3 things we learned from England v. Scotland
Scotland will be the happier of the two United Kingdom nations after Steve Clarke and the Tartan Army secured a 0-0 draw with England in the sides’ EURO 2020 Group D clash at Wembley Stadium in London on Friday.
The result leaves England in 2nd place behind the Czech Republic on goal difference ahead of their final-day clash on Tuesday (3 pm ET). Scotland, meanwhile, have their first point of EURO 2020 and will likely go through to the knockout rounds if they can beat Croatia in Glasgow.
Three things we learned: England - Scotland
1. Kane nonexistent in England setup: Here’s a perfect example of why “just play the 11 most talented players, and we’ll win” almost never works in a tactical sense: Harry Kane is the captain, no. 9 and just had an incredible season for Tottenham; Phil Foden looks like a generation talent that’ll star for England for a decade or more; Mason Mount just had a sensational season at Chelsea, for whom he played an important part in winning the Champions League. On paper, each player has more than earned his place in this England team, and arguably in the starting lineup. On the field, though, the season’s accolades don’t matter one bit, and it’s simply down to how the players fit together — or, in England’s case, how they don’t. For instance, the fact that each player’s greatest ability (Kane dropping in, Foden cutting in and Mount pushing on) actually sees the three players converge on the same space and trip all over one another. That’s what inevitably happens when England attack. Not some of the time. Every. Time. Given the players’ lack of time to train together and build on-field chemistry with one another, this isn’t so much a criticism of any one player or even of Southgate, but more so an observation (and a desperate plea for it to change) after 180 uninspiring minutes at EURO 2020.
2. Everything changed when Grealish came on: Jack Grealish came on after 63 minutes, replacing Foden, and immediately the team found better balance among the front four. Grealish, who plays wide on the left almost exclusively for Aston Villa, was deployed in that same spot by Southgate, pushing Raheem Sterling from left to right wing, which opened up an entire channel of space for Mouth to surge into as Kane continued to fill the left channel and drift out wide on the left as Grealish tucked inside the fill the void. The England attack, finally, was fluid. Kane was substituted off not long after, though, and he certainly didn’t look 100 percent fit as he left the field at Wembley.
3. Jadon Sancho could play, too: As I told Nick on Twitter, the ball progression numbers are so good that they actually look fake, impossible, totally unreal.
Man of the match: Mason Mount - Despite the traffic jam among the front unit, Mount was at the center of virtually everything England managed to create against Scotland.
England so nearly went ahead in the 11th minute, but John Stones put his header from six yards out off the post after the ball was served up for easy pickings at the near post.
England’s next quality chance came in the 29th minute, and Kane will be kicking himself for not putting it away. Reece James delivered a sensational ball into the box from the right side, but Kane was ever so late in arriving to the back post and he could only head it wide of the post.
Alarm bells were quickly and desperately ringing for the England defense from the ensuing restart. Stephen O’Donnell unleashed a heavy strike from outside the box that looked like giving Jordan Pickford worlds of trouble with precious little time to react. Pickford came up massive to make the save as he dove low and to his right.
It was England who had to answer the emergency sirens just after the hour mark when Scotland went frighteningly close, but James just managed to save the day. Lyndon Dykes put his shot on target from a corner kick and the ball looked certain to his the back of the net, only for James to head it clear from the line.
Perhaps England should have been awarded a penalty kick in the 78th minute, when Sterling went down under what appeared to be contact from Andrew Robertson. No call on the field, no change of call from the VAR.
The Three Lions’ final chance came in stoppage time, when Sterling appeared to go one against a half-dozen blue shirts in the penalty area, trying to poke the ball free from the scrum which formed in front of goal. Eventually, John McGinn came away with the ball and smashed it free to preserve the goalless final score.