Gareth Southgate’s part-hosts are among the favourites, and their captain feels that a stronger squad will help them rise to the challenge
Harry Kane says that England are “in a better place” as a squad compared to where they were ahead of the Russia 2018 World Cup, as the Three Lions look to take advantage of a Euro 2020 tournament that could well be played near-exclusively on home turf.
Gareth Southgate’s side are among the favourites to win a first major trophy for over half a century at this summer’s rearranged pan-continental event, after securing a surprise last-four berth three years ago, backed up by a bronze Nations League finish in 2019.
England, who could play all but one of their games at Wembley Stadium if they reach the final, face a tricky path to glory, starting with Croatia – the side who bested them in the semi-finals in Russia – on Sunday, but Kane feels a stronger squad this time around could bode well for their chances.
- Euro 2020 Top 100 Players to Watch: 100-81 revealed
- ‘The song exists because I scored 25 goals!’ – Grigg reveals frustration at Euro 2016 cult song
- Barcelona, Chelsea, PSG: Why Europe’s ‘super clubs’ are rising to the top of the women’s game
- NXGN x Euro 2020: The making of Spain starlet Pedri
What has been said?
“We’re probably in a better place,” Kane told the official England podcast after warm-up victories over Austria and Romania. “Going into that World Cup, we maybe weren’t sure where we were as a team, but we performed really well and stepped up to the occasion.
“I feel like now we’ve had a bit more experience, players in the biggest games for their club and obviously players who have played in that World Cup have had that experience as well.
“I feel like we are in a good place. We know there is still a lot of hard work that goes into it. We don’t just turn up and win the tournament.
“We haven’t won a tournament as a country for a long time, so there needs to be a lot of good mentality along the whole way as it is a long, tough journey to get to the later stages of a major tournament.”
Kane keen to banish Croatia ghosts with fans
The Tottenham forward is one of nine players included in England’s squad for the tournament opener who faced Croatia in the extra-time defeat in Moscow, and admits that the loss still pains him – but also says that the Three Lions will only be looking to the present rather than the past when they meet.
“It’s a game that hurts,” he noted. “It’s a game we wanted to win and we wanted to get to a World Cup final, but it doesn’t always pan out how you want. We just fell short in that moment.
“But it’s a game for us in a big tournament and Croatia are a great side. We’ll be focused on their team and trying to stop their threats and we’ll try to get on the ball and create chances. The most important thing is to look forward and just try to beat them.”
As for the return of supporters, who are expected to potentially increase in numbers throughout the competition, he added: “It’s been strange without fans
“I’m really excited to have a certain number for the group stages and, hopefully, the restrictions get less and less and we can have more in there as the tournament goes on.”
The bigger picture
Alongside fellow top-four finishers in Russia, reigning World Cup holders France and Nations League finalists Belgium, England sit among the favourites to taste success this summer.
Yet the spectre of traditional shortcomings will loom large, even in their own backyard, with Southgate’s semi-final finish in 2018 the first time the Three Lions had reached such a stage since they hosted Euro 1996, ending a 22-year wait during which several generations of talented players went AWOL on the biggest stage.
Alongside Croatia, they must triumph over neighbours Scotland – back in the hat for a major tournament for the first time since the France 1998 World Cup – and the Czech Republic, two opponents sure to prove serious tests of their mettle despite the obvious discrepancies in quality.
Beyond that, a last-16 tie with Les Bleus could await, or the recurring spectres of Portugal and Germany, suggesting that a successful run is far from assured for the team this time around.
- Rashford: England will win more with Grealish
- Southgate expected further boos after taking knee
- White fills final spot in England squad for Euro 2020