Gareth Southgate is hopeful that the postponement of the European Championships proves positive for his youthful England side.
This summer’s European Championships was scheduled to begin this week before being postponed until next year amid the coronavirus pandemic, with England likely to be amongst the favourites to win a long-awaited major trophy following the nation’s progress in recent years.
The Three Lions, however, had major injury doubts surrounding key figures Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford before the rescheduling of the tournament – though both look to be fit ahead of next weeks Premier League restart – and Southgate is hopeful that his side are in even better shape – in terms of both fitness and development – to compete when the tournament finally kicks off next summer.
“At one point we were possibly looking at being without Marcus Rashford and Harry Kane, or at the very best both of those not having a lot of football,” Southgate said on Sky Sports’ Football Show.
“We have got certain positions where we are strong and certain positions where we don’t have that strength in depth.
“Maybe some of those things will be better in a year’s time, but other teams will be in the same. I’m looking at the German league and people like (Kai) Havertz playing and their young players are going to develop as well.
“Difficult to predict, the age of the team you would hope would be better in a year’s time but we have to go and prove that on the pitch.”
The format of the rescheduled tournament is yet to be announced but if it follows the same plan as was intended this summer, England will have the advantage of playing their group fixtures, and a potential semi-final and final, at Wembley.
Southgate admits the prospect of playing major tournament fixtures at the national stadium is a huge positive to his side’s chances of success, but only should they reach the latter stages.
“If the tournament is in the same format as was proposed for this year, and we don’t know that every city will be able to host, that is something that seems to be decided, we have an advantage in our group matches,” he said.
“But so do Italy, who play their games in Rome, Spain play in Bilbao, Holland play in Amsterdam. It’s only a true advantage in the latter stages of the competition, semi-final, final, if we are good enough to get to that point. But without doubt we have to view it positively.”
Wenger explains why English football will be ‘most handicapped’ by behind-closed-doors games
See also – Rating the impact of the five most expensive Bundesliga to Premier League transfers