Tag Archives: England

EURO 2020 Final: Italy’s 53-year wait ends as Second European Title comes to Rome!

Imagine a marathon runner having performed more than ably to conquer every lap only to squander his winning run metres away from the finish line. Well, when one thinks about this marathon runner, a certain home team surely springs to mind who through the tournament were so focused to win their maiden European title and a major trophy after a long wait of 55 years.

England vehemently conquered every opposition to reach the final, winning games enroute only to surrender in an all or nothing battle courtesy another penalty shootout debacle. The result, the banner which motivated every English fan in It’s coming home made a 180 shift albeit still rhyming in It’s coming Rome.

Wembley witnessed the Azzurri cheer as England were conquered 3-2 on penalties after a 1-1 outcome in regular time to give Italy their second Euro Title after a gap of 53 years dating back to their 1968 conquest against Yugoslavia, the longest gap for any European team beating Spain’s 44 year wait from 1964 to 2008.

With this trophy, the Azzurri mounted their silverware to six major titles (4 World Cups and 2 Euros) a close second to the once mighty powerhouse of Europe in Germany who sit on seven.

So, as The Three Lions suffered another heart break in a major tournament at a point where they were so close yet so far, lets dissect this final which saw the Axis forces reign supreme over the Great Alliance possibly bringing a smile on the face of the late Benito Mussolini:

The Azzurri were Shawbertoed early

Gareth Southgate made one change in the starting XI from the Danish semi-final hurrah, with a defensive option Kieran Trippier coming in for a more attack minded Bukayo Saka in a 3-4-2-1 formation. The task was simple score early and defend with all your might and the elusive Euro title comes home.

Well, the strategy worked wonders as only in the 2nd minute England were 1-0 up thanks to a superb strike from winger Luke Shaw after he made no mistake in converting from a single touch to beat keeper Donnarumma from a Trippier cross.

Credit – Reuters

England were up and running early, I was ecstatic and the Manchester United man had his maiden goal in a move which reminded me like many others of a Brazilian legend Roberto Carlos, with the way this winger scored for the Seleção.

As time moved on, Italy, the team who played the first game of this competition and now were playing the final, slowly started finding their feet as they steadily built attacks on the English goal. Their best chance would come in the 35th minute through arguably their most attacking threat, Chiesa who hit the ball inches wide of the post.

Credit – Reuters

The Three Lions knew they were in a contest and the going would be anything but easy!

The Azzurri had another shot on target in stoppage time of the first 45 as Immobile’s strike was blocked by John Stones and Verrati’s rebound effort was comfortably pouched by keeper, Jordan Pickford.

With no further twists, England were lucky to maintain their lead as the players walked into the tunnel at the stroke of half-time.

Leonardo Bonucci brings his team back into the contest

England started the second half brightly as Sterling made a fine run into the Italian D to be brought down by captain Chiellini and Bonucci which showed a clear penalty albeit the referee decided otherwise.

The Three Lions were a tad unlucky with the decision as the Azzurri continued to mount their offensive onslaught with Chiesa creating another opportunity that was ably stopped by Pickford.

Italy with their relentless attacking threats, would finally get the equaliser through their legendary defender Bonucci who slotted the ball in after Pickford did well to keep Verratti’s header out from an Immobile corner.

Credit – Reuters

The game had come to life if you were an Italian supporter and the majority in attendance at Wembley were certainly deflated with this occurrence.

England much like their supporters were on the back-foot as time was called on the 90 and extra time of 15 minutes each beckoned.

The contest would fail to produce a result in the 30 minutes that followed as Italy continued to attack albeit the goal was not to be found.

Next up a word that would particularly still not sit well with England was to see the light of day. Penalties!

England squander yet another major penalty shootout

As the shootout began, my hopes started to soar as Jordan Pickford stopped Italy’s second strike and England had converted from their first two.

Little did I know then that our next three would go so horribly south as Rashford, Sancho and Saka all missed despite Pickford still managing to keep England in the hunt by keeping a Jorginho effort out.

The result, Italy had won another major tournament as England were yet again beaten 3-2 on penalties.

Credit – Reuters

The Three Lions had squandered another penalty shootout taking their tally to all of 22 percent success rate with only two hurrahs from nine attempts. Yes, some would have hoped The Three Lions could have conquered the Azzurri in this shootout as their last successive penalty triumphs had come as recently as the 2018 World Cup pre-quarter win over Columbia and The Nations League third place win over Switzerland albeit not to be.

As the contest finally ended and the Italian captain Chiellini hoisted the trophy, to say I was heartbroken was as true as England’s insatiable need to defend after going 1-0 up early in this contest.

Having said this, one cannot take anything away from The Three Lions as their valiant roar was worth every praise to reach their maiden European final.

Maybe this failure was a sign that they are destined to shine even brighter come next year on the grandest stage of world football at Qatar 2022. In exactly a year and a half would I be writing a piece on England winning the ultimate prize in football? Only time will tell.

Until then I still continue to believe that impossible is not a word in the English footballing dictionary!

The Harrys’ maul Ukraine with much vigour as England cruise to the last 4!

While England in the group stages of the Euro Championship had done well to not concede a single goal, I was honestly a little disturbed with their attacking potential as The Three Lions had barely managed to mount only two goals in three games courtesy Raheem Sterling.

Not the attacking intent one would associate with a forward line boasting the likes of Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, Jack Grealish and Jadon Sancho.

Having said this, as the tournament moved to the business end, so did England’s confidence with Germany being hammered 2-0 in the pre-quarters thanks to a strike from Sterling and Kane.

Well, as they say when a team is brimming with confidence, the world is at their feet!

Ask Ukraine and they will most definitely agree as they witnessed an English team run riot last night with a 4-0 mauling in the quarters at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

This courtesy a brace from captain Harry Kane along with a solitary strike from Harry Maguire and a bonus from Jordan Henderson.

What made me even happier is how keeper Jordan Pickford managed to keep a clean sheet on the fifth successive occasion equalling a record that was previously held by the Italian side in the 1990 World Cup.

So as The Three Lions marched to the last 4 with much confidence, lets dissect how Ukraine’s determination was all but shattered courtesy a stunning display by the World Cup semi-finalists:

Kane strikes early

Even before this contest began one would have anticipated a comfortable English victory as such is the gap between the two teams in question, with the world no. 4 in England playing a team loitering at 24 in Ukraine.

Well, the contest began exactly to this tune as only in the 4th minute Raheem Sterling orchestrated a fine run through the Ukraine defence sending a mouth-watering pass to Harry Kane who made no mistake in putting England in front.

Credit – Reuters

With this goal, Kane scored his second in the tournament and one could see glimpses of the old Harry, the talismanic match winner for England.

Ukraine, a goal down looked desperate to equalise to keep their dream run relevant in this competition with a 17th minute strike from Yaremchuk as the ball was paired away by an alert Jordan Pickford.

As the game continued, The Three Lions mounted two more opportunities through midfielder Declan Rice and Jadon Sancho albeit the Ukraine keeper stood firm to not concede a second.

England were only 1-0 up despite chances galore as the referee called time on the first 45.

Courtesy the Harry-Henderson show, England mount three in the second 45

As the second half began the 1-0 score line in a matter of moments became 2-0.

Harry Maguire was the destroyer with a fantastic header from a Luke Shaw cross in just the first minute of the second half. Ukraine were rocked early and any ambitions of mounting a comeback looked all but uncertain.

Credit – Reuters

Their comeback in a matter of three further minutes suffered another massive dent as the other Harry, the captain of England scored his brace courtesy a header from another fine cross by Luke Shaw as the English winger indulged in some brilliant interplay with Raheem Sterling to put the Ukraine defence in sixes and sevens.

Credit – Reuters

The East European nation was all but deflated with the third strike of sorrow as their hope of reaching the semi-final was fast fading.

Harry Kane almost made it four for England enroute to a hat-trick, when in the 61st minute he fired a fearsome left-footed strike that was just kept out by the Ukraine keeper, Bushchan.

In a matter of moments, England did get their fourth, through Jordan Henderson who did well with a close-range header from a Mason Mount corner as the Liverpool captain registered his maiden strike on the England goal scoring list.

Credit – Reuters

Ukraine by now were only thinking of the best flight options to fly out of Rome straight to Kyiv as the Wembley dream was all but sealed for England.

As the full 90 ended, the final score read Ukraine 0 – 4 England.

The Danish date awaits England at Wembley

As the tournament now moves to Wembley for the semi-finals and the all-important final hurrah, The Three Lions have had quite a journey this far winning 4 out of the 5 games and not conceding a single goal.

Next up they face a purposeful side in Denmark who are desperate to conquer Europe for their inspirational midfielder, Christian Eriksen.

This contest will surely be one of epic proportions as a determined England with the mantra of ‘lets bring it back’ will lock horns with the most purposeful team of the competition in the Dynamic Danes.

Lots to look forward to as remember my Dear England you’re just two wins way from bringing the cup home. Surely, you can’t falter now!

SOUTHGATE’S Ecstatic England avenge ’96 with Commanding Win over Germany

A little over 25 years to this day on June 26th, 1996 an English team having got the better of Spain in the quarter-finals locked horns with a confident German side in the semi-finals of Euro’96 at the home of football, Wembley.

I was all of 12 then, finding my feet in life and more so football. Not knowing much about the sport, I sat on the couch with my Dad who as the match went on baptised me into this beautiful game. England and Germany amid plenty of English cheers played out a 1-1 draw with Alan Shearer and Stefan Kuntz registering their names on the score sheet.

The match went into penalties and my eyes popped-out looking at the sheer excitement of this contest. The penalties stood at 6-5 in Germany’s favour as a young Englishmen in Gareth Southgate took the 6th shot which was saved by the German keeper.

The Three Lions had lost amid dejection galore at Wembley and somehow, I also felt very devastated breaking into tears. Little did I know then that this contest would ignite my passion for English football to mould me into a staunch Three Lions supporter.

An ambitious Germany had once again knocked England out of a major tournament which tormented many English fans including me for over quarter of a century. Having said this, our disappointment wouldn’t even come close to what Southgate must have left being the perpetrator of this cardinal sin.

Well, everyone deserves a second chance to mend their misery and Southgate as England’s Manager did precisely that with a devastating 2-0 annihilation of Germany last evening.

The debacle of 1996 couldn’t have been avenged on a more befitting occasion. The same tournament, The Euro Championship in a knock-out game at the same venue amid a 45,000 strong English support after seven previous attempts resulting in tears of torment at Wembley.

So, as my heart fills with joy much like every other English fan, lets dissect this rather eventful game that sent Germany packing akin to Hitler’s forces retreating courtesy a brave Winston Churchill:

Spoils were shared in the first 45 though England look marginally better

I was a tad disappointed to see England play a 3-4-3 formation with seven defensive options including three defenders and four defensive midfielders. It seemed to me then, that Southgate wanted to focus on defence to tire out Germany’s attacking threats and eventually score with more attack minded substitutes closer to the final 90.

In truth, I wanted England to be more attacking from the word go.

As was expected, Germany began the game on a high, mounting forward to put England’s defence under pressure with Goretzka angling a long right footed strike towards the bottom left corner of the English net that was rather comfortably grabbed by Jordan Pickford.

Minutes later much to my surprise, England would show signs of their own attacking flair as John Stones and Declan Rice built up a nice move, aiding the ball to Raheem Sterling whose powerful strike was barely squeezed out by Manuel Neuer.

The resultant corner would see the German keeper pouch Harry Maguire’s header.

What also impressed me was how Kieran Trippier and Luke Shaw, the two English wingers were constantly building a head of steam on the flanks as Germany was slowly being put under pressure amid creating opportunities albeit no goals.

Credit – Reuters

On the opposite end though, Die Mannschaft almost went ahead in the 33rd minute, with arguably the best opportunity created so far in the game as Kai Havertz drifted into a pocket of space to offer a fine pass to his Chelsea team-mate Timo Werner whose left-footed strike was fantastically saved by Pickford as he spread his legs to smother the ball away.

The game was slowly coming alive with both teams showing attacking intent contrary to what I believed England would do.

In stoppage time, The Three Lions had their best opportunity.

Raheem Sterling powered inward as he was blocked by Ginter whose intervention gave the ball to Harry Kane. The English captain till then was donning a spectator’s role having done nothing of much consequence as he turned around keeper Neuer, ready to put the ball in before the experienced German defender Matt Hummels made a crucial intervention deflecting the ball away.

As time was called on the first 45, a contest which could so easily have been 1 apiece was yet to see a goal!

Wembley witnesses the Kane and Sterling show much to England’s delight

Germany much like the first half started the second 45 with a positive outlook as a long spell of possession between Muller and Gosens finally paved the way for a rampaging strike by Havertz that was just barely tipped over by Pickford.

England were lucky not be a goal down.

As the game progressed, Germany continued to mount more attempts albeit no goals as England finally broke the deadlock in the 75th minute.

Raheem Sterling stormed in feeding the ball to Kane who crucially offloaded it to Grealish as The Aston Villa captain released it to Luke Shaw who sent it back to Sterling with the Manchester City forward slotting the ball in to give him his third goal of the competition.

Credit – Mirror

More importantly The Three Lions had got their opener in a crucial knock-out game as Wembley erupted with boisterous passion.

Germany continued to fight as Muller came close to equalising albeit hitting the ball wide.

This further fuelled the fire to ignite the English desire as in a matter of moments, The Three Lions would go two to the good, this time courtesy captain courageous, Harry Kane who finally found his mojo with a crucial header from a Jack Grealish cross.

Credit – Reuters

The final nail in the German coffin was hammered by this Kane strike as a relieved Southgate was overjoyed with emotion much like every English supporter at Wembley and millions more watching at home including me.

England had won their first competitive game against Germany in well over 50 years dating back to the 1966 World Cup final.

My heart went out to a dejected Joachim Löw, who looked all but lost as England celebrated. The legendary German Manager had failed Die Mannschaft in his last game albeit his 15-year long career is worthy of every praise with a World Cup win being one of his many accolades.

The elusive Euro Title is now just 3 wins way, starting with Ukraine

With this rather commanding win over Germany, a confident England will now lock horns with Ukraine in the quarters.

Truth be told, with the performance we have seen last evening, I would pin my favourites England as the favourites to triumph in this contest.

So, go on my Three Lions beat Ukraine, and then the countdown to create history will be at two to conquer Europe without much ado!

Super Sterling powers England into the Round of 16 with crucial win over Czech Republic

In my previous article, I had emphasised a conspiracy theory to justify England’s sub-par performance in the 0-0 outing against The Scots.

The theory was simple, England didn’t plan to top their group to avoid locking horns with the powerhouses of European football in the next round in either of France, Germany or Portugal. Having said this, the fan in me surely hoped for a marked improvement in their next fixture against The Czechs to only keep this as a theory.

Boy, did the fan defeat the theorist with a determined 1-0 showing by The Three Lions to not only beat The Czechs but also top Group D.

With this win, England also reached a small landmark of mounting ten goals and conceding only two in four games contested against The Czechs at their fortress, Wembley.

In truth, I was more than delighted to be rightfully proven wrong on my conspiracy theory!

So, without further ado lets dissect this much-needed shot of confidence, The Three Lions earned heading into the business end of the competition.

Raheem Sterling lights up the first 45

England started this fixture with two key players not in the squad in Mason Mount who was isolating and Phil Foden who was excluded as he sat on a yellow to allow him to be available for the round of 16.

Well, one man’s loss is another man’s gain, and in England’s case it was two, as Arsenal’s young midfielder Bukayo Saka was brought into the playing XI along with Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish in place of Mount and Foden.

And boy, did they make an immediate impact, as only in the 12th minute, Saka hit an overhead cross into the Czech D which was kept alive by Jack Grealish on the left corner as he fed Sterling with a great chip, and the Manchester City forward made no mistake in nodding it in.

Credit – Reuters

The Three Lions were a goal up in no time, a remarkable improvement from their previous fixture where the full 90 couldn’t get them on the score sheet.

As time marched on, England would mount their second effort, this time through captain and talismanic forward Harry Kane with Czech keeper, Vaclik deflecting the ball away.

Credit – Reuters

Moments later, the Czechs had their first attempt on target as Jordan Pickford dived to his left to push the strike away.

Kane would fire his second attempt on target minutes before half time as the shot was again kept out by the resilient keeper, Vaclik.

With no further uncertainties, the first half ended as England led 1-0.

The second 45 fails to excite

One could be excused for taking a break from watching the second half as this contest all but lacked excitement up until the 86th minute when England substitute and Liverpool captain, Jordan Henderson drilled one in, only to be adjudged off-side.

England and Henderson were convinced that the goal should have been allowed as the ball was played back to the Liverpool man through a Czech player albeit VAR was firm on its decision to rule it otherwise. Had the goal stood, the Liverpool skipper would have scored his first for the national team in 60 appearances.

Credit – Reuters

As a Liverpool and English fan, with a heavy heart had to accept the no goal.

With this being the only action of any significance in the second 45, England deservedly were the victors with a steady display as time was called on the game.

A tough outing awaits England in the pre-quarters

As a die-hard English faithful, I would have to say England’s performance so far in the group stage has been anything but exciting.

With the solitary two strikes from Sterling leading to two victories, The Three Lions have failed to light up the tournament with goals galore contrary to what was expected with a strong forward line boasting the likes of Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and one of the best centre forwards in world football, Harry Kane.

Speaking about Harry Kane, our captain has looked all but lost in the opposition D this far. I am not sure where the problem is but his finishing has lacked the skill we usually associate with this English talisman.

Yes, our defence has looked solid with no goals conceded and has received a further boost with a fully fit Harry Maguire who played the full 90 yesterday albeit what worries me is the lack of goals scored upfront.

With either of France, Germany or Portugal up next on the 29th, The Three Lions need to be far more decisive and complete to mount the goals we have come to expect of them.

Remember my Dear England, you are now just four games away from lifting the elusive Euro Championship.

Surely this is motivation enough to witness the mighty roar of The Three Lions contrary to the tame meow we have had to bear this far!

An embarrassing showing by England against the Scots showers much disappointment

In my previous article I had emphasized on two words that England needs to bring to their brand of football, those being decisive and complete, despite prevailing over Croatia in their opening fixture. Albeit what we got last night was something polar opposite.

An English embarrassment at the hands of footballing minnows, Scotland in a rivalry as old as time with a tame 0-0 draw amid a sea of dejected fans at the Mecca of English football, Wembley.

The reason I use the word minnows is purely based on rankings as 4th placed England was up against 44th placed Scotland. A gap of momentous proportions akin to a mammoth elephant and a tiny ant pitted in a contest.

Well, as the saying goes ‘An elephant may be big, but it falls on its face more often than an ant’ and that’s precisely what happened with mighty England who would have considered this fixture as another walk in the park.

Walk they did albeit not in the park but in shame as an enviable record of winning 8, losing 1 and drawing 2 in the 11 matches contested against the neighboring Scots in the European Championship didn’t soar further but faded in a deplorable draw.

So as my heart fills with disappointment, lets dissect this rather subdued performance by The Three Lions last night:

England create chances amid no goals in the first 45

The Three Lions started the game with much flair as their first opportunity came in just the 11th minute when a John Stones’ header hit the post after he received a nice cross from Chelsea man, Mason Mount.

Minutes later Mount himself hit a shot inches wide of the post as he was fed with a brilliant pass by Sterling amid resulting in nothing.

Credit – Reuters

Young English sensation, Phil Foden continued from his brilliant showing against Croatia when in the 17th minute he created yet another opportunity for The Three Lions with a shot almost on target albeit the linesman adjudging him off-side.

England were surely looking up for this contest in the first 20 and little did I know then that this would eventually all but fizzle out in a goalless draw.

On the other end, Scotland almost took the lead in the 30th minute as O’Donnell fired a shot towards the bottom left corner of the English net which was saved rather brilliantly by the wall in the English goal, Jordan Pickford.

Credit – Reuters

With no further drama, the first half ended with both the teams yet to mount one on the score-board.

The hosts try, Scotland deny, as the full 90 is left goalless

Mason Mount, the Chelsea star began the second half rather brightly as he created England’s first opportunity on-target with a massive strike from just outside the Scottish D as keeper Marshall did well to tip it wide.

As the second half progressed, this would unfortunately be the only shot The Three Lions could muster on target amid creating nine opportunities in the entire contest.

Scotland managed yet another shot on target in the 62nd minute as Dykes fired a shot which was ably headed out by defender Reece James on the goal line.

Credit – Reuters

The Scots looked mightily impressive to create these two chances on target but what impressed me even more was how rock solid they were in defence to keep England at bay for the full 90.

In truth, the draw was a relief, as had the visitors converted either of their chances, The Tartan Army could well have reigned supreme over their more accomplished neighbours.

Well, had that happen, the word shocking would surely have a new meaning!

Do England really intend to finish first in their group?

Well, if I were a neutral and not a die-hard English fan, I would say NO!

Call it a conspiracy or some sort of a random theory, but this is worth a thought.

If England were to top their group, they would be pitted against either of France, Germany or Portugal in the Round of 16 as the winner of Group D (England’s group) locks horns with the runner up in Group F (France, Portugal and Germany group).

Having said this, if England finish second, they would come up against the runner up in Group E in the next round which in most likelihood would be Slovakia or Sweden.

So, who would you rather face if you were England, the might of Germany, France or Portugal or a more beatable team in Slovakia or Sweden in a knock-out game?

Whilst this is just a theory, it makes absolute sense to truly justify this disappointing outing against the Scots.

All that England needs to do in the next game is to scrape a draw against the Czech and they would finish second in the group behind the East European nation owing to an inferior goal difference.

Having said this, the fan in me who loves English football more than life itself surely hopes to see The Three Lions roar with much valour in their next fixture irrespective of who they are pitted against in the Round of 16.

Nothing less than a win will suffice. Common England, show ’em all your true metal!

England put up a Sterling show to sink Croatia at Wembley!

England much like the South African cricket teams of the past have been pre-tournament favourites for many albeit for reasons beyond my comprehension always manage to deceive at crucial moments.

Yes, with a momentous showing in the 2018 World Cup, The Three Lions at a time when they were soaring to the finals, somehow came second best to Croatia in the semi-finals.

A decisive moment left England struggling at Moscow as Mario Mandžukić sealed the deal for the East European nation in extra time. English hearts and hearts around the world were broken. Again!

Well, as they say life comes a full circle as a certain measure of revenge was extracted yesterday by The Three Lions as they sank Croatia by a margin of one goal in the opening fixture amid a 22,000 strong Wembley.

The only word missing from the English performance was complete albeit they managed to arrest their opening fixture winless streak in the Euros having drawn five and lost four in their nine previous attempts.

This without having a Manchester United or Liverpool player in the starting XI since almost the start of time! Am sure, you get the picture of the importance these two champion clubs command on English football.

Truth be told, a win is a win at the end of the day and being an English faithful, I was happy with this showing to start on a high as we dissect the English performance in the opening game of Group D:

The Three Lions start brightly only to fizzle out in the first 45

The hosts marched out on the pitch at the home of football with purpose led by their inspirational leader, Harry Kane amid cheers aplenty.

With iconic defender, Harry Maguire still injured and Liverpool’s stalwart midfielder Jordan Henderson on the bench, young Tyrone Mings and Kalvin Phillips started the game.

As the contest began, The Three Lions looked all but up for this as young English sensation, Phil Foden created England’s first opportunity on goal in only the 6th minute when his shot hit the post.

Credit – Reuters

This after the Manchester City midfielder sporting a new blonde hairdo received a majestic pass from club compatriot Raheem Sterling and did well to strike from his favoured left foot.

Croatia were lucky the ball didn’t go in and as they tried to resurrect their defence, three minutes later another English youngster, Kalvin Phillips’s attempt was tipped aside by the Croatian keeper, Livakovic.

Credit – Reuters

The Three Lions looked dominant, aggressive and very close to mounting a first on the score board.

As the game went on Croatia managed to find their feet and gained territory into the English half as the hosts attacking threats were nowhere as lethal as the first nine minutes. In truth, their offensive display looked all but fizzled out as the first 45 drew to a close.

A better showing in the second half was surely the need of the hour as England were desperate to right their opening game voodoo in the European Championship.

The Sterling and Phillips show lights up England in the second 45

As the second 45 began, the voodoo was finally righted courtesy Raheem Sterling and for me more importantly Kalvin Phillips. It’s funny how the builder of an opportunity or rather the contributor vis-à-vis the striker never gets the deserved credit.

Credit – Reuters

Well, the Leeds United man did when in the 56th minute, he made a majestic run to dodge two men and offered a fine pass to Raheem Sterling in the Croatian D who made no mistake in slotting the ball pass Livakovic in the back of the net.

A perfect build up from England’s holding midfielder who in this game played more like an attacking option, put the hosts in front as they exploited the perfect gap in the Croatian defence. The move was simply brilliant and deservedly, so Kalvin Phillips was awarded the player of the match.

This move was enough for an English onslaught resurrection as minutes later Harry Kane missed a chance to put England two to the good as his shot from a Mason Mount cross went high.

England would continue creating more goal scoring opportunities as Chelsea midfielder, Mason Mount hit the ball inches above the post from a free kick in the 66th minute followed by Sterling missing another good opportunity to score.

With no further twists, as the referee called time England came out as the rightful winners in a game where the hosts could have mounted more goals.

Going forward, England need to showcase a more decisive and complete brand of football

The Three Lions need to depict a better showing in the games to follow against Czech Republic and Scotland to anoint themselves as the rightful leaders in this group.

To accomplish this, surely a 1-0 score line is not going to suffice as a more decisive and complete brand of football is the need of the hour with goals aplenty. Creating opportunities is one thing but converting them is also of vital essence where the hosts in this game were found lacking.

When The Three Lions proceed to the next round to face the likes of Portugal, France, Belgium and others, they will need to convert every opportunity to beat these European powerhouses.

Having said this, it’s just the opening game and an improved showing from the hosts will surely follow.

Go on my Three Lions, Europe awaits the might of your roar!

The Three Lions valiantly roar as the road to Qatar 2022 begins on a high

European Qualifiers for the World Cup. Three Matchdays. Three Victories.

Yes, England began their pursuit to make a place and name in the 2022 FIFA World Cup to be held in Qatar with much valor.

Gareth Southgate and his men not only beat but decimated their opponents in the first two games against San Marino and Albania. The third contest against Poland was more competitive, but the outcome was still the same.

With last night’s win against the Polish, England have now triumphed in four games on the bounce with their last defeat coming at the hands of European rivals, Belgium in the 2020-21 Nations League.

Also, with this accomplishment, Gareth Southgate’s impressive managerial record soared further with 32 wins from 52 games contested, 10 draws and 10 downward spirals. A win percentage of 61.5%.

So, without further ado, lets look at how the Three Lions made each of these three matches a triumphant feat.

Matchday 1 – England 5 – 0 San Marino

England began their World Cup qualification against a lowly-ranked San Marino at Wembley.

Number 4 in the FIFA rankings played number 210.

Yes, and as expected this was a one-sided affair with the young English side smashing five in the back of the San Marino net.

James Ward-Prowse opened the scoring for the home team, followed by two goals from the young Evertonian forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin, a solitary one from the ever-reliable Manchester City striker Raheem Sterling and a rather impressive late curl from Ollie Watkins.

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What was most impressive for me in this fixture was how we witnessed the depth in English football when regulars like the mighty Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford were rested.

Certainly, exposure in the Premier League is paying dividends for expanding a national pool of immense talent.

Matchday 2 – Albania 0 – 2 England

On Matchday 2, England travelled to Albania and conquered the South East European nation with much ease.

The current king of English football, Harry Kane, opened the scoring for the Three Lions in the 38th minute with a deft header in from a Luke Shaw cross.

Credit – BBC and Getty Images

The Chelsea sensation, Mason Mount made it two for England in the 63rd minute with a fine assist from Harry Kane as the Blues’ man easily put the ball past the Albanian keeper.

A well-deserved win for England.

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Matchday 3 – England 2 – 1 Poland

Poland travelled to Wembley without their marquee man, Robert Lewandowski, who unfortunately was side-lined with a knee injury. Gareth Southgate made just one change to his starting XI from the Albania game, with Ben Chilwell in for Luke Shaw.

Maybe signs that in all probability he knows what his final XI for Euro 2020, scheduled later this year would be.

The Three Lions opened the scoring in just the 19th minute, again through their charismatic forward and captain. Harry Kane, who scored his 34th international goal, made no mistake in converting a well-earned penalty by compatriot, Raheem Sterling.

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Poland bounced back in the 58th minute as Jakub Moder equalised for The White and Reds after he was literally gifted the ball by John Stones who made a school boy error.

Minutes before the final 90, Harry Maguire fired in the winner for England from a John Stones effort who more than salvaged his earlier fiasco.

England were lucky to have survived a Polish scare.

Finally, are we seeing an English resurgence?

Well, as an England national team faithful, I would certainly say a resounding yes.

After being the perenial underachievers in world football for decades, England are finally showing their true metal as semifinalists in the last World Cup edition and coming number three in the inaugural edition of the Nations League.

Add to this the form they have shown in these World Cup qualifiers gives a true picture of how Gareth Southgate has taken this team from strength to strength.

A Euro 2020 triumph in the offering followed by maybe a World Cup too?

Why not? For me, it’s more than just a belief!

PICKING England’S EURO 2020 SQUAD

The UEFA European Championship, the mother of all international tournaments in Europe. The Euro 2020 competition finally gets underway in June 2021. It’s spread across 12 host cities all across the continent.

This is a novel format, as no single country hosting the entire tournament has been seen previously. This should ensure that there is no clear advantage to anyone.

Amongst the 24 teams participating there are a lot of picks to win the tournament. If one considers recent form shown in the group games of the Nations League, the likes of France, Belgium, Portugal, Spain and Italy are amonsg the favourites.

Having said this, there is another team which has been showing potential amid lacking consistency.

Why England can win Euro 2020

The Three Lions were Semi-finalists in the 2018 World Cup and the 2018-19 Nations League, England could attract plenty of eyeballs at Euro 2020. This is only if they play to their full potential, though.

They’ll have to get everything right, starting with the formation.

Formation

England’s manager Gareth Southgate has always believed in having a strong midfield. This is the lifeline of any team in supplying the ball to the forwards to score as well as holding the defense when the situation demands.

The formation that would hold the Three Lions in good stead as they look to win their maiden Euro title would be 3-4-3.

READ MORE: PICKING SCOTLAND’S EURO 2020 SQUAD

This formation has worked well for them in the 2018 World Cup and I see no good reason to alter a tried and tested formula.

With this formation in place, who could the players be to make the team look successful?

Let’s dig into the 23-man squad that I would pick for the tournament!

Goalkeepers

Jordan Pickford (First Choice Keeper)

The Everton stopper has been the first-choice keeper for the Three Lions since 2017. Pickford has been in decent form for England as well as Everton this year.

His anticipation of the ball and ability to save penalties is second-to-none. These qualities should earn him the first pick in goal, unless there is a dip in form.

Reserves – Nick Pope and Dean Henderson

Defence

Harry Maguire

Maguire has proved to be the lifeline for Manchester United in defence, along with also captaining the Red Devils. Wth a good head on his shoulders, he should be left back in my starting XI.

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John Stones

The centre-back for Manchester City and England has immense technical ability and physical presence in defence.

His composure with the ball and passing ability matched with an experience of 39 international caps will certainly give him a nod in my team for England, provided fitness is not an issue.

Kyle Walker

A compatriot of John Stones at Manchester City, Kyle’s experience of 53 international caps and a powerful display at right back would hold England in good stead in defence and could be the perfect fix to complete a formidable trio at the back.

Reserves – Ben Chilwell, Joe Gomez, Micheal Keane and Eric Dier

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Midfield

Trent Alexander-Arnold

While the Liverpool star is a right back, in my team he will play as a left winger. This is thanks to the powerful runs he makes to create opportunities by providing creative set pieces for the forwards to score.

Add his free-kick ability to score from outside the D and you have a
complete package.

Declan Rice

A winner of 13 caps in his young international career, Declan Rice has ability to play in both defence as well as attack. He’s my perfect fit for a holding midfielder role.

Jordan Henderson

The Liverpool captain would be by main man in the central midfield to aid the forwards. His passing will help in every attacking opportunity as well as being able to fall back in defence when the opponents are pressing forward.

Kieran Trippier

The Ateltico Madrid star will play on the right flank in my team. With his aggressive approach to create opportunities for the attackers to score along with also falling back as the situation demands.

Being ranked the most creative player in the 2018 World Cup with creating 24 chances in all matches played is testament to his ability to manage incessant runs on the right flank.

Reserves – Jack Grealish, Mason Mount and Phil Foden

Forwards

Harry Kane (main striker and captain)

The Tottenham and English striker is a superstar in world football and words can’t describe his unparalleled ability. With already amassing 32 goals in 51 matches played for his country, he surely is an automatic pick in any team let alone England.

Raheem Sterling

The Manchester City star would be the perfect foil to Harry Kane as my second striking option in the matchday 11 squad. His experience of 58 caps will hold him in good stead and if his form is up, he is a sure pick for me.

Dominic Calwert-Lewin

This Everton star would be the wild card in my front 3 having already scored twice in his 5 appearances for England.

Carlo Ancelotti, the Everton Manager summed it up really well ‘He is fantastic with the head, clever in the box and sharp. I think he is going to be at the top in England and in Europe.’

Reserves – Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Tammy Abraham

Grouped with Scotland, Croatia and Czech Republic, England should be expected to top the group with the talent at their disposal and comfortably march through the knockout phase.

For me, as a die-hard English supporter, nothing less than winning the tournament should suffice, but will it just be hope or reality, we would know in less than a year’s time!