Euro 2020(1): England & Scotland Live
Of course, events elsewhere over the last few days have overtaken some of the crisis points that we were heading towards. Results elsewhere last night meant that both England and Czechia have qualified for the second round by dint of having already picked up four points. The bar for missing out on a place from the third placed teams is already lower than that. As such, we might have hoped that the pressure would have lifted ahead of tonight’s game at Wembley.
No such luck, of course. The shrill nature of discourse surrounding football in this country doesn’t allow for anything in the slightest bit like nuance, so following on last Friday’s match an atmosphere has been created which is just about perfect for Gareth Southgate’s team to fail. You get the feeling that there’s a substantial number of people who would, if you asked them, call themselves England ‘fans’ who’d rather see them fail.
And tonight, they are in something of a bind. Much as this evening’s match is a no-lose game for them, it’s also a no-win game. Should they win, they’ll have ‘silenced their critics’ (some chance) and topped their group, but they’ll also be playing one of France, Germany or Portgual in the next round of the competition. Should they fail to win, the group will be won by Czechia, and (presuming they hold onto second place) they’ll have to play one of Sweden, Slovakia or Spain in Copenhagen. Should they lose and slip to third place in the group, they’ll be playing the Netherlands in Budapest.
So, does Gareth Southgate go for the win tonight in order to rebuild some morale with the caveat that the next round will be about as difficult as it could get? Or does he play it safe and run the risk of a few days of further criticism in the press, but what looks on paper like a slightly more comfortable draw in the next round? Those who have already been eliminated from the competition might consider this to all be a privileged position for Southgate to be in, but this is a genuine and difficult decision to have to make.
Meanwhile in Glasgow, Scotland and Croatia go into a match that is similarly finely balanced. The withdrawal of Billy Gilmore after a positive Covid test has cast something of a pall over their post-match celebrations, and while their performance last Friday was a significant achievement, it doesn’t alter the fact that they have one point from two games and haven’t scored a goal yet. A win tonight will see them through, and the same goes for Croatia, but the truly fascinating thing about this game is that one point is not enough for either of them. Should they draw at Hampden Park tonight, they’re both out, so there has to come a point this evening where one of these two teams goes for it.
But anyway, some team news. England make four changes from the team that started against Scotland Jack Grealish, Bukayo Saka, Harry Maguire and Kyle Walker all start. Tyrone Mings and Reece James drop to the bench, Phil Foden is left out altogether (he’s on a yellow card and would miss the second round match if he picked up another), and Mason Mount is in self-isolation after close contact with Billy Gilmore last weekend, along with Ben Chilwell. Scotland’s only change is to replace Gilmore with Stuart Armstrong, while Croatia have made four changes from the side that held Czechia in their last match.
I’ll be back shortly before kick-off to take you through both matches.
Czechia: Vaclik, Coufal, Celustka, Kalas, Boril, Holes, Soucek, Masopust, Darida, Jankto, Schick.
Subs: Kaderabek, Brabec, Barak, Krmencik, Sevcik, Mandous, Hlozek, Vydra, Kral, Mateju, Koubek, Pekhart.
England: Pickford, Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw, Phillips, Rice, Saka, Grealish, Sterling, Kane.
Subs: Henderson, Rashford, Trippier, Ramsdale, Mings, Coady, Sancho, Calvert-Lewin, White, Johnstone, James, Bellingham.
Scotland: Marshall, McTominay, Hanley, Tierney, O’Donnell, Armstrong, McGinn, McGregor, Robertson, Adams, Dykes.
Subs: Gordon, McLaughlin, Christie, Fleck, Gallagher, Cooper, Turnbull, Nisbet, Fraser, Patterson, Forrest, McKenna.
Croatia: Livakovic, Juranovic, Lovren, Vida, Gvardiol, Kovacic, Brozovic, Perisic, Modric, Vlasic, Petkovic.
Subs: Kalinic, Sluga, Vrsaljko, Barisic, Caleta-Car, Brekalo, Kramiric, Budimir, Pasalic, Rebic, Badelj, Ivanusec.