Sunday, July 21, 2024

Euro 2024: Spain impressive against Italy, England disappoint in Denmark draw

Good morning, here’s a very quick Friday blog for you because despite the fact it’s early, I’m running late.

Spain 1-0 Italy

Jorginho played the first half for Italy, but kinda got the run around from Pedri and the Spanish side who were very good. He got replaced at the break. It didn’t really help the Italians in any way who had goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma to thank for keeping the scoreline respectable. That and some wayward finishing from Spain who had 20 shots to Italy’s 4.

I thought Nico Williams had an impressive game, and Spain were so good Marc Cucurella looked like a decent player. The only thing they were missing was the finish, and it was quite interesting to see how often they shot from distance – something you really don’t associate with them. I don’t know if they’ve seen some of the long-distance goals in this tournament and just fancy a bit of that action, or something else, but it stood out.

I suppose it’s also interesting that despite all their dominance, the only goal had a touch of good fortune. Williams and Alvaro Morata were involved, but the touch off Donnarumma saw the ball cannon in off Riccardo Calafiori for an own goal. You make your own luck etc etc, but in truth Spain should have won this comfortably. They have produced some incredible talent down the years, but what they could achieve with a high level centre-forward is kinda scary – thankfully for everyone else they don’t have that.

England 1-1 Denmark

England do have a high level centre-forward, or someone who used to be one, anyway. However, Harry Kane has grown so used to playing for himself, he’s a problem for the rest of the team. It was so notable that when Ollie Watkins came on that he ran at the Denmark defence, in stark contrast to Kane who spent most of the game running towards his own defenders, dropping far too deep, getting in the way, and leaving his team without an outlet up front.

He wasn’t the only problem, obviously. Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield didn’t work, Phil Foden on the left doesn’t work, Jude Bellingham is less effective when he’s trying to dribble past his own captain as well as the opposition, and it was hard not to look at a very talented England side as one that is well and truly fashioned in the image of their manager: bland and uninspiring. Beige cardigans all over the place.

The pitch didn’t help, but then that was true for both sides. England took the lead after Kyle Walker caught a defender napping, and some good fortune saw the ball squirt through to Kane who was never going to miss from 6 yards out. But rather than build on the lead, England went into their shells. They didn’t build on the goal, and I suppose it’s a matter of opinion how you view this. Did they retreat in an overly passive way, or did Denmark respond really well?

It’s probably a little from Column A, a little from Column B, but England look like a side that think goals are hard to come by, so when they get one, subconsciously they drop off. I do think Denmark deserve credit though. In the time between Kane’s goal and the fizzing equaliser from Morten Hjulmand, the Danes had 76% possession, with 5 shots to 1, pressuring a nervous England into a period where they passed the ball with just 75% accuracy. They sensed the nervousness and exploited it, Kane’s terrible pass leading to the equaliser.

Southgate’s second half changes didn’t really work. Watkins at least provided some movement up front, but when you’re replacing a man who had a stinker despite scoring England’s only goal, it’s not that difficult to look better. England were probably lucky not to lose it too, Denmark had some late chances they didn’t quite make the most of, but a draw keeps England top of the group and gives Southgate a chance to think.

The fact he was bemoaning the absence of ‘a Kalvin Phillips’ in midfield would have my alarm bells ringing if I were an England fan. That’s such an odd thing to complain about when you have the talent he has at his disposal, and we’ll wait and what kind of changes he makes – if any – for the final group game against Slovenia on Tuesday.

Right, gotta dash – there’s a brand new Arsecast for you below, and a new episode of our Euro 2024 series over on Patreon, chatting to Dan from HLTCO about England and lots more besides.

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