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OLIVER HOLT: 10 reasons why England are ready to win the Euros

  /  autty

England suffered a disappointing 1-0 defeat by Iceland last Friday at Wembley as they headed off to Euro 2024 in the worst possible fashion.

Gareth Southgate and his side have been heavily criticised since the result, with many claiming their performance explains just why they won't win the tournament in Germany this summer.

However, Mail Sport's OLIVER HOLT rejected that view and insisted the loss could actually benefit the Three Lions.

He also argued the doom-mongers had gone over the top and below, he has listed 10 reasons as to why England are in fact ready to win the Euros.

1 - Gareth Southgate's tournament experience

Some might put Gareth Southgate lower down a list of reasons why England can win the Euros, almost as if they want to apologise for him, but the England manager deserves to be right at the top of our list of assets.

There is a view, shared by many, that if England win the European Championship and end their 58-year run without lifting a major trophy, it will be in spite of Southgate.

The opposite is true. The main reason England can win in Germany is because Southgate is the manager. He is damned with faint praise too often, but his record with England is hugely impressive, particularly when it matters most — at major tournaments.

In the years since 1970, too often England have fallen apart when they reached the finals. Some managers, like Sven Goran Eriksson, picked favourites, even if they were out of form or carrying injuries that hampered their effectiveness. Others, like Fabio Capello, proved incapable of maintaining morale and making being with England enjoyable in tournament conditions.

Southgate comes into his own in tournaments because he is such a brilliant man-manager. That is why he is the best manager England have had since Sir Alf Ramsey.

He gets the best out of his players on the biggest stage. He brings them together. He moulds team spirit. He selects players not just for their talent but for their character and for their ability to get the best out of each other on a long trip away from home.

His biggest test in Germany is to find a way to camouflage the weaknesses in England’s defence and resist calls to play a team of No 10s in front of Jordan Pickford.

This will almost certainly be his final tournament in charge of the national team and his record demands we keep faith with him.

2 - The Jude Bellingham factor

At the end of October last year, I went to Barcelona to watch Jude Bellingham play in his first Clasico for Real Madrid.

When Barcelona took an early lead, I wondered if the story of the kid from Stourbridge taking Spanish football by storm was going to fall flat for a weekend, but Bellingham scored an equaliser with a venomous drive in the second half and then grabbed a winner in the dying minutes.

He is only 20, but there is something special about him that goes beyond his talents. He seems to have that gift that so many great players have of rising to the biggest occasions.

He is bound to be tired after the season he has just enjoyed at the Bernabeu and the emotional highs of winning La Liga and the Champions League, but he has been given a week to recover and there are five more days until England’s opening game. This is not a one-man team, but his emergence has strengthened England’s chances of winning tournaments immeasurably.

He is so gifted he could play almost anywhere on the pitch, but it was playing as an advanced midfielder under Carlo Ancelotti where he enjoyed his greatest success with Madrid last season and that is where he would cause the most damage for England.

3 - Harry Kane's star quality

If Kylian Mbappe is the best player in the world right now, Harry Kane is the best centre forward.

He is not always appreciated as much as he should be, but he is a player who has everything. He is not just the best scorer in the side, he is the best long passer of the ball as well. Kane is most people’s favourite to win the Golden Boot in Germany, ahead of Mbappe, and he has the class and the ruthlessness to beat any defence.

It is a measure of his talent, and his mentality, that he excelled in his first campaign with Bayern Munich, even as their season collapsed around them. If England click, he and Bellingham could form a brilliant partnership in Germany.

4 - An easing injury crisis

England have got a lot of players struggling with fitness, but if they can navigate their way through the group stage without sustaining more damage, it is possible that players like Luke Shaw, Bukayo Saka, Anthony Gordon, John Stones and Marc Guehi will play themselves into form and get the match fitness they are missing.

England should get stronger, and more confident, the longer they stay in the tournament.

5 - Declan Rice's defensive acumen

The more evident it becomes that England are vulnerable in defence, shorn of Harry Maguire and saddled with fitness concerns about Stones and Shaw, the more significant it will become that England possess, in Declan Rice, a player who has evolved into one of the best holding midfielders in the world.

Rice has matured into an authoritative midfield general at Arsenal and even if some point out that he might be even better given free rein to attack as a No 8, he is too valuable as a shield for the defence to allow him that kind of latitude.

6 - A wake-up call from Iceland

The defeat by Iceland at Wembley on Friday might just have done England, and Southgate, a whole heap of good.

The manager pointed out after the match that he might have been spending too much time concentrating on what England can do with the ball, rather than remembering what they need to do without it, too.

Southgate has been criticised for his caution in the past, but the Iceland loss was a reminder why he cannot allow himself to be too adventurous in his selections, however sumptuous our pool of attacking talents may be.

Iceland was a reminder that England’s defence cannot be left unprotected. It was a reminder that it would be foolhardy to play only Rice sitting in front of the back four and it was a reminder that England’s positional discipline in midfield has to be much, much sharper.

7 - Phil Foden is in the form of his life

For the first time in eight years, England are going into a tournament with the best player in the Premier League in their ranks.

Phil Foden has been even more of a delight to watch than ever for Manchester City. It looks more and more likely that he will start on the left of three players behind Kane in the opening game against Serbia and, even if many feel he has never quite produced his best for England so far, he is too good a player for that not to change in Germany.

8 - Trent Alexander-Arnold's passing

I mentioned earlier that Kane was the best passer in the team. If Southgate gets Trent Alexander-Arnold in the side, alongside Rice, he would take that honour.

It’s more likely that Southgate, sobered by what he saw against Iceland, will play Conor Gallagher instead, but Alexander-Arnold showed in the warm-up game against Bosnia-Herzegovina that his passing can unlock any defence at whatever stage of the game he is introduced.

It is the kind of ammunition that both Kane and Bellingham will use with relish.

9 - The rise of Cole Palmer

If Cole Palmer starts from the bench, what a substitute to have.

Foden might be the Footballer of the Year in England, but Palmer did things with Chelsea last season that made the heart skip a beat. His skill on the ball is breathtaking, his vision is awe-inspiring and his ability to beat a man with a trick gets the crowd on its feet.

If he has to impact a game by coming off the bench, so be it. He would be the last player a tired midfielder would want to face.

10 - A hugely open tournament

England do have weaknesses in defence, but there is no team without problems at this tournament.

England also have Kyle Walker in defence, by the way, and he is still so good and so quick that he locks up one flank.

The field at these Euros is wide open. England, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal and Belgium could all win it, but none are dominant.

England are the bookies’ favourites. They came within a missed Kane penalty of beating France at the 2022 World Cup and Southgate’s side have got better and richer in talent since.

There are plenty of nations to regard with respect, but there is nobody for England to fear.