England vs Germany, a big European semi-final, the game goes into penalties…you already know how this ends.
It was a mightily valiant effort by England Under-21 side on Tuesday afternoon but it just wasn’t to be on this occasion, with familiar foes Germany coming out on top in a tense penalty shoot-out.
Goals from Leicester City’s Demarai Gray and new Swansea striker Tammy Abraham had turned the tables after a first-half opener from Germany’s Davie Selke, before Felix Platte sent the game into extra-time with a second-half header – and from there the rest is history.
Jordan Pickford kept out the German’s second penalty in the shoot-out but misses from Abraham, followed by the pivotal miss from Nathan Redmond, saw England crash out in an all too familiar way.
Although they fell narrowly short of adding to an already promising summer for England’s youth teams, there were some impressive individual performances throughout their Euro Championship journey.
The Boot Room looks at five players that could make a real impact in the Premier League next season.
Jordan Pickford – Everton
After being a stand-out player in a woeful Sunderland outfit last season, Jordan Pickford arrived at the tournament having secured a record £30million fee for a British goalkeeper to join up with Everton.
It seems a big amount for somebody who has only really had one breakthrough season in the Premier League but, based on his showings in Poland, he really has the potential to be special.
His penalty save in the opener against Sweden saved England two points – eventually helping them through the group stage – and his shot-stopping ability continuously impressed match after match.
The only reason England were in the game for so long against Germany was due to the relentless Pickford, facing up to over 30 German shots on goal, and he looks to be the future of this country.
Ben Chilwell – Leicester City
For a man who has generally been playing second-fiddle to Christian Fuchs at Leicester City for the past few seasons Ben Chilwell was somebody who really impressed at the European Championships.
Despite going into a big summer tournament with just seven Premier League starts under his belt he showed few signs of rustiness, looking positive on the ball and always aiming to attack on the left flank.
His pace and direct running – as well as his fearless nature on the pitch – showed glimpses that he could be the real deal, and he’ll hope for more first-team chances at Leicester in the upcoming year.
His defensive awareness of opposition runners in-behind him could do with a little work, and Germany targeted this at times on Tuesday, but there’s huge potential for him to develop into a quality left-back.
Demarai Gray – Leicester City
Seemingly always playing back-up to Marc Albrighton and Riyad Mahrez are the King Power Stadium for the past two seasons, Demarai Gray has always shown in spurts that he could make it on the big stage.
Left out of the starting eleven for the opening two matches, he came into the side against Poland and made an immediate impact with his energy in the final third, scoring a beauty inside six minutes.
This exciting display earnt him a shot against the Germans and once again he troubled them with his versatile running off the ball, always looking to get in-behind their back-line when given the chance.
It was his thumping effort that levelled matters shortly before the break before being taken off during the second-half, but on this showing he could easily push for a starting role at the Foxes now.
James Ward-Prowse – Southampton
It was by no means a vintage England performance against Germany – and they were perhaps fortunate to take the game to penalties – but their main threat came from this man’s set-pieces.
From the opening minute he caused problem after problem for a ropey German back-line, having an unnerving consistency from the dead ball and posing a question every time he delivered in the box.
Had they been clinical on Tuesday night they could have scored three or four from set-pieces alone so it was little surprise that England’s opener came from a perfectly whipped cross into the six-yard area.
Although Ward-Prowse is already an established part of Southampton’s side, a good summer tournament behind him could see him kick on even more and really catch the attention of England’s big sides.
Alfie Mawson – Swansea
After being a complete unknown entity this time last year Alfie Mawson has enjoyed one of the seasons of his life, playing an integral part in helping Swansea City narrowly avoid the drop last year.
His influential form at club level has seen him pick up a good sense of confidence and this showed over the past few weeks for England, leading from the back superbly as they reached the semi-finals.
His goal against Slovakia helped turn the tide in that game – leading England to a much-needed victory – and in general he has seemed composed, disciplined and generally solid as a centre-back.
Swansea will be hoping they can keep hold of him heading in to the new campaign but, if his performances carry on like they have been, it won’t be long before the bigger sides come knocking.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Steve McMetha.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek deserves England start after Tunisia cameo
The 22-year-old proved the catalyst for England in his second-half cameo.
England managed to get their World Cup campaign off to the perfect start with a win over Tunisia.
It wasn’t straightforward and they had to wait until stoppage time, but Harry Kane popped up at the crucial time to deliver three points.
Their next match is against Panama on Sunday and a win will almost certainly be enough to see them through to the next round.
Germany’s loss against Mexico means that it may be beneficial for the Three Lions to finish second in their group, but Gareth Southgate will be focused on qualifying first and foremost.
The performance from England was a refreshing one as the players looked to play in a positive manner and were confident in their ability to play out from the back.
There were some sketchy moments, but mistakes are part of the process and there is now real hope for a better future.
Southgate has put his faith in a lot of younger players and one made an impact on Monday.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek was a surprise selection, but the midfielder was brought on against Tunisia and he had a positive impact.
England looked like they were tiring and it was important that Southgate made the necessary changes to get a win.
It was a risk to bring on the 22-year-old considering his lack of experience, but he provided dynamism in the centre of the park when it was required.
During his short time on the pitch, he looked to be aggressive in his movement and managed to break free in the final third on a couple of occasions.
He completed one dribble and won his only aerial duel. Loftus-Cheek had a breakthrough season with Crystal Palace and he could emerge as one of the breakout stars of the competition if he continues to play in a positive manner.
At times, England looked lightweight and lacking ideas in the middle of the park.
Dele Alli was a shadow of his usual self and appeared to be carrying a knock. He managed to produce one key pass, but his influence was limited.
Meanwhile, Jesse Lingard offered threatening movement, but his final ball was poor. He had a number of chances in the final third and none of them resulted in a goal.
Although he was only on the pitch for roughly ten minutes, Loftus-Cheek provided athleticism and drive that the team were previously lacking.
All of his contributions were made with the right intentions and he seemed to grow on the world stage.
It would have been easy for the midfielder to come on and play it safe. He didn’t do that and Southgate would have been encouraged by that.
Panama is a game that England should be targeting for three points. Southgate saw that his chosen formation worked against Tunisia, but there could be a change of players that makes it more effective.
Loftus-Cheek has to be one of the players lined up for a start for either Lingard or Alli. There is an opportunity for experimentation and if the 22-year-old can deliver over ninety minutes, it could be a sign of what is to come this summer.
Three things learnt from England’s World Cup victory against Tunisia
They left it late, but The Three Lions grabbed a deserved opening game victory.
England kicked off their World Cup campaign with a victory against Tunisia on Monday evening and gave their chances of qualifying for the knock-out stages of the tournament a significant boost.
However, it was far from straightforward and it took a last-gasp injury time goal from Harry Kane to secure the three points.
Here, The Boot Room highlights three things that we learnt from England vs Tunisia.
Harry Kane is key to England’s prospects
We have often seen England players struggled to perform at major international tournaments, but Harry Kane quickly squashed any doubts over whether he would be able to transfer his domestic goal scoring form onto the international stage.
The Tottenham Hotspur forward scored 41 goals for his club this season and he further underlined the claim that he is one of the best striker’s in Europe with two crucial strikes on Monday evening. Neither were particularly impressive, both were close range finishes, but his knack of being in the right place at the right time was ultimately the difference on the night.
It is easy to forget that Kane is only 24-years-old and is one of the youngest captains at the World Cup, yet he showed no signs of feeling the pressure and his clinical instincts in front of goal will be key if England are to progress to the latter stages of the tournament.
Need to be more clinical in front of goal
In many respects, Harry Kane’s injury-time winner has meant that the attention has been directed away by how wasteful England were in front of goal during the opening period.
Whilst the team produced an impressive first half display, a number of individual players were guilty of missing a host of guilt-edged chances. Dele Alli saw his header deflected onto the bar whilst Jesse Lingard failed to convert two clear-cut chances, one clipping the post whilst the other was fired too close to the Tunisian goalkeeper.
In truth, England could have been out of sight by half time and Tunisia were fortunate to reach the half time interval on level terms.
However, if Gareth Southgate’s side are to progress to the latter stages of the World Cup then they can ill afford to be as wasteful in front of goal as they were on Monday, especially when they come up against better opposition.
Midway through the second half with the game tied at one goal apiece Gareth Southgate would have undoubtedly glanced back at the England substitutes gathered on the bench as he considered how to change the game.
The good news is that the squad has good strength in depth, particularly in forward areas, and there are certainly plenty of players that have the capacity to make an impact when coming off the bench.
On Monday evening Southgate opted to place his faith in Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Both came on and made a significant impact on the game with their energy, pace, power and movement and their introduction certainly helped to generate new momentum in the closing stages of the contest.
It is refreshing to see an England squad that has so many options, Jamie Vardy and Danny Welbeck were not involved, and it will be crucial that Southgate utilises all the talent in his squad as the tournament progresses.
World Cup One To Watch: England’s 24-year-old goalkeeper Jordan Pickford
The England international will be a player to keep an eye out for in Russia.
At a time when the country’s goalkeeping options have never looked stronger, the Everton number one has emerged as Gareth Southgate’s preferred option ahead of this month’s competition in Russia.
To see who else features in The Boot Room’s World Cup Ones to Watch series, click here.
Who is he?
Jordan Pickford became the most expensive British keeper in history after Everton paid £25 million – rising to what would be a club record £30 million – to sign him from Sunderland last summer.
A product of the Black Cats’ Academy, after joining the club aged eight – he has had spells on loan at Darlington, Alfreton Town, Burton Albion, Carlisle United, Bradford City and Preston North End.
Despite a turbulent season for the club as a whole, Pickford enjoyed an impressive debut campaign at Goodison Park, which saw him named the Toffees’ Player of the Season, Players’ Player of the Season and Young Player of the Season.
Playing every minute in all 38 Premier League fixtures for the Blues, the 24-year-old has quickly begun to repay what had previously been considered a hefty price-tag.
What is his international experience/record?
Having represented England at all levels from Under-16s, Pickford his senior bow in a 0-0 draw against world champions Germany in November 2017 before keeping a second clean sheet in a 1-0 away win against Holland in his second appearance for The Three Lions.
The 24-year-old made only his third international appearances when he started in a 2-1 friendly victory over Nigeria last weekend before he was all-but confirmed as Southgate’s number one shot-stopper ahead of the summer competition.
It is suggested that his superior ability with the ball at his feet and distribution is more conducive to the possession-based pressing style the relatively inexperienced England boss wants to implement.
Why will he be a breakout World Cup star?
“I was really pleased with what Jordan did,” Gareth Southgate revealed, as per BBC Sport, full of praise for Pickford after his performance against Nigeria.
“Normally, when you play for England, there’s not an awful lot of opportunity to produce a lot of saves. But his decision making on crosses, the punch he made, his distribution and calmness to slide passes into midfield… that was really important to the way we want to play.”
Pickford’s form will be absolutely key for an England side that has struggled for creativity in recent years.
The Three Lions’ progression from Group C – competing with Belgium, Tunisia and Panama – is likely to come down to the slimmest of margins and, in keeping goals out at the other end of the pitch, the 24-year-old will be instrumental.
What is his future after the World Cup?
While many Premier League fans would initially consider Pickford content to stay at Goodison Park, an impressive showing in Russia could prove a springboard to even greater things.
According to recent reports by The Sun, Bayern have been scouting Pickford in recent months as they look to bring in a new long-term first-choice goalkeeper.
The former Sunderland favourite’s progress since his £30 million move means the Bavarian giants have identified the 24-year-old as a top choice for succeeding club icon Manuel Neuer.
Ahead of the World Cup, Bayern will surely not be the only side monitoring his future, with assured goalkeepers becoming increasingly difficult to lay hands on.
Involvement in Russia could result in an unexpected and somewhat premature Goodison exit for Pickford. Watch this space.
To see who else features in The Boot Room’s World Cup Ones to Watch series, click here.