After the disappointment of the UEFA Nations League, England will have to wait until September until they can begin to rectify their exit, when they face Bulgaria and Kosovo in the Euro 2020 qualifiers.
After a successful World Cup in 2018, England had managed to qualify for the finals of the first-ever Nations League. The Three Lions faced the Netherlands in the semi-finals but fell short, failing to deal with the pressure and putting in a shocking performance.
Jesse Lingard had what looked like a late winner ruled out once VAR stepped in before two mistakes from John Stones saw England’s Lions walk off the pitch with their tails between their legs – last year’s World Cup run was very much a distant memory.
England are expected to qualify for the Euros in 2020. That is always the expectation from fans – and with Bulgaria and Kosovo up next, Southgate shouldn’t be too concerned about his opponents.
Looking at the international football betting, England are among the favourites to win their first major tournament since 1966 and claim the Euro 2020’s, where the final will be held at the home of football. Only France, priced at 7/2 with bet365, are shorter.
England are shorter than the likes of Spain, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands, which indicates the bookmakers believe Southgate’s Three Lions are capable of creating history.
With the likes of Jadon Sancho coming through, who had a phenomenal season at Borussia Dortmund, England arguably have their best side since the so-called “golden generation”.
Raheem Sterling, often a scapegoat for the national side, has continued to flourish for Manchester City and with him and Sancho either side of captain Harry Kane, England have one of the best attacking threats in Europe. Unfortunately, however, it is behind the front three that England are lacking any real quality.
Jordan Henderson, who recently lifted the Champions League trophy with Liverpool, is often battling for a place in the middle with Eric Dier. The Spurs midfielder hasn’t really been a hit with England fans, lacking any real grit to his game. He did, score the winning penalty against Colombia in the round of 16 at the World Cup, but has rarely performed in an England shirt.
England are lacking creativity in the middle – but Oxlade-Chamberlain’s return could be the answer. The former Arsenal man spent the majority of last season on the sidelines, and England are crying out for his creativity and boldness on the ball. He could well be the missing piece to the jigsaw which Southgate is slowly putting together.
There is no doubt that England will qualify for the Euros. With the likes of Bulgaria, Kosovo, Montenegro and the Czech Republic in their group, it would be criminal for England not to qualify in style.
But it’s what England do when they get to the finals which counts. Their performance against the Netherlands in the semi-finals of the Nations League was mightily disappointing and fans will want Southgate to make sure his players don’t freeze on the big stage once again.