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Southgate and England team under fire after lackluster display at Euro 2024

Associated Press Sunday, 23 June 2024, 06:06 Last update: about 25 days ago

Gareth Southgate said he knew it was coming. He was right.

Negativity surrounds the England team — despite leading its group after two games at Euro 2024 and likely to advance to the knockout phase.

After Thursday's uninspiring 1-1 draw with Denmark, the coach acknowledged “we understand what that will mean for the next few days.”

Indeed, it has fueled concern among fans, English media and former players.

“We have to reflect the mood of the nation," former England captain Gary Lineker said on his podcast, The Rest is Football. "I can’t imagine anybody, who is English, that would have enjoyed England’s performance because it was lethargic, it was dour...

"You can think of all sorts of words and expletives if you like,” he added, before using one himself.

Lineker’s political opinions have upset the U.K. government in the recent past — now he has delivered a brutal assessment of the England team.

His comments about England appear to have summed up the mood of many fans.

Southgate’s team was a pre-tournament favorite and a beaten finalist at the last Euros.

BBC pundit Alan Shearer described the second half against Denmark as “awful."

Southgate's handling of a squad that includes Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden has been brought into question.

“We have world class players so it’s the manager’s job to get the best out of those players,” said Shearer, a former England striker.

Southgate has transformed England's fortunes since he was appointed in 2016 — leading the the country to the semifinals of the World Cup in 2018.

England missed out on a first trophy since winning the 1966 World Cup when it lost on penalties to Italy in the final of the last Euros three years ago.

The 2022 World Cup was England's worst performance under Southgate when it lost to defending champion France in the quarterfinals.

England was unconvincing in its opener — a 1-0 win over Serbia — and has a few days off before its final Group C game Tuesday against Slovenia.

So what has gone wrong in Germany?

Expectation

It has been a longstanding complaint that too much is expected of England at international tournaments. Despite having the most popular league in the world — the Premier League — and some of the most successful clubs, England's sole success on the international stage remains the World Cup it won in 1966. The last Euros was England's best performance at any tournament since then when finishing runner-up.

Southgate

Ahead of the tournament, Southgate said this would likely be his last in charge of England if he failed to deliver a trophy.

"I’ve been here for almost eight years now and we’ve come close. So, I know that you can’t keep standing in front of the public and saying ‘please do a little more’, because at some point people will lose faith in your message,” he said before the Euros began.

No left side

The England team is looking unbalanced because it essentially has no left side. Luke Shaw is the only designated left back in the squad but he is still not fully fit after a long-term injury, leaving Kieran Trippier — a right back — to play on the left. Foden is playing as a nominal left winger but he prefers to drift inside. England is essentially attacking down the right or down the middle, hugely restricting its options and making the team easier to defend against.

Midfield dilemma

England’s longtime midfield issue has not gone away. In fact, it might be worse than ever. Southgate has admitted to doing an “experiment” by selecting right back Trent Alexander-Arnold as a central midfielder alongside Declan Rice. Alexander-Arnold was substituted early in both games. Quite apart from the oddness of Southgate experimenting in such a key position at a major tournament, he is also overlooking three midfielders who finished the English domestic season strongly — Kobbie Mainoo, Adam Wharton and Conor Gallagher.

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