Southgate under pressure to twist for Euros showdown with Swiss

Southgate has so far stuck to his guns with 10 of the same 11 starting all four matches.


Saved by a dramatic late fightback to beat Slovakia, Gareth Southgate will take charge of England for the 100th time in Saturday’s Euro 2024 quarter-final against Switzerland under pressure to tear up his tactical plan.

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The Three Lions have stumbled their way through to the last eight, winning just one of their four games within 90 minutes, and a star-studded squad who thrive when playing for their clubs has so far failed to deliver.

Yet history could still beckon for Southgate’s men in Germany.

England are the highest ranked side left on the ‘soft’ side of the draw with Turkey or the Netherlands waiting in the semi-finals should they manage to defeat the Swiss in Duesseldorf.

Switzerland, who cruised past holders Italy 2-0 in the last 16 and held Germany 1-1 in the group stages, promise to be a step up from anything England have faced at the tournament so far.

Failure to change tack is likely to see Southgate bow out as England boss at a century of matches and invite a tidal wave of criticism for failing to make the most of the talent at his disposal.

He has already been targeted at this tournament with thrown beer cups after a dull 0-0 draw with Slovenia in the group stages.

Southgate has so far stuck to his guns with 10 of the same 11 starting all four matches.

There will be one enforced change to face the Swiss as defender Marc Guehi is suspended.

But it is further forward that Southgate faces bigger challenges to correct England’s imbalance.

Any questions over Jude Bellingham’s role as a number 10 appear to have been wiped away by his stunning overhead kick deep into stoppage time against Slovakia to keep England alive.

– Foden ‘sorry’ for Southgate –

However, Bellingham’s position as the creative hub of the team does cause Southgate other issues.

Phil Foden, who picked up Premier League player of the year awards for his starring role in Manchester City’s title triumph this season, has looked out of sorts shunted out to the left to accommodate the Real Madrid man.

Meanwhile, there is little threat down England’s left as Foden has drifted inside and Southgate’s decision not to take a fit natural left-back, with Luke Shaw battling back from injury, has proved misguided.

“I feel sorry for Gareth,” Foden told reporters this week. “We (the players) have to be leaders. In games we could have got together a little bit more and worked out a solution.”

Southgate also admitted after the Slovakia match that both his goalscorers, Bellingham and Harry Kane, were physically exhausted 15 minutes from the end but were kept on for the one moment of magic they can produce.

Bar a Bellingham exhibition for the first half of a 1-0 win over Serbia in England’s opening game, both have been far from their best but are undroppable in the eyes of their manager.

Instead, Southgate is reportedly looking at switching to a back three, which served him well in reaching the 2018 World Cup semi-finals and the final at Euro 2020.

That would allow both Foden and Bellingham to play centrally, behind Kane, but runs the risk of still leaving England to easy to play against without natural width.

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John Stones said he hoped the second chance offered by the Slovakia fightback will act as a “turning point emotionally” for a squad trying to find their mojo.

“It’s time for us to realise where we are and the magnitude of what we can achieve and put that into practice,” added the Manchester City defender.

Bellingham’s memorable goal in Gelsenkirchen stopped the rot and all will be forgotten and forgiven should England emerge victorious in Berlin on July 14.

On the other hand, if they are instead on a plane home on Sunday morning, Euro 2024 will be a stain on Southgate’s legacy after eight years as England boss.

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