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Back-three augurs well for England at EURO 2020

- By esmeraldacalhounnew
Publish Date : 2021-07-01 13:39:04
back-three augurs well for England at EURO 2020

Gareth Southgate's switch to a back three is a measure of England's versatility for team reporter Simon Hart.

Kieran Trippier and Harry Maguire after the win against Germany
Kieran Trippier and Harry Maguire after the win against Germany
POOL/AFP via Getty Images
"We know if we pick that system and pick the players we picked, if we don't win the game we are dead." So said Gareth Southgate summing up the stark, result-is-everything environment in which an England manager works.

The system he was referring to was the 3-4-3 set-up he adopted to match Germany's formation in Tuesday's 2-0 UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 win.

England had reached the semi-finals of Russia 2018 with a back three. Yet prior to facing Germany, they had played every match of this calendar year with a back four. Moreover, they had a 75% win ratio from 32 matches with a back four; in 25 previous matches with a three it was 48%.

How it unfolded
England and Ukraine complete final eight
In his post-match reflections, Southgate explained that he had tried out the back three during England's fixtures last autumn which ensured that "the players could slot into it pretty quickly this week". Kieran Trippier, on the right, is experienced in the role both from Russia 2018 and also with Atlético de Madrid this last season, and Southgate sees his set-piece deliveries as an asset too.

As for Luke Shaw, he grew into Tuesday's game, providing more of the creativity required in the role when pushing higher in the second half as the whole team gained in confidence. And as former England right-back Micah Richards pointed out on BBC Radio 5 Live, when substitute Jack Grealish began wandering inside it gave Shaw the freedom to attack out wide – hence he was in the right place to deliver the cross for Raheem Sterling's opening goal.

Southgate's own verdict was: "We wanted to be, man-for-man, aggressive in our pressure. The wing-backs really did that well and set the tone."

A leaf out of Venables' book
EURO '96 highlights: England 4-1 Netherlands
Explaining why he wished to match up with Germany, Southgate said: "We knew the tactical problem that the wing-backs high causes you. When you've got players who are evenly matched, if you give them a tactical advantage as well then that's a real problem."

This is precisely what Southgate saw his old England manager, Terry Venables, do for England's 4-1 group-stage victory over the Netherlands at EURO '96 and again for the semi-final against Germany (the last time, incidentally, England had entered a EURO finals fixture with a back three prior to Tuesday).

A chat with former England winger Chris Waddle on the morning of Tuesday's match highlighted the sense of Southgate drawing from a lesson learned under Venables. "Gareth learned a lot from Terry," Waddle told EURO2020.com. "He's remembered things, and Terry always used to say that if you ever play a good side, match them up and it's down to the individual battles then."

Back-three history
EURO 1988 highlights: Netherlands 3-1 England
Waddle, who is commentating on England's matches for 5 Live at this EURO, was in the first England team to field a 3-5-2 at a major tournament, at the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy. Manager Bobby Robson switched from a 4-4-2 for a group game against the Netherlands. Robson chose that formation to avoid a repeat of the problems England had faced with two centre-backs, Tony Adams and Mark Wright, when losing 3-1 to the Netherlands of Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten at the 1988 EURO. England would later kick off their semi-final against Germany in a three before reverting to a four later in the match.

Waddle approves of such versatility, remembering: "We always used to play 4-4-2 years ago and we never adapted to other teams who had one up front and three in midfield. We were always chasing and working harder than other teams to get the ball back."

At Italia '90, centre-back Paul Parker filled the right wing-back role despite not having played at full-back for three years. Mark Wright had played at sweeper only three times before for his club, Derby County. It helps today that players are so used to different systems.

Watch Southgate's England baby photo challenge
Southgate was delighted with the composure showed by his defenders en route to a fourth clean sheet, pointing to "a nice balance of being brave with the ball, to keep possession in our own half at times and our defenders are exceptional at that".






Whether he sticks with this system in Rome on Saturday remains to be seen – especially given the fact Ukraine made their own switch from 4-4-3 to a back three with wing-backs for their win against Sweden. Watch this space.

A glance through the history books brings back enough thrills and spills to whet the appetite for the quarter-finals at UEFA EURO 2020.

Turkey celebrate their dramatic 2008 defeat of Croatia
Turkey celebrate their dramatic 2008 defeat of Croatia
AFP via Getty Images
The UEFA EURO 2020 quarter-finals will have to go some to match the round of 16, but with stakes this high, plenty of drama is pretty much assured.

We look back at six great ties at this stage since a quarter-final round was introduced with the tournament's expansion to 16 teams in 1996.

22/06/1996: England 0-0 Spain (aet, England win 4-2 on pens)
Watch full England v Spain EURO '96 penalty shoot-out
The tension inside Wembley was palpable as England, buoyed by a brilliant 4-1 victory over the Netherlands in their last group game, laboured against a promising Spain. La Roja were twice denied by an offside flag before carving open the England defence moments before half-time; Javier Manjarín was clean through but hesitated long enough for David Seaman to block.

Extra time was required, with the golden goal in play for the first time. It was not forthcoming, though, and England claimed a rare penalty shoot-out win best remembered for Stuart Pearce's celebration as he exorcised the ghost of his miss in the 1990 FIFA World Cup semi-final against West Germany.

25/06/2000: Spain 1-2 France
France were the dominant team of 2000 and eventual winners of the tournament, but Spain pushed them ever so close in the Bruges quarter-final. Zinédine Zidane set Les Bleus on their way just after the half-hour, but Gaizka Mendieta's spot kick restored parity.

France were back in front before the interval after a Patrick Vieira run was capped by an even better finish from Youri Djorkaeff. Spain squandered a glorious late chance to force extra time when Raúl González sent a penalty over the bar. France went on to lift the crown in thrilling style.

24/06/2004: Portugal 2-2 England (aet, Portugal win 6-5 on pens)  
Portugal edge England in penalty drama
A game that had everything. Michael Owen put England ahead in Lisbon with an almost balletic goal – becoming the first England player to score in four straight major tournaments – but England lost 18-year-old wonderkid Wayne Rooney to injury and Hélder Postiga equalised.

Sol Campbell had a 90th-minute effort ruled out and Rui Costa struck for Portugal in extra time, only for England's Frank Lampard to earn penalties. In a typically tense shoot-out, David Beckham missed and Ricardo saved from Darius Vassell before sensationally converting himself, as Portugal prevailed in sudden death.

25/06/2004: France 0-1 Greece
This one is included more for shock value than anything. Nobody could have predicted that Greece would not just beat France for the first time ever, but would go on to win the championship.

Greece thought they had the advantage in Lisbon when Giorgos Karagounis's free-kick was met at the far post by Kostas Katsouranis but goalkeeper Fabien Barthez was adjudged to have prevented the whole ball crossing the line. However, with France toiling, Angelos Charisteas's 65-minute goal settled it ... and the rest was history. 

21/06/2008: Croatia 1-1 Turkey (aet, Turkey win 3-1 on pens) 
EURO 2008 highlights: Turkey oust Croatia on penalties
Where to start? Turkey booked their first EURO semi-final as a fine match in Vienna was decided on penalties after the two sides had swapped goals in the closing moments of extra time. First, Ivan Klasnić nodded in Luka Modrić's cross with a minute left in the overtime period.

Yet, for the third game running, Turkey hit back even later to force the first shoot-out of the finals when Semih Şentürk drove in via a deflection. They then proceeded to triumph 3-1 on penalties, Rüştü Reçber saving Mladen Petrić's kick after earlier misses by Modrić and Ivan Rakitić.

01/07/2016: Wales 3-1 Belgium
Considering Wales were in just their second major tournament, 58 years after the first, few thought they could equal their run to the 1958 World Cup quarter-finals, let alone better it. Particularly so once fate paired them with a Belgian side stacked with stellar talent, who duly took a 13th-minute lead through Radja Nainggolan's long-range bullet.

But on the half-hour in Lille, Ashley Williams headed in Aaron Ramsey's corner, and ten minutes into the second half a player who had entered the finals without a club, Hal Robson-Kanu, brilliantly turned inside the box and shot in. Belgium pushed, but Welsh substitute Sam Vokes settled matters with five minutes left. "You dream about nights like this," said manager Chris Coleman. Wales fell to eventual champions Portugal in the semis having already achieved the seemingly impossible.

Category : sports

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