England head coach Gareth Southgate has confessed that the one year delay imposed on the Euro 2020 has placed the Three Lions in a better place to challenge for the trophy. The tournament was supposed to take place in the summer of 2020 but was pushed because of COVID-19 to the summer of 2021.
Last season, no other international team in the world had managed to score more goals than England as they swept through their Euro qualifications stages. It had many believing that Gareth Southgate’s side could actually produce something at the Euros 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown forced the tournament to be postponed. UEFA pushed it by a year, to the summer of 2021 instead of 2020, which has placed the spotlight more on the Three Lions.
They’ve struggled to cope though with it a rollercoaster of a few months for Southgate and his side as they’ve been marred with injuries, COVID-19 positive tests, and other issues. It has seen England struggle to emerge from their UEFA Nations League group with just three wins, and two losses, from their six matches. But despite his side’s struggles, Southgate admitted that delaying the 2020 Euros has placed the Three Lions in a “better place” than they would have been last summer.
“We are definitely in a better place than we would have been after last autumn because those games weren’t the challenge we needed to improve. Last autumn’s games were a bit of a red herring because we rattled up a lot of goals but we weren’t tested. We didn’t have to break down top-level defences and we didn’t have to defend against top-level teams. This autumn has been far more important and worthwhile for our development,” Southgate said, reported the Guardian.
The England squad has changed as well over the last few months with Southgate slowly moving on from his 2018 World Cup team although there are a few key bits and pieces that remain. But the former Middlesbrough boss has brought in youngsters and other stars to replace them, with the transition going well but slowly. It saw Southgate admit as much but he also added that the squad now has a proper mix of youth and believes that their “long term” team looks good.
“We’ve got this strange split in the squad where half of the squad from Russia have drifted away – they’re not playing with their clubs or have retired from international football. We’ve got a lot of [other] guys who were the base of the team against Iceland on Wednesday [from the World Cup] who have good experience. Then we have this group who are really innocent at international level and a lot of them are so young, as well," Southgate admitted.
“What we did say at the time [the Euros were postponed] was that there would be nobody in the squad who would be too old to go a year later and a lot of them would be better for another year’s football. What we have got is some depth now, backed up by more youngsters we think can come through. So the long term looks good.
“We’ve got to keep winning in the short term and make sure we maximise this group and the experienced players. They don’t want to hear us say: ‘We can win in four years’ time.’ They want to win now. Although some of the younger ones will be better prepared in that longer period, there is no reason why we cannot align the two and have some very exciting times," he added.