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News: Southgate Must Develop a New Plan

for World Cup 2022

04.08.2021 - Gareth Southgate guided England to their first final in a major competition in 55 years at Euro 2020, although his team ultimately fell short on penalties in their defeat to Italy. The Three Lions took major steps forward in tournament football, defeating Germany in a knockout contest for the first time since 1966 and winning a semi-final after overcoming Denmark in the final four.

However, the issues that were prevalent in England’s World Cup semi-final defeat to Croatia were evident against the Azzurri, suggesting that Southgate did not learn from his side’s loss in Moscow. But, despite losing out in the Euro 2020 final, the Three Lions are one of the leading contenders at 8/1 in the football betting odds to win the 2022 World Cup. Therefore, there remains a great deal of optimism about England’s future prospects, although defending champions France and the talent of Brazil will be an obstacle that they may have to overcome.

Southgate has been rightly hailed for his performance as England manager. He has brought a newfound vitality to the team during his tenure, allowing the Three Lions to advance to the final stages of major tournaments whereas his predecessors struggled previously. On the other hand, Southgate is not immune from criticism. He boasts arguably the most talented squad in a generation. England not only have talent in their starting line-up and bench, but there are a number of top players that are unable to break into the roster due to the intense competition for places.

The former Middlesbrough manager has brought out the best in his players, and his loyalty towards the likes of Kyle Walker, Jordan Pickford, and Raheem Sterling was rewarded with outstanding displays at the Euros. At the same time, his reluctance to make changes during matches has cost the Three Lions at the World Cup and their Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy.
England were on the back foot for the majority of their games against Croatia and Italy as their opponents’ respective midfields dominated the ball. England naturally dropped deeper to defend the edge of their box rather than putting the pressure on their opponents, forcing them to make the difficult passes to play through the lines.

The Three Lions failed to counterattack against Italy as their focal point Harry Kane dropped too deep to release the pressure. Sterling and Mason Mount were also pressed into defensive duties on the flanks as the Azzurri ensured that there was no option for an out ball. Southgate could have easily changed the shape of his team to counteract this.

Jadon Sancho’s direct style would have offered an opportunity for England to run at the aging legs of Giorgio Chiellini, who did expose the Italy left flank by pressing forward to support his teammates. The one time substitute Bukayo Saka did make a run at the Italy defender, it resulted in a messy challenge from the veteran that landed him in the book before the end of normal time. However, in terms of attacking Italy in the second half of the contest, that was it.

Southgate has conceded himself that he has a conservative style, but he is also lacking in a second plan to react to his opponents. Both Zlatko Dalic for Croatia and Roberto Mancini for Italy were able to identify and then expose England’s weakness and reluctance to play on the front foot with a 1-0 lead. Those flaws have cost the Three Lions a place in the World Cup final and the European crown. It must change before Southgate takes his team to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup.