JERMAINE JENAS: Gareth Southgate’s England heavyweights box clever and land killer blows… they refused to take their foot off the gas, even when Ukraine were beaten
- England attacked at will and they showed great maturity on Saturday night
- They have pride in the clean sheet, they celebrate every tackle, every block
- Harry Maguire, Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips among players set in stone
Watching England in this tournament had been a bit like seeing a heavyweight boxer win a few matches but without putting anyone on the canvas. Sometimes, that can get a bit frustrating.
After showing glimpses against Germany, Gareth Southgate’s men last night landed that knockout punch. Against Ukraine, England attacked at will. They showed great maturity too. It would have been easy to get complacent and let Ukraine back into the match. England refused to take their foot off the pedal.
I was impressed by how they pressed as a unit and kept doing so, despite the score, and in 30-degree heat in Rome. They dropped into a medium block, looked solid and the spaces between defence, midfield and attack were perfect.
Gareth Southgate’s England landed a knockout punch against Ukraine on Saturday night
When one player went to press, they all went. When they won the ball back, they sprung up and opened wide areas at pace. If they couldn’t, they kept the ball and dictated the tempo. It was a lesson in game management.
It’s one thing doing it when you are so far ahead, instead of in the big moments of a close game. The next matches are going to be tighter. But the signs here were good. You can still not manage the game well when you are so far ahead. You can lose intensity, you can start thinking about the next game, saving your legs, enjoying the Oles from the crowd.
This team doesn’t do that. They have pride in the clean sheet, they celebrate every tackle, every block. That’s their mentality under Southgate. That will enable them to stay sharp in the moments when it’s 1-0 and everything is on the line. This will give them a lot of confidence.
The side is settled too. I cannot see the back seven changing for the rest of the tournament.
Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has not conceded a goal at the 2020 European Championship
I think Southgate will stick with a four-man defence and the personnel of Jordan Pickford, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips is now set in stone. The only places really up for grabs are those of Mason Mount and Jadon Sancho, but both of them performed well against Ukraine.
Jack Grealish has done enough to warrant another start but perhaps Southgate sees him as his insurance policy off the bench.
Denmark will be dangerous. They have shown how much they can hurt you on the counter-attack if you don’t manage the game well.
They know what it takes to beat England too. They got the better of us at Wembley in the Nations League. England weren’t at their peak then but it will still be firm in Gareth’s mind. And past history of semi-finals will always make England fans edgy.
Yet off the back of the Germany game and last night, I am confident. The players should be as well.
Mason Mount and Jadon Sancho (above) both of performed well against Ukraine