England must upgrade two players to take the ‘final step’

Editor F365
Declan Rice England
Declan Rice England

Do Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips need replacing if England are to win a major tournament? Send your thoughts to theeditor@football365.com…


Now I have had time to calm down…
Dear F365,

The devastation of Sunday night has abated enough for me to look at the game with a fresh perspective.

The game itself was ugly. Various comments on here have suggested that Italy won by playing the ‘right way’. Nah, sorry, I’m not having that. It was ‘industrial’ football from them. Let us not suggest they were prime 1970 Brazil. 5 yellow cards for the Italians vs one for England demonstrate much about the approach to the game, but most tellingly, does it suggest naivety on the part of the England team? Chiellini is a wily old fox and he did what he had to do. Jorginho should have seen red for me though.

Man of the Match for me was Chiesa. Absolutely superb. Once he went off, the Italians were there for the taking. That’s where I agree with critics on here, that Southgate just didn’t take the required risk. Tactically he was astute throughout and it got us to the final. When the Italians sussed out our formation, Gareth was unfortunately found wanting. On 60 minutes with immense Italian possession and pressure suggesting an equaliser was imminent, he failed to act. It would have been a risk yes, but at that point, we should have taken the game to them. The earlier introduction of Grealish and Sancho would surely have brought Kane back into the game and also put the Italians on the back foot. I’d rather we had gone down fighting, than holding on for penalties which ultimately, has been our downfall on so many occasions.

In the final analysis, we lost by a penalty. The Lions have not been ‘turned into Cubs’ as some comments in the Italian press suggest. The game was lost on the finest of margins. The future looks bright. We have a young, vibrant team, with attacking options to rival any country. Defensively we are strong. For once, the Team is greater than the sum of its parts. All we lack is a little savvy and the balls to take our own game to the opposition. A lesson I am certain we have learned from this week.

They’re a team to be proud of and I for one, can’t wait until Qatar 2022.
Chris Wilkinson

Two penalties changed the whole narrative…
Two penalties get taken differently and the perspective on everything changes. Same personnel, same tactics, same game basically but viewed in a vastly different way.

Southgate would have been a genius and guaranteed to be knighted. His tactics for the game considered mature , controlled and the reason England were champions.

Christ knows how good the jobs he would have got offered would be.

How much destruction after the game might have been avoided.

Rashford, Sancho and Saka wouldn’t have been racially abused by cowards and everyone would be queuing up to get their pictures taken with our brave heroes.

Jose would have had to be nice about Luke Shaw *forever*.

Even another bank holiday would have happened.

Completely different narratives, feelings, navel gazing, everything.

Just for two little kicks that went a few inches in the wrong direction.

Sliding doors and then some.
James, Liverpool 


Its the midfield, silly…
The backlash from all this is quite astonishing really, all things considered. Did we not reach the final, miss out on penalties, remain unbeaten during the course of the games and only concede two goals all tournament??

The mailbox is debate, so all is welcome of course, but some are so wide of the mark it is laughable (BadWolf, please give it a rest…..) and not getting to the fundamental point of it all. Only Phil, London, hit the nail on the head with his comment about the midfield being the problem.

Essentially we will always fall short in some form during these tournaments as we are not able to dominate the centre. It has always been the way.

We need those Ballon D’Or contenders in the middle of the pitch. The sort that are coveted by Real Madrid and Bayern regardless of who they play for currently. Italy had Verratti and Jorginho, we had…..Declan Rice.

For all the criticism of Gareth, what he did do, with a talented squad, is ensure we beat teams that we are at least an equal to. Yer Denmarks, yer Columbias, yer slightly underwhelming Germanys. In a way that we didn’t use to do or even found ourselves struggling against, including so called lesser lights (cf. debacle, Iceland 2016). This alone is a huge step forward, perhaps getting us to ‘parity’ and punching at our weight (note – this isn’t an arrogant English assumption that we should always make finals, more an observation given our resources, playing strength, size, etc that we should be at least competing and overcoming such opponents most of the time). For that Gareth has done something few England managers have ever been able to achieve and should rightly be praised regardless of whether he should have made changes earlier in the final or introduced the inflatable unicorns during the group stages rather than QF.

We benefitted, as we did in 2018, with a ‘kind’ run, that much is true. This got us to a certain step where, not that we lost to the first ‘decent’ team we came up against (we played plenty of them, particularly at the Euros), but lost to a team who were a notable step up in class.

And the truly classy areas of these opponents can all be found in the middle of the park, where we are outgunned regardless of the form and sheer enthusiasm displayed by both Philips and Rice this tournament.

That is what holds us back from making that final step. We are oh-so-close in many ways. The squad, as has been noted everywhere, is chock full of talent on a scale never seen before in England, there is plenty of there to make us a frightening proposition for almost all opposition. But ultimately only 11 can be on the pitch at a time and 2/3 of those need to be absolute monsters in the midfield to help us demonstrate a semblance of control in games. We did this many times this summer, but when we come up against the very, very best, we will always be struggling.

Once we have that ‘simple’ matter sorted so many other issues will start to ease. The double pivot, three at the back, defensive fullbacks, wingers not having the freedom to run forward and causing havoc, they will not be such vital tactical necessities and we can truly start to view ourselves alongside Italy and others of similar stature. It could be glorious, but it is the needle in the haystack we need to find to take us to the next level and that is going to be the hardest thing to do.
Rob (hard to say if my email is optimistic or pessimistic), Leicester

I think I’m missing something when it comes to Rice and Phillips. It has been mentioned in many quarters that we now have a midfield core to build around. I felt that we were going into the tournament with basically no central midfield and, while they exceeded my personal expectations, it turned out to be a partnership that just enjoyed 34% possession at home in the biggest game of our lives.  Objectively they hurried and scurried and looked busy, but until we have a central midfield which can control the tempo and possession of a game I think we will struggle to win anything.

Hopefully Foden and Bellingham fulfil their huge potential because technically we are still behind the best in the world but these two could be the real deal for England in the future.

Also, describing this Italian team as “average” does them a huge injustice. They had us chasing shadows for much of the game. They are the best team in Europe ergo the best team in the world right now. It was no shame to lose to them but it is clear that work still exists for us to close the gap at the very top.
Jamie Bedwell, Cheltenhamshire 


Have faith
I usually get a bit wound up when people call English fans entitled or arrogant as I really don’t think most are, but that’s absolutely what came through to me from Chris, MUFC’s mail this morning. We’d all love us to blow every team out the water with free-flowing, attacking football but you’ve got to be realistic about who and what we are. We’re a good but not great international team with a history of failure. I was listening to a podcast a few weeks ago and someone from another European country was saying that they don’t view England as a big team, we’re more like a Denmark or Sweden to most people in their country. And honestly, based on our history that’s not far wrong is it.

Did you watch the rest of the tournament? Italy edged past Austria and were outplayed by Spain, France went out to Switzerland, everyone struggled against Hungary, Spain drew with Sweden. We can’t be so arrogant as to think ‘we’re England so we’ll just turn up and smash all these’. Yes, it’s a talented squad but this is a team that’s learning how to play in international tournaments. They don’t a history of winning or of younger players coming in to a setup that controls and dominates games. We’ve got a talented squad but they’re not coming in to a winning setup used to going deep in tournaments so they’re having to learn the whole thing as a group. Barring the second half in the final, we played with a measure of calm and control that I’ve not seen in my lifetime (I’m 39). It’s a learning process and I fully expect to see us improve our style now and become more attacking.

I’m not saying there can’t be criticism of Southgate, I’d agree that he was overly cautious in the final but he also deserves immense credit for getting us to our first final in 55 years. 55 years! And there has been criticism of him in the media I’ve read, but the reason that he hasn’t been crucified is that he got us there in the first place. Would any other manager (who would actually want or take the job) have got us there? I mean imagine if Allardyce was still in charge…

If he takes us to the World Cup and we’re still playing in the same manner I’ll be on your side, but until then I think Gareth deserves a bit of faith.
Sam, London

Opinion from inside the stadium…
I understand why the rest of Europe hates our football fans. I really wish things went differently, but I also wish the “vocal minority” who while are, in my opinion, still the minority (but quite a worrying and significant amount of people) hadn’t turned Wembley into a festival toilet. The atmosphere was hostile and intense and the lack of security and procedure for getting to our seats was a joke. Once I was at my seat I was able to enjoy the songs and the game.. hundreds of England fans around me clapped Italy’s anthem and while many left the second the game was over many more of us stayed to clap England players off the pitch and respect Italy’s celebrations.

It pains me that the hooligans who almost ruined the experience for me are actually a somewhat fair representation of our fanbase now, more than just a few bad apples.. and that I feel rather delicate right now but rather than compassion and respect from fans of other nations, we are being laughed at. It hurts, but sadly what can I do other than just be a normal, non-violent football fan and accept the misery that comes with being English?

England Italy fans Wembley Euro 2020

Did we all watch the same match?
England and Italy ended 1-1 and Italy won on penalties, or am I living in a parallel reality?

Looking at all the armchair match analysis makes me think England were utterly outclassed and lost 6-0 on the night.

The reality is that if a couple of penalties had gone in the headlines would’ve been about a Southgate masterclass.

Maybe Southgate made a few mistakes im the final but if the English media had their way it would be been Sam Allardyce managing this team at the Euros.

It says alot about the media and the FA that the best English manager for half a century is a man nobody wanted to have the job.

Yes, maybe Mancini may have won the final if he was managing England but nobody other than Southgate would’ve taken this England team to the final.

Credit where credit is due. Make him Sir Gareth Southgate already.
Shehzad Ghias, MUFC, Karachi

New England fans…
As a long suffering England fan, the Euro 2020 tournament has been truly awesome. Like Mike from Monday’s mailbox, I thought I would share a great bonding exercise with my son albeit at the other end of the age spectrum (and on the other side of the planet). To provide some context, my 20 year old son has grown up in Brisbane since we arrived here 14 years ago so has mainly been brought up on Rugby League which is by far the most popular sport here (in terms of spectator numbers) and would routinely sneer at football and spout the line that “Rugby players pretend they’re not hurt whereas football players always dive and pretend to be hurt” which is a commonly held viewpoint in this part of the world.

Yet, he begrudgingly stayed up late to join me in watching England’s opening game against Croatia (kick off was 11 pm here) and was completely hooked thereon. We then watched very match together (kick-off times varied between 2 am or 5 am) and he became more and more animated with every match culminating with him screaming at the TV for the final and bursting into tears when Saka’s spot kick was saved. Coincidentally, I was also the same age as my son during Italia ‘90 where I was similarly smitten during the tournament and also shed tears of disappointment after Waddle’s missed spot kick. So, it’s been wonderful to be able to see a mirror of my former 20 year old self as I am now in my fifth decade. Additionally, I’m now being implored to continue my subscription to our Internet sports broadcaster so we can watch the Premier League this season as he is so invested in the game now (despite the view they were a bunch of cheating divers just a few weeks ago!).

Anyway, I’m not sure where I’m going with this except to highlight the profound effect that the England team’s fortunes have on embedding amazing memories that last a lifetime (across the globe) but which also contribute to great shared experiences with relatives across different generations.

So, thank you to Gareth Southgate and the England players for a remarkable achievement this tournament and to acknowledge that football can truly be a force for good which brings people together united in a common purpose and shared enjoyment. Also, f*ck you to the cowardly racists that seek to use football as a divisive tactic to push their abhorrent views.
Phil (exiled in Brisbane) Chiz


A stuttering retort
Chris, Mufc

I am aware of brunofernandes’ penalty technique and how many he scores. He has also missed a few though and looked like a clown when he did.

What does the stuttering hop-skip-shoot run up give you that other run ups don’t? How is it worth the risk of slowing down your momentum and giving you a split second to hit a shot when you don’t even know where or how you want to strike it?

Van Nistelrooy didn’t have any problems scoring when he ran up and smashed it.

And when he inevitably missed a few, he didn’t look stupid either.

No-one ever wished they could go back in time and do a stuttering run up but I bet you Rashford and Sancho wish they’d just leathered it.
Silvio (Frank Lampard agrees) Dante

Let’s be thankful…
So it’s the morning after the morning after the night before.  Good morning everyone.

Now the madness has started to calm down a little, I thought I would write in to give my reactions to what was possibly one of the most enjoyable tournaments of my life time.

I must admit, I had fallen out of love with the game a long time ago, being a Man Utd fan it is easy to see why.  International football was always the same with England, all the gear but no idea of what to do with it.  For the first time I can remember, an England manager has taken a bunch of individuals and turned them into a team.  The bonus is a team that we actually like as people.  That is a Managers job, to get all the sums of the parts and make sure it all adds up.  Southgate has done a very good job and people calling for him to be sacked, are either very young and don’t have a clue about football, or very old and have started to lose their memory about just how bad England have been in the past.  They have been truly woeful with arguably far more skillful, higher profile players than what we presently have.  So I just don’t get anyone’s mentality who says he needs to go.  For starters, who is going to replace him and do a better job?  That would mean they would have to win the next Euros’s and at least get to the final of the WC.  Short answer to that is nobody.

The referees.  Barring the nightmare the ref had in the England Denmark game, (btw it was a penalty) he got most of the other stuff wrong, I thought the overall standard of officiating was top class.  I think we are too used to fouls being given in the PL for players going over too easy and in general the ref’s here were on the ball.  I think the EPL refs could certainly learn a thing by studying European referees as they are on a different level.

Now the players.
Pickford.  He got criticised for Denmark’s goal, which is just preposterous.  If that had been Ronaldo or Messi banging it in everyone would be saying it was unstoppable, but because it’s some guy from Denmark, Pickford has to do better?  Really?
He was desperately unlucky with Italy’s equalizer, produced some outstanding saves and organized in front of him.  I for one, and probably the only one given the unjust hatred towards him, would love to see him pull on the Man Utd #1 shirt.  Given the choice between him and De Gea who can’t even get in that Spain side, I would have Pickford every time.
I thought Donarumma getting player of the tournament was a joke, a typical Uefa joke.  The way he dived completely out the way for Morata to equalize for Spain, just sums up what a limited keeper he is.  Granted, he is about 9ft tall and built like a house, but he aint no Buffon replacement.  Plus the way he has treated AC Milan over the years, the side that made him is just wrong.  Now it looks like he is going to PSG, which says it all.

My player of the tournament and I can’t actually believe I’m saying this, but it’s Harry Maguire.  Almost faultless throughout and the only player in the world to give away a needless corner (almost faultless) clear the corner which starts the attack to score the goal, and I have said that he has to be an imposter at Utd.  Think how good Maguire at Utd will be if he had a Stones (also played very well) type player along side him and a vocal keeper behind to help him out.

Luke Shaw was fantastic, but let’s not forget Walker on the other side.  The man is a machine and can also play at CB!

Declan Rice, got a bit of criticism.  Did anyone see him in the final?  I thought he was excellent, especially first half and was gutted when he went off.  I think it was for Henderson, which didn’t exactly go well.  Did people not see how incredible Rice was against Germany?  Very short memories.

Harry Kane.  If Kane is a 100 million quid then football has gone bonkers.  I didn’t think he had a particularly good tournament.  The way he constantly dropped deep left nobody up front and that is where England’s problems started.  It does look like he is running in sand, he’s never been the quickest and boy did it show.  He’s a big lad and thought he might have put pressure on Italys aging centre backs but alas, he was always too deep.
When Kane was further forward, Sterling played so much better.  The final showed the Sterling at City as there was nobody there to take players away and give him space.
Sometimes though Kane had no choice but to drop deep due to the opposition. So maybe I’m being a bit harsh, still I don’t think he was particularly good.

Sterling was however fantastic during the tournament, albeit a bit off in the final.

The way that England dropped deep is being looked at as a bad tactic.  Without really giving any thought to how good Italy were at keeping the ball and pushing England back.  Sometimes, just sometimes, you are forced back and there isn’t anything you can really do.  It’s all very well saying push up and attack, doing it though is a lot harder than an armchair fan thinks.  We all think we can do better, yes better than the managers who have their coaching badges, manage elite players.  If it is that easy then why are you not doing it?
Italy were excellent throughout, and credit should be pointed at them for the way they managed the game rather than being over critical of England.

I have a little criticism of Southgate, but this is just my personal feelings.  The idea of bringing on Penalty takers in the last minute all seems rather good in theory, I’m however not sure how that stacks up in the statistics department.  If this was the intended plan, which it seems to be, they why not make that change at the start of extra time.  Sterling wasn’t taking one so why leave him on when he is having a not so great game.  Give the sub a chance to either make an impact or at least warm up.
I’m also a huge NON fan of Rashford (as a footballer)  If anyone has seen him this year, you’ll know that he has been horrible.  Now that isn’t his fault that the media and pundits have built him up to be something he clearly isn’t.  He’s not a winger or a striker so what actually is he?  The way he shaped up for the Penalty was only going to end up one way.  My advice would be to stop hanging around with Pogba the look at me promo guy and just hit it.
England players seem to over think Penalties.  Except Maguire, he just saw it as a clearance, hit is as hard as I can and break the camera.  Pen of not just the night but the whole thing.
I feel for Saka, it’s not nice to miss with that amount of pressure, but, he is a professional footballer so let’s not kid ourselves that he shouldn’t have taken it.  It was an awful Pen, but so was Sancho’s, Rashford’s though was embarrassing.  All the people, including pundits are saying why not Grealish, Sterling, Shaw? Why are they not taking it?  You cannot have it both ways, congratulate the manager on doing it his way, then slate the players for doing it his way.  The manager choose the takers, not the players and it’s pens, anything can happen.

I don’t want to be over critical.  England, after decades of being truly awful, have in the last 2 tournaments got to the Semi of the world cup and final of the Euro.  I wasn’t buying into the “It’s coming home” nonsense, it was all a bit entitled for my liking.  The “It’s coming to Rome” was ultimate payback and even I laughed at it.
The booing is just childish, and shows a total lack of respect for anything other than England.  The players conducted themselves really well and that final was played in very good spirits by both sides.  A great shame that some of our so called fans are nothing but louts, childish, ignorant louts.   The, England need this more than anyone due to the Pandemic is also so one sided and a typical English narcasistic attitude.  Make the Pandemic all about me.

If we put aside all the politics, all the outside nonsense, all the moaning and negativity, all the idiots on their fake anon social media, all the booing and street fights from the small minded and small minority and just look what not only England achieved, but all the nations who got there achieved.
Look what enjoyment they gave us, the passion, the determination, the goals, the saves, the excitement and disappointment.   Forget politics, right wing left wing somewhere in the middle, forget Brexit forget all the other rules, regs and everything else that others come up with to rule our lives and cause divisions, arguments and separation.  Football does more to bring people together, create communities, bring joy and a sense of belief, hope and love than anything else anyone has ever done and will ever do.  So let’s be thankful for what we have just witnessed.  I cannot wait for next Summer.

I’ll leave the football talk to others, but I note with interest that Roberto Mancini and Italy was outfitted by Giorgio Armani. England was outfitted by M&S and Gareth Southgate was outfitted by Perceival Menswear (no, me neither).

Snarky joke aside, the point of this isn’t to be snobbish about England/Southgate/M&S/Percival, it’s really just to give credit where credit’s due: Mancini’s suit is awesome and I am glad it is now historically awesome.
Oliver Dziggel, Geneva Switzerland


C’mon, man
Matthew (ITFC) says “ For instance, not much of a Jose fan, but his experience in setting up and holding a lead in a big game, and not succumbing would have been useful. “

How’d that experience help in Tottenham? Every game is a big game.
Matt Carr, Spurs, Wilmington, NC