England look like they’re waiting to lose to the first good team they play… Gareth Southgate picked the wrong squad

SUDDENLY it feels as if the England shirt is weighing heavily again.

Suddenly there is talk of anxiety and fatigue, as well as square pegs in round holes and an England team which is nowhere near as good as the sum of its parts.

RexGareth Southgate’s England struggled in their 1-1 draw with Denmark on Thursday[/caption]

Gareth Southgate was supposed to have swept away all of this negativity — and for the previous three tournaments he largely had.

But  after   Thursday’s dismal 1-1 draw with   Denmark, it feels like we’re back in the bad old days of Sven and the Golden Generation, Steve McClaren, Fabio Capello or Roy Hodgson.

We have seen this movie before — the one where England grind through a group stage and lose to the first good team they play.

If England  top the group then see off a third-place team in the last 16, you wouldn’t be hugely confident facing the likes of Italy or Switzerland in the quarters.

Or, if we fail to beat Slovenia in our final group game on Tuesday, the greater indignity of losing to Germany in the last 16 next weekend.

Much more of this and there will be a “root-and-branch review” and much yadda-yadda about winter breaks.

Harry Kane, by the way, had a three-week winter break with Bayern Munich and the England skipper looks more knackered than most.

Southgate has picked the wrong squad, that much is clear. But just as worrying is the England boss chose to publicise a team meeting he held to explain to his players the intense scrutiny they are under.


‘We’re struggling with and without the ball’, admits Harry Kane

HARRY KANE admits England “haven’t been good enough” at the Euros.

Here’s what skipper Kane said after the disappointing 1-1 draw with Denmark:

“We’re struggling with and without the ball.

“The pressing in both games hasn’t been quite right. We haven’t been good enough, from top to bottom, from me to Picks (Jordan Pickford).

“Everyone is dropping below their level a bit, in terms of retaining the ball, playing under pressure.

“We know there’ll be a bit of noise and disappointment back home.

“But it’s a time to stay calm and we’ll get there step by step.

“It wasn’t our greatest game but we got away with draw.

“We are starting games well. But when the teams are dropping a few players deeper we are not quite sure how to get the pressure on, and who is the one who is supposed to be going.”

“In the second half, we changed it with me and Jude (Bellingham)  playing in front of their two midfielders. But it was difficult.”

After that, it’s little wonder that England produced such an “anxious” performance against the Danes.

Southgate claimed his players were guilty of “caring too much”.

For the last three tournaments, England’s players enjoyed themselves on and off the pitch. This one feels different. Now, they seem to think the world is against them.

But unlike many of his predecessors, Southgate is not being pilloried. He is not being turnipped up.

Indeed, most England fans feel the mainstream media are far too easy on him.

More pertinent is the fact that Southgate’s squad is imbalanced and has been shorn of too much tournament experience. His gamble on Luke Shaw’s fitness would not have been such a risk if there’d been a back-up left-back in his 26.

Ben Chilwell, who captained Chelsea at times last season, is not a bad player. But Southgate would rather have no left-back at all. It’s weird.

Shaw, sidelined since February, is still not training with the team. It’s looking increasingly unlikely he will feature at all in this tournament.

GettyTrent Alexander-Arnold has started both of England’s matches in midfield[/caption]

PALuke Shaw has yet to feature as he continues to recover from injury[/caption]

This is a basic error, leaving right-footed Kieran Trippier on the left.

And the “experiment” of playing Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield always looked doomed to failure. You don’t experiment at major tournaments and don’t pick an odd-job man when you need a master craftsman.

What’s the point in selecting Kobbie Mainoo and Adam Wharton if you don’t trust them to start in central midfield in front of a right-back?

Mainoo carried Manchester United for large parts of last season. He should start against Slovenia but it will probably be Conor Gallagher, a decent but basic scuffler.

The absence of experienced back-up wide players is also odd.

Jack Grealish, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling are not in peak form but played well at past tournaments.

Pundits and legends lay into England

ENGLAND’s lifeless display in the 1-1 draw with Denmark left pundits and legends queuing up to take a dig at Gareth Southgate’s team.

Here’s the best of what was said…


“Awful performance, particularly after going up in the game.

“I don’t think one England player can look at themselves and say, ‘I’ve done my job tonight’.

“England were all over the place, far too sloppy in possession, gave the ball away too much and got caught too many times.

“There was no energy, no pace, no guile — Southgate is simply not getting the best out of England’s best players.

“It’s concerning and Gareth will get some serious questions.

“You saw England players lying on their backs — they look absolutely shattered but there’s no excuse for that.”


The BBC host called the performance “lifeless and tepid”.

On Harry Kane he said: “He needs his manager to ask more of him. I would have expected that if I’d put in that kind of performance.”


“The players don’t look the same as they do for their clubs. It is a big concern.”


“Courage and bravery, we’re not really seeing it.

“There’s something amiss with the balance. Bellingham is waving his arms.

“This is a big test for Gareth. It looks like he’s overthinking things.”


“My big worry watching this and for the rest of the tournament?

“England look absolutely knackered. They can’t get close to the ball.

“The surest sign of fatigue is dropping deep.

“Declan Rice is having to cover so much ground. No-one can convince me this is a strategy.”


“It’s strange that we have taken the lead in both games so far, yet instead of it settling us down and giving us the confidence to play, we have failed to take control.

“But what was most worrying was that Denmark had a clear way of playing — while we didn’t.”

Wouldn’t Southgate want at least one of them, rather than four players — Jarrod Bowen, Cole Palmer, Anthony Gordon and Eberechi Eze —­ who have never been this way before?

England were rightly among the favourites to win these Euros but right now it seems unimaginable.

Denmark were inferior man-for-man but collectively far superior.

After the 1-0 win over Serbia, there was concern Phil Foden was struggling in the same team as Jude Bellingham. But against the Danes, Bellingham was almost anonymous himself.

The Real Madrid Galactico was frustrated when a couple of early free-kicks were not awarded in his favour.

He needs to rediscover that energy from the first half against Serbia.

Because England will not progress to the sharp end of this tournament unless Bellingham is at full pelt. And unless they all stop playing like weight of the world is on their shoulders.


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