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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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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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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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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In defence of Kane… and why can’t Foden and Grealish play together?

After three attempts and zero on target England captain Harry Kane is coming under fire for his performances at Euro 2020 – but doubt the striker at your peril…

In the latest Eurosport x The Beautiful Game show, Buj and Dot are joined by Eurosport’s own Ben Snowball.

A big talking point was England’s 0-0 draw with Scotland on Friday, and with Kane substituted off late on after a lacklustre display, the trio leapt to his defence when backing the Tottenham striker to come good – and soon.

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“When Kane drops deep it’s different because he drags the centre-back with him. Space is created. Previously with Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling in form they’d run into that space,” Ben said.

“The problem is that doesn’t work against Scotland because they sit too deep and now we’ve got Phil Foden who isn’t that same kind of player.

“Kane is getting all this stick but it’s not really his fault. He’s missed one big chance this Euros where he clattered into the post and scuffed it against Croatia. That didn’t matter. The chances aren’t being created.

Kane is always being questioned, but he always answers them wrong. He was a one-season wonder, then a two-season wonder, then three-season. How many more times? The guy won the 2018 World Cup Golden Boot and it’s ‘Oh he only scores penalties’.

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“There’s always questions. He always answers them. I’m sure he will here. He’s going to start against Czech Republic, Southgate confirmed, and surely he’ll bury one soon.”

‘Play Grealish and Foden together’

With Jack Grealish a late substitute and Jadon Sancho left on the bench against Scotland, Dot called questioned Gareth Southgate’s tactics after the England manager opted against going more attacking during the game.

‘Play Grealish and give Sancho a chance’ – Southgate urged to make changes

“Grealish has to play every single game. The biggest problem against Scotland that I had – why did Foden come off for Grealish? Why can’t they play in the same team?” Dot said.

“That’s like for like, but what a proactive top manager would do is say, you know what, I can sacrifice a defensive midfielder and bring on an extra attacker. That could have been the difference.

“The starting XI I don’t have a big issue with – that team has enough to beat Scotland, but the setup was wrong. If you’re playing Kalvin Phillips in an advanced position, you may as well play a Jude Bellingham or Grealish – or Sancho out wide and Foden in the middle.

“Southgate got it wrong if I’m being perfectly honest.”

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‘We don’t know England’s best XI’

Ben went on to suggest that England’s focus was awry when it came to their warm-up games against Austria and Romania – and it has left both Southgate and supporters unsure on what their best XI is going into their final group game.

“England have the squad to win this, or at least make the semi-finals, and my concern is that we spent so long in the warm-ups worrying about who would be the 26th man – Jesse Lingard, James Ward-Prowse, but eventually Ben White – we didn’t actually prepare the players who are actually going to play,” Ben added.

Now Southgate doesn’t know his best team. He was hamstrung by the Champions League final with players arriving late and now we have no idea what his best team is.

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