The disappointment at Wembley’s defeat in the European Championship final was still fresh and lingering in one’s mind, so it might have been hard to feel like the international return felt like a downer. The momentum is maintained by the emphatic win of Hungary with 4-0.
These England players need to feel the chance, not that they are missing out. It is just over one year until the World Cup in Qatar and there are enough facts to support Gareth Southgate’s claim that England is among the favorites.
England hosted all of their Euro 2020 matches except one at Wembley. They won 4-0 over Ukraine in that match, and have repeated it in front of hostile Hungarian fans at the Puskas Arena.
It was an impressive performance. France was not able to make it here this summer and was forced to draw. Portugal were kept for 84 minutes. England was not panicked and Hungary displayed similar determination in reaching half-time. They continued to probe.
There were some tired complaints that the match was boring, with the goalless game at the break. But that wasn’t the truth. There was movement, Kalvin Phillips & Mason Mount running often beyond the forwards.
You just had to be patient. It was not the possession that mattered. The key factor was the transition. Declan Rice won the ball back intelligently for the first goal. Phillips came up with the intercept for the second. The front four proved to be just as good once they had been given some space.
It was so nice to watch them play together. Surprisingly, Mount, Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling spent just 37 minutes together on the pitch at the Euros, with Jack Grealish starting one match in England.
Grealish was here with the team and his link up play was outstanding.
His pass was what put Mount away. He twice placed Kane one on one with him before Rice finally got his assist. This partnership looks very promising with Luke Shaw.
Sterling was, however, the man who won the match. Sterling was the player who seemed most likely to see something happen right from the beginning. His first-half dribbles were more than any other pitch player, which drove at the Hungary defense.
His positioning and intelligence earned him first goal. Kane’s early cross set up second. Although the evening was marred by the abuse of the Hungary fans that ensued, those racist chants were just as disgraceful as they were futile. Sterling is unstoppable.
England is unstoppable. There is nothing in World Cup qualification Group I. A victory over Andorra, which Southgate’s second choice line-up should be capable of handling on Sunday, will give Southgate a five point lead at the halfway stage.
England is at an acceptable level, which means they can look forward to bigger challenges. That is what Southgate’s tournament play has taught England. They have performed admirably and only struggled when faced with the most difficult of challenges.
It will be fascinating to see Poland at home. Southgate was accused of being cautious and made it clear this week that Liverpool and Chelsea have only three forwards. He chose four in Budapest. He could win in Poland and move towards an expansive strategy.
Unfortunately, it is still too early to know. It is too early to say, but the sight of their swagger and play should inspire such optimism. England was the team that maintained its high summer standards on a night Italy lost to Spain and Bulgaria at home.
Euro 2020 felt like an ending.
Keep improving all the way to Qatar, and Southgate’s improvement could feel like a milestone on his journey.
Publiated at Thu, 02/09/2021 22:48.44 +0000