Euro 2020: The England we saw against Romania on a strange night will be different from Croatia’s opener

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Before anyone gets too judgmental about another patchy performance in England, it’s worth noting that this wasn’t really England after all. It was certainly not a version of the England we will see against Croatia next Sunday at Wembley.

How many of these starting eleven will realistically enter Gareth Southgate’s team over the weekend? Three or four at once maybe?

Even by the standards of pre-tournament friendlies, this all felt a bit odd. Southgate’s team had three players who were not even in their selection for the European Championship at kick-off. That must certainly be a first.

England has again given a fragmentary rendering, but this version will be very different from Croatia's

England has again given a fragmentary rendering, but this version will be very different from Croatia’s

So there wasn’t much to learn, just confirmation of what we already know. Some of it was good and some not so good.

Jack Grealish was once again England’s best player. The Aston Villa forward has not allowed his recent shin injury to interrupt his seamless adaptation to international football and it now seems inconceivable that he will not be on Southgate’s squad when the tournament starts.

His ability to win free kicks in the kinds of places English teams have traditionally taken advantage of should not be understated for starters.

Marcus Rashford walked into the spaces behind the Romanian defense in a way no one really did against Austria last Wednesday and converted a super penalty. Meanwhile, goalkeeper Sam Johnstone’s late save to ensure England at least won the game was one of the best of all over the course of just last season.

On the other side of Southgate’s medal was somewhat uncertain defending and another less than impressive 90 minutes through Tyrone Mings.

Ben Godfrey started as a right back

Ben Godfrey started as a right back

James Ward-Prowse got a start despite not being in the squad

James Ward-Prowse got a start despite not being in the squad

England drafted three players who were not even chosen in the 26-man squad for Euro 2020

Ben White sat next to Ben Godfrey and James Ward-Prowse despite not making a squad

Ben White sat next to Ben Godfrey and James Ward-Prowse despite not making a squad

Ben White sat next to Ben Godfrey and James Ward-Prowse despite not making a squad

When Grealish has made his way to the England team over the course of the last 180 minutes of football, his club-mate has at times looked as though he has gone out of his way to do the exact opposite.

The more Southgate thinks about the way his team has defended this past week in the absence of Harry Maguire, the more tempted he may be to return to a three-man backline against a Croatian team that will be more clinical than Austria or Romania. succeeded.

England have conceded far too many chances against two average teams – Romania isn’t even in the tournament – and that should worry Southgate a little.

Midway through the second half, Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham came on as substitutes. As strange as it may sound when we talk about two young footballers, it kind of felt like the cavalry had arrived.

Gareth Southgate may be more inclined to switch to a back-three after England defence

Gareth Southgate may be more inclined to switch to a back-three after England defence

Gareth Southgate may be more inclined to switch to a back-three after England defence

Mason Mount, Phil Foden and Ben Chilwell sat unused in the stands after their Champions League efforts.

Could they have played here for half an hour? It seems far-fetched to think they couldn’t have done that. Anyway, most if not all will start against Croatia and that brings us neatly to the issue of Jordan Henderson.

England could certainly use the experience and temperament of the Liverpool captain on the team. His missed penalty should not be considered here. He probably shouldn’t have taken it, but it doesn’t matter.

More important is whether he can be expected to play a lot at the European Championship. Before kicking off here, there was a typically edgy punditry by ITV’s Roy Keane.

Keane dismissed the idea that Henderson’s presence in the English camp could be beneficial for morale, saying, “Clearly Jordan is not fit. I don’t think he should be involved.

“I’ve heard people say they want it everywhere. for what? Does he do card tricks?

Tyrone Mings had another inconclusive 90 minutes with England's defense a concern

Tyrone Mings had another inconclusive 90 minutes with England's defense a concern

Tyrone Mings had another inconclusive 90 minutes with England’s defense a concern

‘Does he have a song? Does he do quizzes at night?’

Keane took Manchester United’s quizzes very seriously when they were a staple of the club’s outings under Sir Alex Ferguson. If that surprises you, check out the You Tube footage.

Coincidentally, Wayne Rooney and the former England forward had a more considered opinion about how hard it will be for Henderson this summer to think he hasn’t played since February.

Rooney came to the 2006 World Cup and Euro 2012 with an injury and wrote in the Sunday Times yesterday: ‘You do everything in training. You feel good, but then you get thrown into a tournament game and it feels very different.

‘It’s the expectation, the pressure, the build-up. It all asks a lot of you and if you are not completely fit you will be discovered.’

Every player is different and what can be taken for granted is that Henderson made his recovery in the most professional way possible. Likewise, there is no substitute for competitive play and what the 30-year-old has been through here can only be loosely described as that.

Jordan Henderson's fitness remains a question after only being able to play for 45 minutes

Jordan Henderson's fitness remains a question after only being able to play for 45 minutes

Jordan Henderson’s fitness remains a question after only being able to play for 45 minutes

Fielding Henderson against Croatia feels like a no-go and then comes a Friday night game with Scotland, arguably England’s most frenetic international in years.

If England win their opening game, the debate over Henderson’s worth will cool down a bit anyway. They’ll have to be better than this to do that, but there’s no reason to believe they won’t be.

This was England in name only. We are now waiting for the end of what has been an extraordinary fake war.

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