honestly, I do.
It was all so predictable and all so avoidable, once England took the lead less than two minutes in, partly due to the play in the build up to that goal.
Shaw had started by playing Maguire into trouble, resulting in a corner, he followed this up by playing it to Kane, halfway in the England half, Kane’s ball to Trippier was perfect, Trippier stopped before putting a cross that sailed over the arriving Kane, and Sterling in the box, to Shaw who’d kept running, for his half-volley off the post.
The moment was there. Italy hadn’t gone behind in the tournament, England were on top and the Italians were rattled. You could see it in the players and manager. On the pitch where previously there had been smiles, thumbs up and claps, now there was scowls, angry shouting and stereotypical Italian hand gestures. While on the sideline, Mancini had gone from cool calm, to twitchy shouting.
But as said the problems for England were right there in the build up. Kane having to be the creativity in the middle of the park. Southgate yet again changing his team and formation because of the opponent, and putting out a starting XI with 7 defenders in the outfield and three attackers. Two of whom have no intention of being creative if it means playing others in.
They keep banging on about what a great student of the game Southgate is, how much preparation he does watching the opposition. Unfortunately he doesn’t seem to spend the same amount of time watching how England play.
He was told that teams win tournaments one nil. France at the last World Cup and Portugal at the last Euros. Boring one nil grinds gets you the trophy. Yes, it might for them but this is England. Watching them take the lead then drop deeper and deeper, ending up on the edge of the box was, as some pointed out, much like watching Spurs.
In fact the game was much like watching Spurs play… Spurs. Spurs defending a lead, facing a Spurs team that struggled to break down a flat back ten, with Jordan Pickford playing Tim Krul.
You wonder what Italy Southgate had studied for his team selection. All this talk of him getting it spot on again, due to the goal but he played the wing-backs to counter the fullbacks of Italy. But Spinazzola wasn’t playing. Emerson wasn’t going to get forward the way the Roma defender did, and without that attacking fullback Insigne wasn’t the player he was in earlier rounds. On the other side Di Lorenzo hasn’t attacked as much as Spinazzola. The right sided Italian forward has spent most of the tournament being lonely out there. With two holders, that extra defender wasn’t required.
And there’s the difference between Southgate and the winning manager – it’s not the only difference.
Mancini has his formation, it doesn’t matter who he’s played at the tournament, it was 4-3-3. Changes were made to the personnel when he had to. Injuries to the fullbacks, Veratti coming back from injury. Chiesa being better than Berardi. Picking a team to go out there and win, unlike Southgate who picks a bunch of players – nearly said a team there – not to lose.
Chopping and changing. It’s 4-3-3, it’s 3-4-3, it’s fullbacks, it’s wing-backs, it’s a right-back at left-back, it’s Saka in, it’s Saka out. It’s Grealish for a few minutes.
And so England fell back and played the triple H game… Hit Harry and Hope.
Mount, Rice and Phillips did a lot of running about. Sterling, he called himself “The Hated One” after the last Euros, what is it this time? The Greedy One, The Selfish One, The Won’t Give The Ball To Anyone Who Might Steal The Limelight One? Unnoticed by the pundits who lament Kane’s lack of touches in the Italian box, the lack of any balls from Sterling, who twisted and turned in the box but just wouldn’t pass to anyone else.
Then throw himself to floor.
All the complaints about Chiellini pulling back Saka by the shirt. So many asking why it wasn’t a red card. Well, because it wasn’t a red carded offence. And Jorginho’s stamp on Grealish. That was more of a red but the fact his foot bounced off the ball might have gone in his favour. No mention of Sterling’s falls or the fact Phillips took Chiesa out resulting in him having to come off, when he was the best player on the park, along with Pickford.
With Chiesa playing the full 90, would it have gone to extra-time, would it have gone to penalties?
That equaliser was coming and duly arrived. The winner would have followed because England didn’t change anything. Yes Saka came on but the mindset couldn’t be altered. The Southgate brought on Henderson. I suppose to shout a bit because a player with one goal and an assist every eight games wasn’t gonna provide much more that shouting.
Southgate stood there looking as confused as Sterling. Not a clue what to do, leaving it until the 99th minute to bring on some midfield creativity. And then waiting desperately to bring on Rashford and Sancho for the penalties as the game petered out.
To think if Italy had just kept the ball for a couple of minutes, which they were very capable of doing, instead of playing it out for a goal kick, then two of those that missed their penalties wouldn’t have been in that position. As it was Southgate set up for a 21 year old and a 19 year old to take two of the most important penalties in a shoot out.
No you can’t blame those two, who aren’t penalty takers for having their attempts saved by Donnarumma, though both were at the perfect height for the keeper. You can blame Rashford for missing. He’s a regular penalty taker for his club, before Fernandez turned up, had done Donnarumma, leaving the big Italian on his arse before missing an open goal from 12 yards.
Good to see Grealish fight back and say he agreed to take one, only for Southgate to look elsewhere – he really doesn’t like Grealish, does he. Sterling seems to be hiding over why he didn’t step up.
You couldn’t fault Pickford, again he shone in a shootout. Frankly I’d have picked him to take one ahead of the final two. But who in their right mind lets a 19 year old take the fifth pen in a shootout? Oh but Southgate had studied them, picked the five based on what he’d seen in training, as if training is anything like the final of a tournament with the nations hopes on your shoulders.
It was a hospital pass from Southgate and another sign that he’s out of his depth.
Again England meet decent opposition at a tournament and again it ends in failure they bumbled through the group stages, struggling to beat teams that didn’t turn up or were rubbish to begin with, beat one of the worst German teams you’ve seen, cruised against a nothing Ukraine and struggled to defeat Denmark.
It wasn’t a great tournament performance, it was dull and lucky, lacking in creativity, shots and goals and for all the talk about how great Southgate was – he wasn’t – and how he got every call right – he didn’t, far from it – what has he achieved?
He’s turned England from hated failures into loveable losers… it’s not knighthood material… but i told you so…