England hit by back-end problems ahead of Euro 2020 opener against Croatia

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Harry Maguire is a HUGE miss, Tyrone Mings already looks like he needs a holiday… and is John Stones ready to be the senior man in the middle? England hit by back problems ahead of Euro 2020 opener against Croatia

  • Gareth Southgate has some issues sorting back center for Euro 2020
  • It seems unlikely that Harry Maguire is suitable for England’s opening match with Croatia
  • Tyrone Mings could be a good fill-in, but he didn’t look good in the warm-up games
  • Manchester City’s John Stones set to become key defense leader leider
  • Southgate admits his team needs to play better than last week
  • Read the latest Euro 2020 news, including fixtures, live action and results here.

Prior to the World Cup in Russia, Gareth Southgate had his entire team together for 15 consecutive training sessions. Ahead of the European Championship that starts on Sunday for his team against Croatia, the English manager has only five.

The English club’s success is largely to blame. Manchester United’s entry into the Europa League final and Chelsea and Manchester City’s meeting in the Champions League final means Southgate won’t be getting their entire player base working together until today.

There is a lot to work on. The two teams that recently played friendlies against Romania and Austria in the northeast seemed a little evenly matched. Sometimes they played like that.

England won both warm-up matches, against Austria and then Romania, with one goal

England won both warm-up matches, against Austria and then Romania, with one goal

There is plenty to think about for Gareth Southgate in the run-up to the opening match of the Euro 2020 England European Championship.

There is plenty to think about for Gareth Southgate in the run-up to the opening match of the Euro 2020 England European Championship.

There is plenty to think about for Gareth Southgate in the run-up to the opening match of the Euro 2020 England European Championship.

Two wins on one goal didn’t diminish some fairly wide cracks, especially in the middle of defence. Southgate was in no mood to hide from that on Monday.

When asked if England should find some defensive improvement for the game against Croatia, Southgate replied: ‘Yes, absolutely. I didn’t like us without the ball in the first half, but so was the whole team. That started from the beginning.

“We were not disciplined in the way we defended. Our recovery runs were not good enough. It meant the midfield was stretched and the back players had to make too many decisions.

“They had to get into areas they shouldn’t have been. We can certainly improve that.

“There is still a lot of work to be done on the training ground because we cannot give up the number of chances we have been given against Romania and expect not to be punished.”

Southgate told the BBC on Sunday that he knows 10 of his 11 starters to take on Croatia. The only place up for grabs would be on the attack.

After keeping his players in the dark about formation and staffing for the first game thus far, there is a feeling among the squad that he will remain loyal to those who have served him well in the past. So hope for Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling despite the poor club form.

In the back, Southgate just has some coaching to do. The peace he delivered on Sunday at Riverside was in every way a mirror of conversations he has already had with his players about their work from possession.

John Stones should be ready to be the key figure at the heart of the defense this summer

John Stones should be ready to be the key figure at the heart of the defense this summer

John Stones should be ready to be the key figure at the heart of the defense this summer

One source has so far described training as “like a boot camp.” From now on, Southgate will have to see evidence that some messages are getting through.

“I don’t think there is one area or aspect that is critical,” he said. “To win tournaments, we have to get every aspect right. We can improve on all the little details of the two gigs we’ve had. Some things about discipline and details about defending set plays.

“Against Romania there were other things that were not good enough that need to be emphasized and rectified before Sunday’s game.

“Now this is one of those rare occasions where you get some work with the team, some continuity and opportunities to improve and we’ll be taking every opportunity over the next few weeks of tournament to do that and polish every aspect of our game. ‘

Tyrone Mings already looks like he needs a vacation after playing both warm-up games

Tyrone Mings already looks like he needs a vacation after playing both warm-up games

Tyrone Mings already looks like he needs a vacation after playing both warm-up games

Southgate is fortunate to work with honest and flexible players. Young footballers who come from English academies to big clubs know what it takes from a very young age. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t get through.

Form, fitness and confidence are another matter, however, and this is the concern when looking at Southgate’s backline, where Tyrone Mings already looks like he needs a holiday.

The injured Harry Maguire will be a huge loss. His absence not only leaves a gap to fill, but also means that John Stones is the senior man in the middle. Is he ready for that?

We shall see. Southgate has occasionally been criticized for being too cautious, but now may be the time to be just that.

The absence of Harry Maguire early in the tournament leaves a huge gap to fill the defence centre

The absence of Harry Maguire early in the tournament leaves a huge gap to fill the defence centre

The absence of Harry Maguire early in the tournament leaves a huge gap to fill the defence centre

England must not lose to Croatia. An opening tie is fine in a group from which two teams – and perhaps three – will be promoted. Victory would be nice, but not necessary.

“Every time I’ve written up a team in the last 12 months, I’ve had to take the rubber out and replace it because we’ve lost people,” said Southgate. “So I don’t dare write it in ink now. Hopefully we can prevent injuries or illness in the coming days.’

International tournaments are all about timing. Teams must arrive match ready at game one. England seems a bit short at the moment. Southgate needs a good week on the grass.

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