The UEFA European Football Championship is the preeminent international tournament in Europe. The competition was founded in 1958, 31 years after Henri Delaunay initially proposed the idea. The tournament’s trophy is named in his honour and has been won by ten different countries. Only three teams have won it multiple times: Germany (thrice), Spain (thrice), and France (twice).
One noteworthy nation missing from the list of champions is England, despite being credited to creating modern football. However, England enters this year’s competition with hopes as high as they were in 1996 when they reached the semi-finals on home soil. English football as a whole is riding high after an all-English Champions League final. However, the English talent Chelsea have was on full display in dismantling Manchester City in that game. Can they replicate a similar form at the Euros?
The World Cup in 2018 appeared to bring on a new era of English football, with the young talent coming through under tactical flexibility; it turns out that was only the tip of the iceberg. In just three short years, a new wave of talent has cemented itself on the squad, building on already established players and presenting an entirely new team.
At the heart of this revolution are two players who significantly impacted the Champions League final, Phil Foden and Mason Mount. Two players with divergent paths to the top. Foden had long been heralded as the next golden boy of English football. In contrast, Mount had to endure intense scrutiny of his game, proving himself on loan before working diligently to establish himself at Chelsea. However, it seemed to have strengthened Mount as a player; he seems unfazed by the pressure, and his game has become the complete package.
With his development, England looks to be one of the favourites for the tournament. There is an upper echelon of nations with an excellent chance to win, and England is one of them. In fact, Euro 2020 betting has them as second-favourites at 11/2, just behind France at 9/2. With the England squad boasting talent like Mount, it could be their best chance to win at a major tournament since 1966.
People claimed that he was only making the Chelsea first XI because of former manager Frank Lampard. Still, he proved himself by becoming the crucial component in Thomas Tuchel’s starting XI and putting in a virtuoso performance in the Champions League final.
Mount now looks set to continue a similar role for England and looks all but guaranteed a starting spot. He ties together the attack and defence, bringing dynamism and creativity to the midfield.
Another player who has burst onto the scene since the 2018 World Cup is Ben Chilwell. His rise seemed to find a natural solution to England’s dilemma at left-back, where they often deployed Ashley Young. Before the most recent Premier League season, most football fans and pundits would have automatically selected Chilwell to start.
However, the past season saw Luke Shaw rekindle the form that made him such a tantalising prospect in his early years. He exhibited pace, composure on the ball and a stellar delivery, all of which earned him a place in the PFA Team of the Year. It seemed to end the debate over who should start at left-back, but Chilwell’s upturn in form under Tuchel towards the back end of the season and his spirited performance in the final has catapulted him back into contention. If Shaw does start, he will have Chilwell come in if there is any dip in form. Chilwell would probably be better suited to the England set-up after a season under Tuchel. He is tenacious defensively and can adapt to three at the back after playing in that formation for Chelsea. Whoever starts will have the best backup left-back in the competition, breathing down their necks.
Reece James follows a similar pattern to Mount and Chilwell in that he built his case in the Champions League final. Putting in a master class display, he locked up the left side of Manchester City’s attack. Gareth Southgate made the controversial call to bring four right-backs to the Euros. However, the injury to Trent Alexander-Arnold has presented a larger opportunity for James to start. Southgate has an unreasonable affiliation with Kieran Trippier. Although he won La Liga with Atlético Madrid and scored a free-kick against Croatia in 2018, James is still the superior player.
Kyle Walker is the ultimate professional and brings leadership to the squad, but Southgate has used him as a right-sided centre back in a three-man defence. If used, James would be the best option at right wing-back.
The England squad is brimming with young talent, and Chelsea looks to provide quality and depth. It’s entirely possible this could be the year where football does come home.