Reasons to be cheerful about England heading into Euro 2024 quarter-finals

Steven Chicken
England player John Stones and manager Gareth Southgate after a match
John Stones and Gareth Southgate after a match

Despite their progress to the quarter-finals, England still have a bit of kissing and making up to do with fans, pundits and disgruntled unshaven journalists to convince us they really do love us and are going to treat us all better after all.

Is there anything to make us think they might actually pull through with a fistful of roses for us when they take on Switzerland in the quarter-finals on Saturday evening? Well…

1) The defence is good (around the box, at least)

It actually is as well, though it comes with the caveat that they’ve played an awful lot of defensive sides so far this tournament.

Marc Guehi’s suspension for the next game does inevitably cause a bit of a headache, but England have still conceded just two goals out in Germany, one of which was a 25-yarder Jordan Pickford couldn’t do too much about.

Ideally, the England press should be doing their jobs better to avoid quite as much of the work they’ve had to do in their own third: as we saw against Slovakia, when you invite pressure, mistakes can happen.

But as they come up against increasingly difficult opponents – hopefully not ending with Switzerland – that defensively solidity will become more and more important…as long as they’re able to maintain it.

And three defenders are better than two, right? That’s just maths.

2) Could playing more attack-minded sides suit England better?

It could, you know. We saw in the Portugal game that actually, Slovenia are really good at defending (not that we have a particularly high opinion of Portugal, but they did put three past Turkey). So were Denmark. So were Serbia. And so were Slovakia. Group C being so utterly dull was, it can be hoped, as much a result of England happening to have faced multiple other good defensive sides as it is their own deficiencies.

That isn’t to say those shortcomings aren’t there, because of course they are. But the point is we haven’t really seen England against a team that wants to attack just as much as they do. Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden want space ahead of them to run into, not a crowded penalty box packed with players. Trent Alexander-Arnold was picked to provide raking passes that he had little opportunity to find. And so on.

At the moment, there’s no real evidence to support that theory, and England would need to work much better with the ball to bear it out. But…maybe there’s something in it?

3) That’s it.


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