UEFA Nations League update
England Football News – Introduction
This article will round up the latest England football news from the recent International Break.
3 games would finish Gareth Southgate’s and England’s 2020. A warmup game against the Republic of Ireland followed by 2 key UEFA Nations League fixtures away to Belgium, the world’s No1 ranked team and then back to the ‘Home of England Football’ for Iceland. Victory against Belgium in Leuven would offer the chance to top the group, however with a loss and other negative results then it would be the end of the road for the Three Lions.
Highlights of the England v Republic of Ireland fixture – Friendly
For the return to International duty Southgate selected an experimental England team to play the Republic of Ireland on Friday night.
England created early chances from set pieces with towering defenders Harry Maguire and Tyrone Mings providing the attempts.
England’s opener came from a Mason Mount corner. Initially headed away by the defence, the ball found its way out to Harry Winks on the edge of the box. After setting the ball for a cross Winks delivered brilliantly towards the back post where his name sake Harry Maguire won his header angling the ball past the outstretched Irish Randolph’s hand and into the right hand corner of the net.
It was the first spell of mini pressure, bringing the England skipper his goal and reprieve after a troubling 6 months of form for club and country. The goal, was a result of a power struggle against his opposite number, Irish centre back Shane Duffy. Maguire, with his aerial prowess constantly caused the Irish defence problems throughout the night, reminding a lot of his doubters why he is one of Southgate’s go to defenders.
England’s second goal came from a similar routine to the first. A Mason Mount corner was parried out to the edge of the box only to be swung in again by Winks. This time however the ball fell to Jack Grealish who released Jadon Sancho down the left flank. Sancho with his trademark quick feet was able to cut back onto his right foot and bend the ball through the legs of the defender and past the outstretched Randolph into the bottom left corner. A confident finish from Sancho who has not been at his best in the early rounds of the Bundesliga.
In the second half Grealish continued to pull the strings in the midfield, drifting into space and unleashing England’s runners. Grealish, Mings, and Bukayo Saka combined well down the left-hand side providing a regular supply of chances to Dominic Calvert-Lewin to attack. It was the combination of Mings to Saka which brought about England’s third goal. Saka picking up the loose ball in midfield had plenty of work to do, but with his electric pace and quick feet he drew the foul, going to ground in the opposition box. The Spanish referee was quick to point to the penalty spot and Dominic Calvert-Lewin stepped up.
Having already netted 12 goals for club and country this season he smashed the ball top left leaving Randolph with zero opportunity, a very confident finish. Calvert-Lewin’s current form is great news for England and a genuine option for Gareth Southgate when Kane needs to be rested.
3-0 down and Ireland went missing in the last quarter of the match, Sancho and Saka beating players, finding the space to cross when they attacked with intent. England were far from clinical. With the amount of chances on offer, the game should have finished with a 5-0 or 6-0 score line. England were in total control after the first goal went in, there certainly will be tougher tests in the games to come.
Highlights of the England v Belgium fixture – UEFA Nations League
The heroics at ‘The home of England football’ 2 weeks earlier were not to be repeated at the King Power Stadium, Leuven. England’s chances of reaching the UEFA Nations League Finals were dashed by defeat to Belgium.
Southgate’s men were left frustrated as they were arguably the livelier team throughout. However, 2 early goals from Everton’s Youri Tielemans (10) and Napoli’s Dries Mertens (24) put England on the backfoot and despite Harry Kane’s relentless effort throughout the night, England lacked the cutting edge to bring them back into the game. This is a theme that needs addressing quickly by England’s coaching staff!
Belgium’s first goal came within 10 minutes with a twenty-yard shot deflecting off England’s defender Tyrone Mings. The ball cannoned onto the post and into the net, leaving Jordan Pickford no chance. Pickford got his fingers to the ball but only succeeded in pushing the powerful strike onto the post and into the goal.
Controversy surrounded Belgium’s second as it initially appeared that Declan Rice fouled Kevin De Bruyne on the edge of the box. However, in slow motion (unfortunately a tool not afforded to the referee) it was clear to see that Rice had won the ball and it was De Bruyne who kicked the defensive midfielder. Where’s VAR when you need it?
Both Kevin De Bruyne and Dries Mertens stood over the freekick but it was Mertens who stepped up and whipped the ball at pace over the wall and past another full-length dive from Jordan Pickford.
Defeat for Southgate’s men and a win elsewhere for Denmark means England have failed to qualify for the UEFA Nations League Finals.
Its worth mentioning the one positive throughout the last 2 rounds of fixtures, which has been the performances of Aston Villas maverick midfielder, Jack Grealish. England have been missing their creative players through injury, however Grealish has filled those shoes and more. Jack has emerged as the catalyst for anything positive, the driving force behind England’s attacking play. Southgate will be pleased he now has an alternative option to a front three of Sterling, Rashford and Kane.
Highlights of the England v Iceland fixture – UEFA Nations League
After the disappointment of missing out in the UEFA Nations League the England football team had a point to prove against Iceland. Back at Wembley the team wanted a positive result to end the year on a high. Southgate once again made changes to the starting 11 which included a long awaited start for Manchester City’s Phil Foden.
In the 19th minute Declan Rice scored his and England’s first goal. A superb header from a curling freekick from Foden to open England’s account. Rice’s perfectly timed run allowed him to beat his man to the ball and a glancing header found its way into the net. With the likes of Harry Kane and Eric Dier in the box you could forgive Iceland for overlooking Rice at the front post.
Once the first goal was scored it was as if England had flicked a switch, the tempo of their passing and movement picked up and Iceland were under constant pressure. It was only a matter of 4 minutes to wait for England’s second. With Jack Grealish pulling the strings in the midfield England found space down the left-hand side. Saka’s cross found Mason Mount who took the opportunity well with his left, an accomplished finish.
For the opening 30 minutes of the second half Iceland were able to keep England’s advances at bay. It was a 79th minute red card which opened up the game. As the legs of the Iceland players began to tire, Saevarsson the Icelandic centre back pulled on the arm of Saka who went to ground. It was Saevarsson ‘s second offence of the evening and he received his marching orders. What was an already tough task with 11 players, just became a whole lot more difficult.
Foden dictated play in the midfield taking full advantage of the extra space afforded to England, creating chances freely. Southgate brought Jadon Sancho into the game combining with Foden for his first for England and teams third on the night.
England’s fourth was again scored by Foden. If his first was a technical finish, then this was clinical. A great strike, 30 yards out finding the bottom left-hand corner, no chance to Iceland’s goalkeeper.
4-0 on the night was a great result for a inexperienced England team. The youngsters Rice, Sancho, Foden and Grealish were front and centre throughout the game in great performance from England. All be it against a poor Iceland team.
England Football news – Conclusion
In conclusion to this latest round up of England Football News – It feels like every time we speak about England football there are positives but there are also plenty of question marks raised. The success of this generation and ultimately Gareth Southgate’s tenure will be judged on their silverware which currently sits empty. Southgate has plenty of talent at his disposal, it is now about finding the best formation and getting the best out of this England football team.