LONDON: This was how England reached the Euro 2020 final — starting with the Raheem Sterling goal which separated England and 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia in the Three Lions’ Euro 2020 opener.
Manager Gareth Southgate’s side controlled the game impressively.
They did noty play gung-ho attacking football, and only took eight shots in the match, but they created the two best chances of the game (Sterling 51%, Kane 60%), with the England defensive shape most impressive.
Southgate opted for a 4-2-3-1 system that limited Croatia to just 0.54 xG, the 13th lowest xG total of the 50 Euro games to have been played so far.
For perspective, that same Croatia team went on to rack up nearly 4.0 xG against semi-finalists Spain, so England stifled a team very capable of causing plenty of issues.
It was a sign of things to come, and the first clean sheet of many.
England 0-0 Scotland: Three Lions deserved to win
An emotion-fuelled match against the Auld Enemy was next up but it was a game that fizzled out after half-time. However, the reaction to England’s performance was overblown.
Southgate’s men allowed no ‘big chances’ (0.35 xG+) while creating three of their own, with the Infogol model calculating that, based on the quality of chances created in the game, England would win the game 59% of the time.
The overreaction was unnecessary, as it was another solid performance, but one in which England were unfortunate not to win.
England won their final group game to secure top spot in Group D, and deservedly so, with the Three Lions’ defence again being the driving force behind the success.
Sterling’s early goal was the best chance of the match, and after dominating the first half, England decided to shut up shop afterwards, showing no intention to attack.
Southgate’s side were happy with the 1-0, and failed to register a single shot in the second half, but again controlled the game impressively, conceding just two shots after the break.
The performance again came under criticism, but England had done what they had been expected to do – top the group – and they had done so without hitting top gear and without conceding a goal or a ‘big chance’
England 2-0 Germany: Good fortune for Three Lions
The painful memories of 1990, 1996 and 2010 were put to rest as England beat Germany in a major tournament knockout match for the first time since the Three Lions lifted the World Cup in 1966.
Gareth Southgate’s side mirrored Germany’s 3-4-3 system and while the narrative was that it was a tactical masterclass, the reality was that England were fortunate to win and do so comfortably.
The Germans posed the greater threat in the first half and pierced England’s backline a fair few times, with Timo Werner (34%) racing through and testing Jordan Pickford.
Infogol’s model calculates that Germany had a 44% chance of leading the game by the 53rd minute, but England took control through Raheem Sterling’s goal (66%).
Thomas Muller missed an excellent chance (37%) to equalise almost immediately after, before Harry Kane made sure of progression with his first of the tournament.
However, based on the quality of chances in the game, we calculate that England would win 36% of the time, with Germany prevailing in 37% of simulations.
Ukraine 0-4 England: Set-pieces come to the fore
Never have we witnessed such a routine quarter-final victory for an England team. It was nerveless from start to finish, mainly thanks to Harry Kane’s early goal.
The concerns heading into the game were that England hadn’t shown enough in attack to suggest that this would be easy having averaged just 1.41 xGF per game.
The Three Lions racked up 2.15 xG which included four ‘big chances’, breezing to the semi-finals, but what was important was that they scored two goals from set-pieces.
Prior to the Ukraine game, England had managed just eight shots from dead-ball situations (corners, free-kicks etc), in the quarter-final they had five.
Why is this important? During the 2018 World Cup, nine of England’s 12 goals came from set-pieces. As a team the Three Lions have improved greatly since Russia and are less reliant on scoring from such moments, but having the capability to do so adds another element to their attack.
Defensively, this was England’s best performance at Euro 2020 according to xG, limiting Ukraine to a total of 0.26 xG.
That goes down as the fourth best defensive display at the tournament so far, with only Spain’s 5-0 win over Slovakia (0.10), Portugal’s 3-0 win over Hungary (0.23) and Italy’s 3-0 win over Switzerland (0.25) bettering that total.
England 2-1 Denmark: Extra-time required
England have been outshot throughout the tournament – it was a scoreline of 37-42 before Wednesday night – but they enjoyed significantly more opportunities in the semi-final.
They registered 21 shots across the 120 minutes and an xG of 3.23. Perhaps crucially, this didn’t open them up defensively with Denmark limited to just 0.30 xG.
Mikkel Damsgaard’s wonder free-kick was the only real chance of note – and that being because it found the back of the net – but a strong end to the 90 minutes could have easily seen England win the game in normal time.
The xG scoreline after 90 minutes was 1.39 to 0.27 in England’s favour but they couldn’t find a way past an organised Danish defence with a strong performance from Kasper Schmeichel in goal.
Set-pieces were key in the win over Ukraine and England could have scored from another against Denmark. Harry Maguire had three shots – two of which were on target – while John Stones also had two efforts towards goal.