Fortune Favors Southgate’s England as They Make Light Work of Ukraine

Is this the best England squad we’ve since in the Euro since 1996, or, perhaps the luckiest? Well, it’s really a combination of the two. Against Ukraine, they met little opposition and for the first time in this tournament, Gareth Southgate’s men were allowed to run riot and score goals seemingly at will against opposition merely happy to have reached this stage.

England‘s confidence may be getting the better of some neutral supporters. No, they haven’t played that well really. Arguably, they haven’t even faced a truly strong side yet. However, they do possess a remarkable set of players that represent top Premier League clubs. This showed tonight.

Ukraine Manager Andryi Shevcenko, a man who deserves the highest of honors in his home country, opted for a 3-5-2 formation deploying his most in-form squad. Oleksandr Zinchenko, the team’s most famous player, was played out of position and tasked with a playmaker role. Meanwhile, Andryi Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk were to offer the team its attacking menace.

Southgate, on the other hand, looks like a manager that has had a long vision for his team in mind from the get-go. Back was the 4-2-3-1 formation, but the squad selection was interesting. A semi-fit Harry Maguire entered at center-back. Jadon Sancho took over on the right flank, while Luke Shaw was again selected as a left wing-back.

It’s been a long season. Towards the final stages in the Euro, the great preparation that some clubs are able to offer shone through. Ukraine barely managed to put up a fight in this one. Much of this seemed to be the result of tired legs and fatigued minds.

England spent little time understanding which way the wind would blow tonight. In the 4th minute, the team’s captain, Harry Kane made the best out of a pass from Raheem Sterling to put the team 1-0 up.

Bar one shot from Yaremchuk, Ukraine never really looked like getting back in the game. However, England didn’t look like a team finally set free to entertain either.

Early in the second half, with man-marking a mere afterthought, Harry Maguire found the net following Luke Shaw’s floated cross in the area.

Ukraine could muster little energy to raise from their slumber and in the 50th minute, Kane took advantage to score his second goal of the game, heading the ball from short range.

With the game tied up, Southgate opted to send in Jordan Henderson. The underplayed Liverpool skipper took advantage of another blatant defensive error from the Ukrainians to score England’s fourth.

England could have scored more. Ukraine barely put up a fight, to begin with, and in the final minutes looked just about powerless. This isn’t an English team that thrills though, but one that plays things coolly and efficiently.

Ukraine ought to be very proud of their achievement anyway. When the group stage ended, it looked near certain that they would be eliminated. Instead, they’ve made it to the Quarter-Finals of Euro 2020. This is not an achievement to sneeze at.

England have been one of the proverbial disappointments of international football since they controversially won the World Cup on home soil. This time, they have one of the best squads in Europe. They’ve also won a bunch of games. Yet, they’ve never really proven themselves in the way that Italy have, or even Belgium or Germany on different occasions.

Perhaps, this is simply a very lucky team or one that has acquired a lot of good karma. Neither in the 2018 World Cup nor in the 2020 Euro did they need to prove themselves against great teams. This has made a difference.

The Euro Final seems almost certainly gearing up to be Italy vs. England. No doubt, Italy would start the match as favorites. They’ve earned it. England is no boogeymen, but football is a funny thing, and Southgate’s men have proven that they know when and how to take their chances.



July 3, 2021 – European Championship 2020 Quarter Finals

SCORERS: 4′ Kane, 46′ Maguire, 50 Kane, 63′ Henderson

UKRAINE (3-5-2): Bushchan; Zabarnyi, Kryvtsov (35′ Tsygankov), Matviyenko; Karavaev, Sydorchuk (64′ Makarenko), Shaparenko, Zinchenko, Mykolenko; Yarmolenko, Yaremchuk (Pyatov, Trubin, Sobol, Sudakov, Stepanenko, Marlos, Bezus, Zubkov, Tymchyk, Dovbyk) Coach: Shevchenko
ENGLAND (4-2-3-1): Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw (65′ Trippier); Rice (56′ Henderson), Phillips (65′ Bellingham); Sancho, Mount, Sterling (65′ Rashford); Kane (73′ Calvert-Lewin) (Ramsdale, Johnstone, Grealish, Mings, Coady, Chilwell, Foden) Coach: Southgate

REFEREE: Brych (Germany)
NOTES: No Yellow Cards; Added Time: 1st Half 3′, 2nd Half 0′