II couldn’t believe it, because the England national football team is often not represented in major tournaments. But Sunday’s 1-0 win against Croatia was the first time England have won their first game at the European Championships – after five draws and four losses.
But now the spell has been broken, and it should certainly be good for the confidence of the team. Not that he has to rely on it: The team and fans are more confident than ever that going into the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup, there could be more to it this year. Raheem Sterling, the goalscorer against Croatia, said the team was better than it was three years ago, “one hundred percent, in all areas”. This Friday (at 9 p.m. on ZDF and MagentaTV in the FAZ live ticker for the European Football Championship) England will take on their old rivals Scotland in the second group game at London’s Wembley Stadium.
Sovereign’s performance against Croatia was indeed the team’s debut, after so much discussion that central midfielder Jordan Henderson and defender Harry Maguire would not be fully operational until later in the tournament due to injuries.
Coach Gareth Southgate also opted for a starting line-up that was not immediately obvious to everyone: Sterling had played a mixed season for his standards at Manchester City and the still more popular Jack Grealish was preferred; Right full-back Kieran Trippier surprisingly played left in the last four due to his leadership quality according to Southgate. The plan worked.
“Yorkshire Pirlo” brings security to England
Calvin Phillips has also recommended himself to play against Scotland. The 25-year-old had been promoted to the Premier League with Leeds United just a year earlier and impressed in his first season in England’s Premier League. He made his national team debut in September last year – and has now excelled in the defensive midfield against Croatia.
He, along with his neighbor Declan Rice, stabilized the defensive, blocked the opposing dice lines and went on the offensive on Southgate’s instructions. He was also the one who perfectly staged Sterling’s goal. Leeds fans refer to Phillips as the “Yorkshire Pirlo” – a nod to Italian football’s grand signour – and everyone in the country has known since Sunday how they came up with the nickname.
For the Scots, however, the European Championship started poorly. The team lost 2-0 to the Czech Republic on Monday in their first game at the World Cup or European Championship in 23 years. Scotland had started with a swing, and the bottom line was that they created significantly more scoring chances than the Czechs, but they were pretty useless. Prior to the start of the tournament, the data service Gracenote calculated a 57 percent chance of the Scots making the round of 16, as in addition to the first and second place winners in all groups, four out of six were third. Winners will progress.
But now the Scots will have to score points against more difficult opponents England and Croatia so as not to finish after the group stage. The key to the Scots game lies with full-back Andrew Robertson. He was the best player in the Scottish team against the Czech Republic, and with his efforts and assistance he has grown into one of the best players in his position at Liverpool FC.
While England is now on par with Europe’s best national teams, the game against “Old Enemy” is also historically and emotionally charged for Scots, also because of the current political disagreement on the subject of Brexit. The comparison between the two countries dates back 149 years: Scotland’s first official international football match was against England in November 1872. For a hundred years, between 1883 and 1984, the countries played against each other every spring in what was then the British International Championship.
Former national player Kevin Gallacher warmed up the mood ahead of the European Championship game by adding arrogance to the English camp. “You would think: it would be easy, it’s just Scotland,” he was quoted as saying. And the current players also believe that they have to prove something to their big neighbor south of the border. John McGuin said that the English media gave the impression that the performance gap between the two teams was huge – “it is up to us to deny it”. 22,500 fans will be at the stadium on Friday, including 2,600 Scots.
Raheem Sterling takes the rivalry calmly. Sure, the game was historically hot, but don’t let yourself be distracted: “We can’t go out there and fight the old battle.” For him, it’s just the next game. you take it from him Because they’ve already proven that the British have learned to shake off the old ballast when they finally won their first game at the European Championship on their tenth attempt.
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