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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Dismal England have two positives to cling onto ahead of Euro 2024 knockouts

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England have been one of the worst teams to watch at Euro 2024 – and that is unlikely to change as the knockouts get underway. 

God bless you if you imagined to watch all three of their group games and not want to jump off a bridge.

Group C bore witness to maybe one of the worst collections of teams in European Championship history; zero entertainment, a dearth of quality, and no swag to speak of whatsoever.

And yet, three of the four teams are in the next round somehow. I’ve staunchly defended the 24-team format since it was introduced at Euro 2016, but this may cause a rethink on my part.

Euro 2024 – Five talking points ahead of round of 16

That discussion is for another day. For now, we need to reflect on England‘s part in all of this, because despite their abundance of talent and star names, they were turgid. They may have topped the group, but they deserved to be eliminated for what they served up on the field.

The attack spluttered their way through the group, scoring just two goals (only Serbia netted fewer) from 28 shots (only four teams attempted fewer), amounting to just 2.2 expected goals (only two nations had a lower xG).

That is undeniably pitiful – and yet there are two major positives England can take from the group stage that could see them go all the way at the Euros.

First off, Gareth Southgate‘s defence is typically strong. Excellent, even. The opposition have not been amazing by any stretch, but even in games where England were far from their best they still managed to give up very little at the back.

The only goal they conceded was a sublime long range strike – sometimes that just happens. Spain are the only side that have managed to avoid letting one in.

Read – Euro 2024 stats leaders ahead of knockout rounds

On top of that, England have allowed just 1.1xG, the lowest of any side in the competition. Perhaps a stiffer test might expose weaknesses that have not yet been prodded, but for all the talk about their mighty attacking talent ahead of the tournament, it’s the defence that has held it all together.

The attack will, eventually, get its act together. If Southgate can manage to get a tune out of his frontline while retaining defensive solidity, then that’s a recipe for effective cup football.

Secondly, and more importantly, England have been gifted with the kind side of the draw. And by kind I mean it is an absolute piss take.

The #EURO2024 knockouts: 🔜 pic.twitter.com/6D4sP4tbOY

— England (@England) June 29, 2024

Of the five favourites to win Euro 2024, four of them are on the opposite side of the bracket, meaning the Three Lions won’t have to face a top tier nation until the final, if they make it that far.

The majority of the hard work will be done for them, as France, Germany, Spain and Portugal knock one another out on their way to the decider, while the toughest nations England may face are mid-tier international sides like Switzerland and Ralf Rangnick’s Austria.

It could have been a very different story had Denmark managed to find the net in their final group game against Serbia to top Group C. But it’s not, and now England can look forward to a round of 16 tie against Slovakia.

Circumstance rather than performance is why are the favourites to win the tournament.

Read – Five unexpected stars of the Euro 2024 group stage

See Also – Five players who deserve more minutes at Euro 2024

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