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Best possible starting XI for England | Euro 2020 semi-final

England head into the Euro 2020 encounter against Denmark as the favorites
England head into the Euro 2020 encounter against Denmark as the favorites
Jim Beglin
EXPERT COLUMNIST

As England prepare to face Denmark at the Wembley Stadium with a place in the Euro 2020 final up for grabs, there's a lot of buzz and excitement around the country. The squad looks extremely well drilled and everyone seems to know what their job is, as they edge ever closer to winning their first international trophy since 1966.

Gareth Southgate is one of the most talked-about managers in world football and has often been criticized for being overly cautious with his approach to games at Euro 2020, but he's got the balance of the team right. I don't remember seeing an England team as solid as this; the right personnel are in the right positions and this is a group that's working extremely well together. We've seen a lot of promising England teams over the years, but the current group of players have a completeness about them that could well turn out to be the winning formula at Euro 2020.

Another thing I've liked about England is their ball retention at Euro 2020. I've watched many an England side in major tournaments over the years, but when push came to shove, they never had the ability to retain the ball and see off games. A change at the grassroots level has seen a bunch of technically gifted English youngsters burst onto the scene - that's come home for them! This new, technical breed of talent is different from what we've seen in the past, as all the little things have been addressed.

As I said earlier in one of my columns, you don't need to play brilliant football to win major tournaments. That said, in terms of spirit, togetherness and that sense of solidarity, this is as good an England side as I've seen and they can beat anyone at the moment.

There was massive pressure on the team in the build-up to the Germany game due to the history between the two sides, but the result turned out to be a huge relief for the fans. The Euro 2020 quarterfinal against Ukraine was a memorable one for the squad, as they recorded a convincing 4-0 victory at the Stadio Olimpico in Italy. Rome was a good change of scenery for Southgate and co, but they return to the Wembley Stadium for the business end of the tournament and will look to complete the job by getting their hands on the European Championships for the first time in their history.

There have been suggestions that Southgate could revert to a back-three like he did against Germany, but I'm not convinced he'll do that for the Euro 2020 semifin. I predicted that to be the case ahead of the massive game against the Germans, but he might look at Denmark and think why upset the apple cart? I could well be wrong, but my understanding of the situation is very simple - if it's not broken, don't try to fix it. Denmark are a really good side, but I don't believe Southgate will be concerned to the extent of making wholesale changes to a side that is yet to concede a goal at Euro 2020.

I think the current England team is relatively untouchable and I expect Gareth Southgate to start with 10 of the players who started against Ukraine.


Goalkeeper - Jordan Pickford

England v Croatia - UEFA Euro 2020: Group D
England v Croatia - UEFA Euro 2020: Group D

Jordan Pickford didn't enjoy the best season with Everton, but he has shown his class since the turn of the year and has been one of England's best players at Euro 2020. Over the years, he's been jittery with the ball at his feet and has sometimes rashly gone at things and got himself into sticky situations.

Ahead of Euro 2020, Pickford revealed that he's been working with a sports psychologist to take his game to the next level and it seems to have worked wonders. There's a picture of calm about him and he seems like a different personality at the back for England. The communication line with his defenders has been a massive boost for Southgate, with Harry Maguire's return adding more steel to their rearguard. There seems to be the right know-how and the mental stance between him and the rest of his backline.

Pickford has made a string of fine saves to maintain England's run of clean sheets at Euro 2020 and has stepped up massively at the grandest stage. Now is not the time for slip-ups, though, so he needs to carry on his rich vein of form against a Denmark side that has been the surprise package of the competition.


Defense - Kyle Walker, John Stones, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw

Ukraine v England - UEFA Euro 2020: Quarter-final
Ukraine v England - UEFA Euro 2020: Quarter-final

Kyle Walker made an error against Ukraine, but Jordan Pickford made a smart save at his near post to spare his blushes. Apart from that, he's a strong and reliable presence at the back for Gareth Southgate at Euro 2020 and is likely to keep his spot in the starting XI ahead of Kieran Trippier and Reece James.

When you look at the two center backs, Harry Maguire has done an awful lot of fitness work behind the scenes to return to the starting XI. He has been carefully nursed after picking up an injury with Manchester United and it has seemingly paid off, as he adds that sense of reassurance to England's backline. John Stones, on the other hand, has kept his place in the starting XI throughout the tournament and has turned his career around after a fantastic season with Manchester City. They know what they are doing and have a good understanding between them.

If you look at the England backline, the right side has a Manchester City connection with Walker and Stones, while the left side has a Manchester United pairing with Maguire and Luke Shaw. The latter also has a good little thing going with Raheem Sterling on the left flank and that's another combination that's working really well for them at Euro 2020. A few years ago for Manchester City, Sterling and David Silva enjoyed a fruitful partnership in the final third and I used to refer to it as a left-sided bias. Come to think of it, something similar is happening with England, as Shaw and Sterling continue to establish themselves as key players for Southgate.

On the right flank, Walker hasn't combined particularly well with Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho or Bukayo Saka at Euro 2020, indicating that there's work to be done there. It's not too late, though, as a defining contribution at the business end of the tournament could turn out to be absolutely priceless for England. They are a very well-drilled side, so we can't mess around with the goalkeeper and the back four, based on what we've seen so far at least.


Also Read: 5 players who have surprised everyone with their performances at Euro 2020

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Edited by Vishal Subramanian
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