For England, it was all very familiar. After a promising start to the tournament, this was a performance much more in keeping with England in recent major tournaments. A 0-0 draw against their northern neighbor Scotland is probably enough to secure Gareth Southgate’s team a place in the knockout stages of Euro 2020, but this was a far less accomplished display than England produced against Croatia. . It was a night of torrential rain and heavy T-shirts, of slow build-up, of boring and unimaginative football.
For Scotland, it was the opposite. They need to beat Croatia to get a chance to pass, but there is no reason to fear that match after a performance of organization and intelligence. If there is a regret, it will only be that having frustrated England, he did not finish the job, even though the very presentable chances fell in the way of Lyndon Dykes and Che Adams in the second half. But the only audible song in the final minutes was Flower of Scotland; For the Tartan Army, only a fourth 0-0 draw in 115 encounters between the sides made this a night to celebrate.
This is a curious rivalry. England tends to treat Scotland with condescending benignity: it has a population ten times that of Scotland, and despite the decentralized parliament at Holyrood, the UK is ruled from Westminster. Even in football, the days have passed when the biggest English teams were packed with Scottish players. A glance at the sides suggests the gulf between them: England’s starting lineup included six players who played in the Champions League final, Scotland had only one who ever played in the last eight of the Champions League.
For Scotland, meanwhile, this is a game that means a great deal, as the thousands of fanciers in skirts who drank in London over the past few days have shown. In theory only 2,800 were at Wembley Stadium, but in reality it was clearly much more than that. He has a player in Champions League winner Billy Gilmour of Chelsea (who was not used in May’s win over Manchester City), and in his first international start, at age 20, he was exceptional, an energetic presence. and inspiring.
For England, although the pace was higher, the pattern was similar to the Croatia game: early chances, followed by a period of hesitation. John Stones, strangely unmarked from a corner, probably should have hit the mark rather than slamming a header into the post early on.
But as Scotland settled in, England found it increasingly difficult to get behind the defensive line, turning to increasingly tough chips and passes through. And as England lost faith, their press became increasingly indistinct, Scotland became more confident, and it took a good low save from Jordan Pickford to avoid a Stephen O’Donnell volley.
England’s three forwards, so far, have not fired. Raheem Sterling is a frustrating player. His movement and pace of work are exceptional, and there are times when his footwork is impressive. But he is a player who, when he is not at his best, tends to hesitate or choose the wrong option. And in a high-pressure situation, with an anxious crowd, that inevitably draws complaints.
Meanwhile, Harry Kane doesn’t look quite right. There is a lack of sharpness in him, which is remarkable for someone who scored more goals and recorded more assists than anyone in the Premier League last season. His habit of diving deep to play running backs is one of his great strengths, but he demands that teammates do those runs. That seems not as natural in England as it is at Tottenham. Meanwhile, Phil Foden seems far less effective coming from the right than operating from the left as he does at Manchester City.
Finally, after 63 minutes, came the substitution that half the country had been asking for almost from the start, as Jack Grealish was replaced by Foden. It was a sign of England’s lack of offensive quality that Kane was retired 11 minutes later, replaced by Marcus Rashford. Grealish did a couple of sprints, but nothing more.
But the problem was cohesion rather than individuals. The quality of the individual components, at least in the front half of the field, is not in doubt. What is still in question is the system and structure. The upside for Southgate is a second clean sheet in a row. Tournaments tend to be won less for brilliance than solidity. But if England want to progress deeply in this tournament, it will have to be much better than that.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.