks to the type of player he is. He’s always on the shoulder of the last man, looking to run in behind and stretch teams. Spain, with their classic possession-heavy style, can often be caught with two many players coming towards the ball and looking to receive it to feet.

In the later years of their golden generation, they had so many wonderful technicians coming short every time, with no one making the run in behind that would open up opportunities for those creative players to make a pass that can really hurt teams. As sides naturally want to close down those wonderful Spanish midfielders, it opens up space for Morata to make those runs. He’s taking a risk, so sometimes he’ll get caught going too soon. If your attackers never get caught offside, it’s a sign you’re playing it too safe and refusing to stretch teams where you can do serious damage.

Morata’s the joker in the pack for Enrique’s precision Spain side. While everyone else is conducting a perfect symphony, he’s shredding a guitar without worrying how the song goes. It feels abrasive to watch him lack so much of that Spanish composure, but he offers qualities that the side certainly need. Without him bursting forward and taking those scruffy shots, Spain would be at greater risk of looking static and plodding.

Considering his track record, the question is whether he can hold things together for the whole tournament. Enrique and the Spain squad need to keep Morata feeling confident somehow, because they need the things he does. It’s not always going to look great, but if Spain are to win Euro 2020, Morata is absolutely going to be a key player for the side.

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