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Can England bring it home in UEFA Euros 2020?

FARHAN SHAHID
CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
85   //    12 Dec 2018, 21:44 IST

England v Croatia - UEFA Nations League A

England's efforts in the summer during the World Cup 2018 did not go unnoticed as they reached the semifinals for the first time since the '90s. This has been the furthest they reached until this point, even surpassing the golden generation which included players like David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Paul Scholes. Gareth Southgate the current England manager led England this time out with a relatively new breed of England players, picking players on form and not reputation, which had been done in the past.

Opposition fans questioned England's route to the semi-finals, questioning the difficulty of teams they endured during the tournament. England qualified in the group stages which included Belgium, Tunisia and Panama. England won their first two games against Tunisia 2-1 and 6-1 against Panama. In their last game in the group stages, they lost 1-0 against Belgium but qualification at this point was already secured therefore using this opportunity to play the fringe players whilst resting the regular starters.

England finished as runners-up in their group and as a result, their route to the final was easier as they avoided teams such as Brazil and France. They faced off Colombia at the next stage beating them narrowly in a dramatic penalty shootout. At this stage, England's fans were united, which had not been the case in a long time due to their consistent failures in tournaments. Unfortunately, England crashed out in the semifinals in extra time against a resilient Croatia. Many pundits described this moment as a learning curve for this new England squad.

The new UEFA Nations League that started later in 2018 had created a lot of confusion for the actual purpose and rulings of the tournament. However, it was created to eradicate the boring non-competitive friendlies. The tournament also acts as a route to qualify for the Euros in 2020. This presented England an opportunity to test themselves on the big stage, which Gareth Southgate has been consistently doing.

Southgate abandoned the 3 at the back he adopted in the World Cup and reverted to a back four. This paid dividends as England were unlucky not to get a draw in a 2-1 defeat to Spain after a rightful goal was wrongly disallowed in the last minute. England's head did not drop as they improved as each game went on drawing Croatia in their homeland. They impressively beat Spain 3-2 in Madrid and finally winning the last game 2-1 against Croatia.

England have impressed throughout with the introduction of new players such as Jadon Sancho, Callum Wilson and Ben Chilwell. They now wait to play the Netherlands in the semifinals of the Nations League, League A. Can they take their rich form into the Euros after this?

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FARHAN SHAHID
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