England are two games into qualifying for next year’s Euro 2020, and it’s fair to say things are going pretty well. Two handsome victories – a 5-0 victory over the Czech Republic and a 5-1 win over Montenegro – leaves the Three Lions sitting pretty in Group A.
But what have we learned over the past few days? Here’s five FourFourTwo takeaways…
Getting younger all the time
England’s starting XI against the Czech Republic had an average age of 25, while the line-up against Montenegro came in at 24. The oldest players used were 28.
Impressive starts for teenagers Jadon Sancho and Callum Hudson-Odoi, as well as 20-year-old Declan Rice, certainly warrant further caps for all three – making this a side that’s still getting younger.
Barkley and Hudson-Odoi make mockery of Maurizio
Ross Barkley has only played a full 90 minutes in the league twice this season, while Callum Hudson-Odoi hasn’t started a single Premier League game. Their assured performances for England this week will cause embarrassment at Stamford Bridge, where manager Maurizio Sarri’s decision-making has been under question for some time.
Depth in midfield
Dele Alli, Jordan Henderson and Jesse Lingard were the first-choice central midfielders last summer, with Eric Dier and Ruben Loftus-Cheek offering depth.
Ross Barkley’s performance against Montenegro was his best in an England shirt, while he also put in a solid shift after being brought on early against the Czech Republic. Declan Rice looked comfortable in his first appearances for the Three Lions – keeping the Montenegro match ticking over when it could easily have become a frustrating and niggly game – while James Ward-Prowse’s contributions in the Premier League also won him an appearance as a late substitute in Podgorica.
On top of that, the likes of Harry Winks, James Maddison and teenager Phil Foden will all be hoping to get on to Gareth Southgate’s radar.
With Henderson the oldest of these options at just 28, Southgate has plenty of options for the forseeable future.
A new starting attack trio?
Southgate’s go-to 3-5-2 formation at the World Cup made life difficult for Marcus Rashford, who was regularly relegated to the bench in favour of having Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling up front.
The switch to a 4-3-3 formation, then, should have been good news for the speedy Manchester United forward, freeing up a spot in the attacking line. But the ankle injury that forced him out of the squad could prove costly.
In his absence, Jadon Sancho and Callum Hudson-Odoi were both handed starts in that spot – and both impressed. It would be no surprise if Sancho is made the automatic starter from now on.
Is the group already won?
After just two games, England have a lead at the top of four points – no other team in Group A has won a game yet.
According to the FIFA world rankings – as unreliable a guide as they can be – the Czech Republic (44th) and Montenegro (46th) should be the two toughest sides in England’s qualifying group. Bulgaria (48th) are close behind them, but lowly Kosovo are down in 130th place.
How soon can the Three Lions qualify for next season’s European Championship? Their next matches in the group aren’t until September, but it doesn’t seem overly ambitious to expect that by the time they visit Kosovo in November, all of this will be wrapped up.
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