The feats of last year’s Russian summer came as a pleasant surprise before the pain of defeat by Croatia in Moscow – but the loss to the Netherlands in Guimaraes was a setback and raised key questions about the team’s level of development. Sports enthusiasts from around the world can purchase England Euro Cup Tickets online to enjoy its stunning performances.
England’s win on penalties against Switzerland in the third place play-off at least ensured a positive ending but their main objective was not achieved.
So what sort of shape is England in 12 months on from Moscow and 12 months out from a Euros showpiece where both semi-finals and the final will be staged on home soil at Wembley?
England offer reasons for hope
If England had won this new European trophy it would have been paraded as a major success, so the fact they did not means the cold judgment is that they have failed.
England also showed they can react to pressure when they mounted a superb late comeback to beat their World Cup semi-final conquerors Croatia at Wembley in November to secure their place in these Portugal finals.
Chelsea pair Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi will be in the frame once they overcome serious Achilles tendon injuries while Jack Grealish’s return to the Premier League with Aston Villa will come under scrutiny.
And there are others trying to push in from the margins, such as Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse and Crystal Palace full-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
And in Southgate, who took over after Sam Allardyce’s one-match tenure, they have a dignified manager who oozes class as a personality and who – for now at least – has credit in the bank and the public on his side following England’s advance to the last four in Russia.
The platform, on many levels, has been established
Serious questions for England to answer
England are still bounded by the groundswell of goodwill they built up in Russia and which they boosted by reaching these finals and scoring 10 goals in their opening Euro 2020 qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Montenegro.
So far so good – until the loss to the Netherlands exposed familiar faultlines that have still not been addressed.
For all the praise they have had, much of it fully deserved, the bottom line is that England have reached two semi-finals in the past 12 months and lost both.
They must prove they are not destined to always be bridesmaids. It is a reputation that is easily earned but hard to lose.
And in both losing causes there was an ominous pattern that suggests this England team still has a long way to go to justify the great expectations that will accompany them into Euro 2020.
England led both semi-finals for a long spell and yet ended up losing control of the game and ending well beaten by sides with greater assuredness in possession and game management.
As they leave here for a summer break, they must find a way to show they can get over the line when it matters.
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