The English national men’s football team, the 3 Lions recorded their 4th straight win in Group A of the ongoing EURO 2020 qualifiers, first-half goals from Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, an own goal and a Jadon Sancho brace set England to an eventual 5-3 victory over combative Kosovo in a pulsating 8 goal thriller at St Mary’s Stadium on Tuesday night. The result showed that England are still vulnerable at the back despite their attacking prowess and may well find themselves in the same old perfect qualifying campaign but disappointing tournament.
The 3 Lions as expected are on a smooth ride in the EURO 2020 qualifiers, scoring goals with reckless abandoned against Group A opponents that include the Czech Republic, Montenegro, Bulgaria & Kosovo. Their 5-3 win over Kosovo was the 4th consecutive Group A qualifier to have scored 4 goals or more(5-0 Czech, 5-1 Montenegro & 4-0 Bulgaria), a staggering 19 goals in 4 matches. As impressive and flattering the scoring spree might seem, England were never expected to fall short of convincing results in this group, perhaps so, going past a group stage has never been a hiccup for the past EURO/World Cup qualifiers played within the past 10 years. Opta stats showed that England had avoided defeat in all 43 qualifiers played within the aforementioned years(W34, D9, L0). The last English side to lose a qualifier was the Fabio Capello tutored side in a 0-1 loss to Ukraine in the 2009 World Cup qualifiers.
Much has also been said, especially in the English media, about the competitiveness among the current crop of talented players at Manager Gareth Southgate disposal. Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling forming a fearsome front 2, Jadon Sancho coming into the fray, the array of options at right-back(Trent Alex-Arnold, Kieran Tripper, Kyle Walker & Wan Bissaka) giving Southgate a healthy headache. It seems like England now has a formidable team at hand.
Poor individual mistakes were how Manager Southgate referred to his defender’s errors on the night. Michael Keane under no real pressure gave the ball to the opponent(Valon Berisha) who fired home just 34 seconds into kick-off, England’s 1st ever goal conceded under just 60 seconds in a qualifier. Declan Rice got in on the act, losing possession in the midfield and Kosovo made a great deal out of it for their 2nd goal(Berisha). Keane’s centre-back partner Harry Maguire then conceded a clumsy spot-kick which Kosovo’s Vedat Muriqi duly converted. Such basic errors cannot be afforded at the top level, quality sides such as France, Portugal or Italy will make them pay if gifted such. It could be recall how individual lapses from Kyle Walker, Ross Barkley & John Stone caused England places in World Cup(1-2 semifinal loss to Croatia) & Euro Nations League(1-3 semifinal loss to the Netherlands) finals.
The 3 Lions may have a potent attack to boast of but they need to address the schoolboy errors at the back that had denied them in their quest for major honours since their last and only title, 1966 FIFA World Cup triumph.
Blog originally posted to @Scorum
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