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After reading all of the moaning in the mailbox I’d like to give a different view. I think everything is going great. Doing what needs to be done is most often the way to win at knockout football. Leagues are there to be dominated by swashbuckling performances because if you get caught out in the odd game then it doesn’t really matter. Was everyone not sick of England in the 2000s when we had great players but zero knowhow? Those glorious and often crazy defeats weren’t so great were they?
If the team is winning then who gives a damn if Harry Kane doesn’t score? Not only is he a great striker but brilliant at pulling teams out of shape so if he’s not there we don’t have that. I’ve never seen Sancho impress that much for England so why would we want to play him ahead of Saka who actually has?
The times when an international team have romped through a tournament battering everyone are very few and far between. I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but if England bore us to death but win the thing then we all know damn well that it will be amazing. Maybe, just maybe Southgate knows what he’s doing more than most and has decided this will give us the best chance to win a tournament.
Obviously the problem is he’ll get absolutely pilloried if we go out for being too defensive, but then that always happens no matter what style we try and play so no point him worrying about that.
Is there a more miserable bunch of fans out there? I highly doubt it.Â All I’ve heard is moaning.
We’ve won the group, 7 points. Fine. Great even.
My point here though, is that England fans have basically ruined the tournament for themselves. Likelihood is we go out in the next round. Getting beat and going out will be the real bummer, and they didn’t even let themselves enjoy the wins while they were happening.
Too late now though. If you don’t enjoy winning then why are you even in it, eh? Take up another sport because football clearly can’t make you happy.
So the age old question of who has the most entitled fans has finally been answered. Itâs not United, Arsenal or liverpoolâ¦ itâs England!
Alternative player ratings
Reading back 16 Conclusions and Player Ratings, I felt like I watched a different game!Â As much as nobody and indeed everybody likes entitled fans whining while we topped the group, here are my alternative player ratings.
PICKFORD – Fine. Looks like he’s enjoying himself, which is nice. Doing things right with minimum of fuss. A pleasant surprise.
WALKER – Seems to have had a bet with someone that he wouldn’t pass the ball forward. Given his supposed defensive solidity, didn’t half go walkabout a lot to no discernable end. Watched Saka tearing the place up and thought, “Nah, he doesn’t need any more of the ball.” Gave Foden similar treatment against Croatia. Baffling performance.
STONES – Excellent defensively, but got so bored by our performance that he turned up on the right wing at one point in the second half.
MAGUIRE – Didn’t pick up the pace of the game to start with, but largely untroubled in defence. Improved markable when he remembered he can pass the ball forwards, finding Kane with a laser guided through ball. However, if I have to watch much more of him and Stones passing the ball back and forth until they have to retreat virtually on top of Pickford, I may have an aneurism.
SHAW – Remembered he’s supposed to be an attacking option, and actually crossed the ball a few times. Great ball for STerling’s early chance, then decided he didn’t want to do that again. Gives away a lot of stupid fouls by hanging his arse out.
RICE – Forgot he was playing until he did that one gallop forward, which was all fun and games apart from he had the much quicker Saka outside him staring incredulously as he put his head down and ran in a straight line. Rest of the team got really paranoid after he went off though, so he’s clearly doing something
PHILLIPS – The thing about the actual Pirlo is that he was always showing for the ball, and would relieve pressure on the rest of the team by committing an opposing player before passing. He always had time on the ball. Phillips, the “Yorkshire Handbreak” doesn’t show for the ball, and broke up more England attacks than Czech ones. Even in the build up to the goal he refused a perfectly good crossing opportunity to return the ball to Saka 3 seconds later than he wanted it, in a worse crossing position. SPent the second half wandering aimlessly in front of the back four hitting long balls 10 yards too far.
GREALISH – It’s amazing what can happen when you’ve got someone in the team who’s got the guts to carry the balls, commit defenders and probe for opportunities. Started winning free kicks in actual dangerous positions rather than on the half way line. Nice shimmy and cross for the goal.
SAKA – What an absolute breath of fresh air. Fearless, effective both attacking and defending, fantastic contribution for the goal. Even better, once he saw how much trouble he was causing the Czech defence with his dribbling, he in a maverick move for this England team, carried on doing it! I feel for Foden, who was either double marked or starved of possession in the two previous games, but Saka’s performance was exactly what was needed to lift the tempo. I think he has to stay in the team.
STERLING – hooooo boy. I like Sterling as a person. There are flashes of what he can do. But there’s so much utter dross to go along with it. Once again, after having an excellent early run in behind and unlucky not to score from it, he then resolutely refused to make that run again for the rest of the game. Scored the goal by appearing at the back post the way he used to for City. Then either dithered on the ball and passed backwards, or stood in an offside position. There was nothing else to him. Watching Saka dribble at pace on the other flank did nothing to inspire him into action. He spends so much time being a passenger, I don’t think two goals are enough of a return for that kind of burden. Needs to buck his ideas well up.
KANE – Rotten. The hold up play for the goal, and once more to win a throw in in the second half, were his only positive contributions of the entire tournament so far. He isn’t doing anything. He;s lumbering around with no plan of why he is where he is. His movement is lethargic, and in most cases counterproductive. Came deep to smash a diagonal ball miles off target. When he finally does go into the box, he stands flat-footed at the back post with a minimum of three defenders between him and the ball so there’s no danger of him having to do anything. Checked back inside onto his right to still fail to find the net, when last year he would have just smashed it in with his left. Looks bereft of anything remotely useful to the team. Calvert-Lewin would at least provide a target. He’ll still be in the team for the rest of the tournament, but is not there on merit.
HENDERSON – Took the maverick options of both passing the ball forward more often than back, and doing whatever he was doing quickly. If only he was remotely fully fit.
RASHFORD – Busy as usual. Not very effective, as has been the case for several months now. I wish he was in good enough nick to put more pressure on Kane and Sterling’s place, but he just isn’t on it at the moment
BELLINGHAM – Magnificently cool head. Will be hugely important if we do somehow bumble our way to being 1-0 up in the knockout rounds with 15 minutes left as a pressure sponge, which is ridiculous considering his age. Will hopefully end Kalvin Phillip’s England career by the time the World Cup comes around.
SANCHO – What exactly was he supposed to do in 7 minutes when the rest of the team had completely given up on the idea of doing anything else. I don’t remember him touching the ball.
MINGS – This has worked out much better than I feared it would. A reasonably safe pair of feet to come in when we’re clinging on to a lead later in the tournament. Chance would be a fine thing.
SOUTHGATE – This safety first stuff is all well and good, but what happens when we go behind in a game? ANd we absolutely will if we keep coughing up shooting chances from the edge of the area, as has happened in all three games so far. However, after watching James and Walker toil away at right back, his original decision to pick Alexander-Arnold looks entirely justified to me.
Conclusion: Well done for getting through the group with minimal fuss, but we’re going out in a dreary 1-0 in the round of 16.
Pierre, (It’s coming home drunk, to the wrong house, and without its keys), Bristol
Second round daydreaming
Have to write in about my daydreams of our second round , all or nothing, knock out match , still a week away !?
Itâs a sunny evening every nail biting pint seems to only add to the building anxiety . However England actually start playing good, dare I say it , intelligent Â knockout football . Albeit in fits and spurts . The stardust again is sprinkled by the west London lads and our top drawer opponents have to work very hard .
Despite England hitting the woodwork and coming close on a couple of first half occasions , our big hitter foes take the lead using up the one XM – expected mistake , in the Stones/ Slabhead axis of eventuality .
But never fear , as the sun sets over Shepherds Â Bush , the attacking quartet get it on – just enough to equalize via a sweeping move including Bukayo Saka , Jude Bellingham and Jack Grealish – itâs one – one .
Backed by a roaring noise England close out the game amongst a raft of heart in mouth moments, not at all good for the old ticker . Kane is substituted but we still Â cannot make the breakthrough.
Thoughts of 90, 96,98, 04, O6 and every other penalty shoot out come seeping in to our anguished mindâs eye . Yet it is the Colombian version that prevails and a ( Can save for) toffee Â keeper is the nightâs hero !
Who would I prefer to be Â the vanquished ?
One – France . Two Duetchland and Three The mighty Magyars . Just please , not Portugal coz they puncture my daydream with piscinÃ¡zos ( the spanish for huge dives ) .
Peter (one Jude Bellingâum , only one Jude Bellingâum) Andalucia.
In answer to Stu, Twickenham, you probably havenât seen brave being used to describe Scotland as that hasnât really been the best adjective for them in this championship. Scotland had some good periods in all three games, created lots of chances (lots of genuinely good chances too), played with exceptional energy against England, and just looked to me to be tired in the second half last night. The Croatians always seemed to have space to receive the ball in the Scotland half and the closing down just wasnât quick enough.
In the first half I got very frustrated that Scotland would pass round midfield, then back to the defence, then back to the keeper for a long ball up the park. As the match wore on I realised that this must have legitimately been the tactical plan â and it worked to a certain extent with Che Adams particularly good at bringing the ball down out of the air. The big sliding doors moment will be John McGinn at the back post not bundling the ball home which would have put us 2-1 up (Croatia scored about 5 minutes later). At least we scored a goal; at least I got a chance to scream out a âYES!â; at least we managed to keep in contention up to the last 30 minutes of the final game.
We played well and we didnât disgrace ourselves. We showed some good intent, and some serious lack of cutting edge. We didnât make it this time and we canât really go home thinking we were robbed either. Letâs hope it isnât another 23 years before our next tournament.
Ian (Trying to be brave this morning) Towns, Aberdeen
Scotland pride and England arrogance
So we’re out. If you’d told me at the start of the tournamentÂ that we’d end up with just 1 goal, 1 point and a -4 goal difference I would have been really disappointed. But on reflection following our elimination, I’m not because I loved every minute of it.
It was fantastic to be part of a major tournament again. The leadupÂ to the first game was wonderful and hearing the Hampden roar was joyous. The result itself was a shame and the only one to leave us with a feeling of “what if”. It really did come down to finishing. If we had started Adams and Gilmour, then whoÂ knows. That was always going to be our chance at qualifying though. Needing to get 4 points from Croatia and England was always going to be a toughÂ one.
The game against England was absolutely fantastic. Sniffy England fans are already criticising Scotland fans for our celebrations, but that’s just because they don’t understand what it is to be from a small country. And I would assume they are levelling the same ironic comments at Hungary fans for celebratingÂ a draw against France, or Swedish fans for celebrating a point against Spain. It was a wonderful performance, a great night and undoubtedly the highlight of the tournament for us.
Even the loss to Croatia had its moments. The goal gave us real hope and it was a wonderful thing to see. At the end of the day we were simply beaten by a better team. In international football when superstars are mixed with much more average players, having a player like Modric in your team makes such a difference.
It’s a shame not to go through, but it’s not a disaster. Hopefully the players are better for the experience. We’ve got genuine talent in the team and a group that will be together through at least the World Cup qualifying and the next Euros. Reaching Euro 2024 should now be an expectation and while the World Cup is much more unlikely it’s not impossible. The country is now united behind Scotland in a way they haven’t been for a while and that should spur us on.
Which brings me onto one final point about England. It blows my mind how much negativity there is from England fans. Before the game, during the game, after the game, it’s just constant moaning. You’ve qualified with 7 points, without conceding. Do you know many teams would be over the moon with that? I’m not just talking about countries like Scotland, but probably every European nation apart from the absolute elite.
Seriously, get over yourselves. You are winning, but the style of play isn’t good enough? Who do you think you are, Brazil? Denmark, Greece and CzechoslovakiaÂ have won major tournaments more recently than England. You’ve pretty much beaten one good side in knock outÂ matches since 1966. Yet if you’re not playing swashbuckling attacking football it’s not good enough?
Honestly, why not just enjoy it? The most likeable England and their fans have ever been was in 2018. There was no expectation, no moaning, no complaining, just a joyous celebration and a positive vibe that it was easy to get swept up in, even as a Scotsman. Why not take that approach to every tournament? Enjoy the wins, shrug your shoulders at the losses and just enjoy the fact that you get to do this every 2 years, something some countries can only dream of. The way some England fans act, I wonder why they even watch the games at all.
Mike, LFC, London
Scotland meet expectations
A couple of snide remarks on Scotland in this morningâs mailbox. Fair enough. Weâre not the main audience here and I understand how the extended format and involvement of poorer teams could be annoying if youâre one of the favourites. The Group was always likely to be a formality and youâll be keen to get to the substance of the tournament.
From my own Scottish perspective, however, itâs been so good. The âhappy to be hereâ attitude gets mocked but bloody hell, Iâve been so happy to see Scotland involved. I was 10 in â98, getting properly into football, and it was a gutter to miss out on that buzz in my teens and twenties. That excitement has been building again since we qualified in Serbia. Itâs ended in a disappointing fashion but itâs been a very cool experience – for new generations, for people like me, and for the old guard who used to see us qualify for everything.
On the football itself. We were 250/1 for the tournament and favourites to finish bottom of the group. So we met expectations, with various factors playing a part.
We conceded five goals and scored once which is poor. Itâs also a change from recent form where weâve been hard to score against and beat, and have been scoring from midfield and attack. Who knows exactly why this changed but itâs likely a mix of tournament pressure, a high quality of opposition with genuine class, and arguably too conservative an approach in the opening game. Sir Billy Gilmour missing last night was of course a blow but we should remember heâs played less than 120 minutes for Scotland and the guy playing second fiddle to Modric last night is keeping him out of the Chelsea team.
The point about the class of opposition canât be ignored; of the five goals conceded one was a freak wondergoal, one was a Modric pearler, and two were excellent headers. You can unpick them and find holes in Scotlandâs defence but the short version is that our opponents scored from quarter and half chances and we wasted our few good chances.
There are definite reasons for optimism in the future. Itâs a young squad with a good manager and a system that seems to fit the personnel. There are some very talented players – Robertson, Tierney, McTominay, McGinn, Gilmour, Adams – balanced out with a lot of solid, dependable options. It would be interesting to see what we could do if we had an elite attacker but alas.
Itâs also a squad with more big-game experience than in previous years, with even more after the last fortnight. The game at Wembley showed that. As a slight aside, the mailbox last week was a neat reflection of the reactions of players and fans at the final whistle.
Anyway, the one point (!) of all this is that Iâve had a great time. My nerves are shot but itâs good to be so invested. The extended format is designed to give more countries the tournament experience and, as much as I would have liked a better outcome (Czech game really fucked us) I really am happy we were here.
The European Championships needs more teams
While I like the group stages due to the offer of wall-to-wall football for a week or so, why don’t the Euros revert to the format of the oldest cup competition in the world?
Apologies if I’ve missed anyone out but the competition, by my reckoning, is missing the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Luxembourg, the Baltics, Norway, Gibraltar, Malta, Cyprus, Greece, Georgia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Albania, Romania, San Marino, Faroe Islands, Andorra, Israel and the other former Soviet republics – so you could easily double the number of teams involved.
Just make the competition knock-out from the start – that way you have the jeopardy we’re all missing, more countries are involved and Ireland could do a new version of the greatest international football song ever – Put ’em under pressure – no, it’s not World in Motion – not even close.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London