Tuesday, May 17

England puts itself in the hands of its cubs | Soccer Eurocup 2021

Mount, Chilwell and James, after winning the Champions League.
Mount, Chilwell and James, after winning the Champions League.MICHAEL STEELE / Reuters

How could it be otherwise, England is the favorite of the bookmakers (or at least, of the English bookmakers) to win the Eurocup. His victory is paid 4/1, ahead of France (5/1), Belgium (13/2) and Spain (7/1). Head of Group D, it will play its first game on Sunday 13 against Croatia, the second on Friday 18 against eternal rival Scotland, and the third on Tuesday 22 against the Czech Republic. All of them, at Wembley Stadium, as well as the round of 16 (if the group wins) and, eventually, the semi-finals and the final.

English optimism is explained by four reasons: because they tend to believe favorites before a final phase, because they play at home (as in the 1966 World Cup, the only award of their squalid record, but also as in the 1996 European Championship, in the one who lost the semifinals on penalties against Germany …), because they trust Harry Kane’s goals and because they have the best generation of young players in a long time. However, the team’s veterans are either irregular (like goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and center-back John Stones), or come off long injuries (like center-back Harry Maguire and midfielder Jordan Henderson) or have ended the season on a dangerous low. shape (like the not old but expert Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford).

Facing these doubts is the reality of Mason Mount and Reece James, who led Chelsea to an unexpected victory against Manchester City in the Champions League final, and whose image, joking and chatting sitting in the central circle of the Do Dragao stadium , in Porto, together with left-back Ben Chilwell, is perhaps a good parable of the optimism, relaxation and confidence with which England faces this Euro. Mount and James are not the only puppies with a future. Phil Foden, defeated in Porto, generates extraordinary expectations. Both German emigrants, Jadon Sancho and Jude Bellingham, stars in Borussia Dortmund, are not in the starting team of the pools but the Euro is very long and the flexibility with the changes will give them minutes. Like the brilliant Bukayo Saka, the only player to bring the very subdued Arsenal to the England team.

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England’s weak point seems to be in the hindquarters. None of the three goalkeepers offer enormous confidence and the favorite to start, Pickford, misses his foot too often. On defense, there is the paradox that the coach, Gareth Southgate, had four players to cover the right back until Trent Alexander-Arnold was injured in the friendly against Austria. The solid Kyle Walker is the favorite to start ahead of Kieran Trippier, the Atlético de Madrid side, although the extraordinary form of James at this end of the season has put him in the spotlight. Maguire and Stones look confident in the center of defense and Luke Shaw is the favorite ahead of Chilwell on the left side.

Southgate routinely has Henderson and Declan Rice (both injured this year) in midfield, who should be joined by Mount. Foden and Kane are also among the fixtures of the critics’ starting eleven. And there are two much more open positions. Jack Grealish is the darling of the press, who sees him as a player of extraordinary quality, although some object to his excessive fondness for the ball that sometimes makes him lose precious moments.

Rashford and Sterling are in alarmingly low form but they are high-end players with great international experience. Putting the pressure on are Sancho, Saka, Bellingham and Dominic Calvert-Lewis, the Everton striker who started the season on goal per game but has the downside that Southgate’s Three Lions rarely play with two center forwards. And Harry Kane, barring injury, is untouchable …

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