Rewatching England (so you don't have to) – what we learned


We tasked Lewis Jones with rewatching the full 120 minutes of England’s dramatic win over Slovakia – was it as bad as it looked? What did we learn? Who shone?

Sweet Caroline didn’t sound so sweet at the end,” said Gary Neville.

He was right. This was as exhausting as it gets watching an England game at a major tournament, and Gareth Southgate afterwards acknowledged supporters had been “put through the mill”.

So, with the dust now settled and emotions back to normal levels, what were the takeouts – tongue-in-cheek or not – from taking a tough second look at the entire performance…

Chapter one: Kyle goes walkabout

Two minutes gone. Kyle Walker plays a 60-yard pinging ball to Kieran Trippier. Hello. This is what we want, forward thinking, direct, dangerous passing. I knew Southgate was still the one. How many is this going to be? Four, five nil? It is coming home.

Trippier takes a touch, feeds Phil Foden on the left who is one-on-one with the 37-year-old full-back Peter Pekarík.

Try not to embarrass him too much with those twinkle toes, Phil. Hang on, where are you going, Phil? Phil?! He’s 37!

Backwards, that’s where.

Foden turns back – his tally at this tournament now for backward passes is 77, the second most of any player – and two passes later guess who has the ball? John Stones. Turns out John Stones always has the ball in this football match.

His 132 passes across the 120 minutes were the most of any player. Harry Kane made 13.

Stones passing

Just 30 seconds later, Trippier passes backwards to his centre-backs again. This one leaves Marc Guehi short and he has to make a cynical foul, leaving him suspended for what could be the biggest match of his career to date.

Cheers, Kieran.

Walker then catches the fast-spreading bug of full-backs making terrible decisions. Dávid Hancko breezes past him in a 50-50 and roars away into the box. His cross flashes across Jordan Pickford’s goal to safety. Slovakia created a whopping 2.15 worth of expected goals across this encounter – and this effort didn’t even count towards that total. It really was a great opportunity.

Another fine ball leaves Pickford sweating on his line. England survive.

Trippier gets England going on a rare charge in the final third but balloons his finish into the night sky – rumours are the ball was spotted travelling through Tyneside this morning.

Walker joins in as England look to come to the party but he sends in an awful cross. It recycles back to him but he doesn’t dare try to repeat the feat. He plays short. Despite England’s territorial and possession dominance over the game, this was to be Walker’s only attempted cross of the night. If only England had one of Europe’s best attacking full-backs on the bench.

Another easy gain for Slovakia as Walker gets caught out in behind by Lukás Haraslín. A superb chance is squandered as Guehi dives back to make a fantastic block.

Haraslin skins Walker again and Jude Bellingham fouls him – yellow card. Three cards to England in the opening quarter. The full-backs to blame for two of them.

Then comes the goal. Truly awful from both Stones and Guehi, who redeemed himself slightly by making the intelligent call not to foul him as the last man. Clutching at straws, I know.

England have made the most passes at Euro 2024 and yet rank 10th for shots and 14th for shots on target
Image:
England have made the most passes at Euro 2024 and yet rank 10th for shots and 14th for shots on target

The England response – or lack of it…

Boos are audible in the stadium now as Stones and Walker continue to play sideways football.

Stonesy to Walker. Walker to Stonesy. Stonesy to Guehi. Guehi to Stonesy. Stonesy to Walker. Walker, Stonesy.

It doesn’t quite have the same ring as Ant and Dec’s classic “On The Ball” hit does it?

On 31 minutes, more boos as Trippier looks to play Foden down the line but then plays safe to Guehi.

Cue Trippier waving his arms in the air.

Declan Rice – already trying to set some tempo into England’s play with a mother and father of a tackle on Juraj Kucka – responds by winning possession in a central area again after Walker plays a sloppy pass. Over the 120 minutes, Rice won possession back 10 times – no player did it more – and he won eight of his 11 duels.

The whistle sounds for half-time. Ah, the sweet release. Please nobody make me watch this again for the third time.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Gareth Southgate reflects on England’s shaky victory over Slovakia

New half, new England?

Bukayo Saka looks to the stands as he’s robbed on halfway after yet more unimaginative passing gives him possession 50 yards from goal with his back to the play. He was probably looking for Arsenal team-mates Martin Odegaard and Ben White, whose five-star service has helped Saka become the player that dazzles on a weekly basis in the Premier League.

No, Southgate can’t bring them on, Bukayo.

Hang on. A goal for England…!

Kane spins brilliantly and sends a ball out to Tripper – don’t underestimate how good of a ball that is from the Bayern Munich man. A quick pass to the, erm, offside Foden and all is well again – for 30 seconds.

Welcome to the game, VAR. Goal chalked off.

Walker passes to Stones, but this time he isn’t even looking and Pickford is 40 yards out of goal.

All David Strelec has to do is hit the target from 50 yards – there is an open goal. What percentage of professional footballers should make that shot? 95 per cent? Well, thankfully one of those five per cent was playing for Slovakia as his effort curls wide of the post. Do we laugh or cry? Maybe both.

This game is somehow still there for England.

A brilliant run by Kobbie Mainoo sees him dance past three challenges before Kucka, already on a card, wipes him out. It seems the referee has left his red card in his dressing room. Mainoo quietly went about his business but was effective with his passing in key areas especially. He attempted 26 passes in the final third and completed 25 of them.

Time to do something, Gareth?

Southgate and his assistant Steve Holland have a chat on the touchline. They may have to do some football managing to do here as Trippier is down.

Anyway, it’s Saka to left-back as they have forgotten to pack any fit ones in their suitcase. Cole Palmer is unleashed.

Brilliant again from Rice to stop a dangerous Slovakia advance. Kucka fouls him with the follow through but the referee puts his fingers in his ears and sings “la, la, la” as he allows play to continue with no sanction.

Stones has a chance to play Palmer in over the top but is unwilling. He goes short to Guehi. Of course.

Slovakia’s defenders can’t believe their luck. It’s quite easy to defend two opposition centre-backs passing to one another 70 yards away from your goal. The 229 passes attempted in this game by both Stones and Guehi is the the most (among teams playing a back four) of any centre-back duo at Euro 2024. If centre-backs passing to one another wins you tournaments, then give England the cup now.

Palmer cuts in and delivers. Foden is in space about 12 yards out but misses his header. Can’t light a fire without a spark, you say?

A break in play gives Southgate and Holland an opportunity to get some messages across. Southgate keeps telling them to play, indicating to switch the ball, and touches the side of his temple. Calm heads, required.

I would suggest some chaos is required. England are on the edge of an almighty failure.

Is this the chance? Kane heads wide. Rice then hits the post and Kane should score the rebound. It’s not exactly “one of those nights” territory as England haven’t had a shot on target yet but even watching it back knowing a goal is coming, I still don’t think a goal is coming.

A change. Mainoo is off. Eberechi Eze on. It changes little as the pattern of play still involves pass, pass, pass – sideways, mostly.

Stones plays another short ball to Guehi instead of launching it. Somewhere, someone throws something at their TV. England are running out of time.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Rob Dorsett discusses the quality England saw from Jude Bellingham in their victory over Slovakia and looks at the issues that still need resolving before they face Switzerland.

Desperate times call for desperate measures

The board goes up. Six minutes. The Slovaks have played a blinder with their game-management. England still playing it short. Southgate kicks the floor in frustration.

Hallelujah. We’re now going long, Stones joins the attack – he heads one behind for a goal kick. That’s it, surely.

News desks and football journalists around the country start preparing their Southgate lines.

This is Iceland all over again. Although, in fairness to Roy Hodgson, England had more shots and created more expected goals in that Iceland defeat so technically this could be worse.

Two minutes to go. Ivan Toney is on. Foden finally replaced. It’s going in the mixer. It’s cleared at the near post. Why is Walker taking throw-ins? Slovakia clear it away. Not again Kyle. Put the ball down Kyle. Kyle…!

In it goes. Guehi flick. Bellingham. Who else? Shivers.

England's Jude Bellingham celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during a round of sixteen match between England and Slovakia at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, Sunday, June 30, 2024. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
Image:
England’s Jude Bellingham celebrates after scoring the equaliser

Extra-time: why were we stressing?

England now with Toney, Kane, Rice, Stones, Bellingham and Guehi on the pitch are a team full of giants. It takes 52 seconds for them to find their breakthrough from a corner, Southgate collecting once again at a major tournament from gambling on England’s set-piece threat. It’s his thing.

Of the 40 goals scored at the World Cup or European Championships under Southgate, 13 of them have come via set pieces (excluding penalties). Kane’s goal was the 13th header scored at a major tournament under Southgate’s watch.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Sam Allardyce was full of praise for substitute Ivan Toney after his headed assist for Harry Kane’s winning goal

My colleague Nick Wright emphasised “the weirdness of this England performance” in his brilliant breakdown of this crazy night in Gelsenkirchen – and one of the weirdest sights was Eze undertaking the left wing-back role as England dropped into a deep block after the goal.

That decision almost comes back to bite, Pekerik somehow knocking an effort from four yards out over the bar. The chance registered an expected goals rating of 0.69. He may have been offside anyway. Thank goodness we didn’t need to find out.

Kane and Bellingham depart for Conor Gallagher and Ezri Konsa. England are now fully in survival mode. Does it need to be this stressful?

Gallagher is like a dog after a bone but without getting any reward. He presses the Slovak defence on his own in the second half of extra-time, frantically running from one defender to the other while his teammates sit in their block.

A long ball from Stones into Toney – he draws the foul, showing his maturity and the game-management required to be an asset still for England at this tournament. Moments later, Toney heads clear a corner. Strong. Take notes, Southgate.

Wait? There are two balls on the pitch. Eze stops. The referee plays on. Oh no. Bozniak escapes down the right but thrashes the finish into the side netting. Imagine if that went in? The uproar. VAR couldn’t have stepped in.

And, breathe. Pickford comes to make one last claim. It’s over. Please, don’t ever, ever, put us through that again.



Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top