Big thanks once again go to Kerfuffle’s IT Director Paul Morgan for an insightful report and some thoughts on both taking the knee and what lies ahead against Denmark. And, this being Kerfuffle, there’s a gratuitous plug at the end, too, as a thanks for another brilliant report. Over to you Paul…
Pre-match, this was expected to be comparable to the Scotland game because Ukraine has similar tactics. Yet England were rarely challenged in their 4-0 Euro 2020 quarter-final victory. They were very good in almost every aspect and wrapped up the contest with half an hour remaining.
It helped, of course, that Ukraine tired following an exhausting 120 minutes against Sweden four days earlier. Yet it feels like the England team are steadily increasing the pressure with every game, and there is more intensity to come!
I especially liked that we didn’t match up in the same formation as Ukraine. It felt bolder.
Ukraine: Ukraine, on paper, were a 3-5-2. But to my eye, they started the game in a 5-3-2 formation to prevent England from overloading the wide areas in the final third.
However, conceding a goal in the first 5 minutes of the game disrupted the Ukrainian game-plan somewhat. I felt they had some success in the first 30 minutes having three players mark Shaw around the halfway line in an attempt to win the ball then cross-field for an attack on England’s right.
But the injury to Kryvtsov caused Ukraine to switch to a back four, which gave some success in the last 10 minutes of the first half but ultimately allowed England to further expose Ukraine in the wide areas.
Matvienko was particularly poor. He was one of the two playing Kane onside for the first goal, and he let Maguire get goalside while every other defender was deeper than him for the second, then had no idea where his man – Kane – was for the third.
That’s enough talk of Ukraine. I know we estate agents like to talk about competitors when they’re losing market share, but it’s time to look at England.
England: It does feel that most of England’s Euro 2020 goals have come through management rather than player improvisation. Therefore, I’m not going to describe the goals. You can read them in any newspaper. Instead, I want to focus on the formations and play patterns.
England started with the press. Sancho and Sterling moved fast towards any Ukraine player with-the-ball moving through the middle, while Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips moved to mop up the loose balls resulting from Sancho and Sterling’s press. Simultaneously, Luke Shaw and Kyle Walker pushed forward to shut Ukraine’s wide players down when the ball was cycled wide by Ukraine. This six-man press resulted in Ukraine making panicked clearances that England won.
Once on the ball, England moved the ball quickly to the wings to build attacks from the wide areas.
On England’s left, the wide-play combination between Raheem Sterling and Luke Shaw was awe-inspiring. At the same time, Kane and Sterling made for a fun big man-little man partnership, the latter stretching the play with his dynamism and his captain staying as a central point for eventual crosses. (They are almost as effective a big man-little man partnership as Nat Daniels and Craig Vile of ValPal.)
It was less impressive on the right from Sancho and Walker. Yet, it seemed to me that Walker had been asked to stay back and be conservative (ie, no overlaps or bombing runs forward), while Sancho was successful at dribbling past players and drawing players towards him to create space for other players. Saka and Foden would have been less successful at causing Ukraine’s defence to stretch wide because they both tend to drift inside, justifying Southgate’s rotation of right-sided attackers.
England were measured in their pacing throughout each half. They attacked with intent in the first 10 minutes of each half, then worked the press to force opponents to use energy for the remaining 35 minutes of each game, taking potential randomness out of the game. We’ve seen this in every game except the Scotland game, and it feels like a tactic that will work for us unless we concede early.
- England is the first team ever to begin a European Championship with five consecutive clean sheets. Our defence should be lauded.
- In the 2018 World Cup, we looked like we had no ideas in the knockout stages. We’d won many penalties in the first few games, but as these dried up our team looked out of ideas. This time around, we look fresh. The player rotation and changes in formation are working, and England’s confidence grows with each display.
- England has no one to fear at this point. Yes, Denmark, Spain or Italy could beat them, but England could beat any of them, too.
- Our record in tournaments is underwhelming, while back-to-back semi-finals are unprecedented. It feels like a bumper bonus-payment after a busy stamp-duty-holiday period. Let us enjoy it!
Taking the knee: I love that the England team are taking the knee in every game, making a stand against racism. I particularly applaud Bob Scarff for highlighting this in his match report of England’s first Euro 2020 game. The book he recommended, “Why We Kneel How We Rise” by West Indies cricketing legend Michael Holding, is now available to buy.
And if you got this far, here’s the shameless plug: I hoped you are enjoying my thoughts on the game. I work for Kerfuffle and I bet I can find a tech or ideas to help you increase profit in under 60 seconds. Give me a try. Kerfuffle provides help with proptech, consultancy on estate agency strategy, digital marketing, compliance and loads of other areas, and we help with agency training.