Harry Kane and Jack Grealish have a week to prepare for England's next game
England are through to the round of 16. Olé! They won their group. Olé! Football’s coming home! Well, steady on there.
Turns out a tournament can’t be all Czech Republics until they give you the trophy. The European Championship is about to get tough for Gareth Southgate.
Clinching top spot in Group D means England will play the group of death runners-up at Wembley next Tuesday at 5pm. Cancel all Zooms.
Who will that be, and who should England fans be hoping for?
So, who can they face next?
What needs to happen: Both games end in a draw, or France and Germany both win.
Opta’s predicted likelihood: 42.3 per cent
What needs to happen: Germany beat Hungary and France draw with Portugal.
Likelihood: 29.3 per cent
What needs to happen: Germany beat Hungary and Portugal beat France. Or Hungary beat Germany and Portugal draw with France.
Likelihood: 25.8 per cent
What needs to happen: Hungary beat Germany, France beat Portugal.
Likelihood: 2.6 per cent
The potential opponents
Paul Pogba has been superb for his country
Fifa ranking: 2 (England are at number 4)
Coach: Didier Deschamps
Record against England: P31 W17 D5 L9 F71 A39
Euros so far: Highly impressive in opening game, only a 1-0 victory against Germany in Munich but justified expectation as clear favourites for the tournament. Surprisingly held 1-1 by Hungary on Saturday in Budapest. Can atone against Portugal.
Strengths: A terrifying starting XI, led from the front by Kylian Mbappe who looks ready to seize the title of world’s best player this summer. Ably supported by Antoine Griezmann and Karim Benzema at the top of the field, with another Ballon d’Or contender N’Golo Kante further back, who is making Paul Pogba look like a world-beater. Comfortably the best starting XI in the tournament.
Weaknesses: Tough to identify many. Full-backs generally regarded as weak link although Bayern Munich’s Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez (or Everton’s Lucas Digne) would be welcomed into most other teams in this competition. Benzema’s re-admission to the squad has been controversial and there have been murmurings of discontent. Hungary result showed they can have an off-day. Performance against Portugal should be instructive.
Robin Gosens announced himself with aplomb against Portugal
Fifa ranking: 12
Coach: Joachim Löw
England record: P32 W13 D6 L13 F51 A42
Euros so far: Talk of tactical crises, a coach past his best and a stuttering start for a new generation of players seemed apparent in opening defeat to France. A narrow reverse but their toil in vain to equalise did not inspire confidence. Those cobwebs were blown away emphatically on Saturday with a 4-2 win over Portugal. Another thumping win in Munich over Hungary on Wednesday night could make them the form team of this Euros.
Strengths: Relentless in victory against Portugal, with wing backs Joshua Kimmich and Robin Gosens particularly impressive. Plenty of experience now Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels have been welcomed back into the fold, with Kai Havertz and Serge Gnabry looking bright up front. Manuel Neuer coming to the end of his career but still the steadiest of operators.
Weaknesses: Did make hard work of Portugal game in the end, looking jittery at 4-2 when a thrashing seemed likely early in the second half. Portugal’s opening goal showed their vulnerability to a swift counter-attack, and France’s rearguard was a helpful blueprint of how to frustrate them.
Can Ronaldo elevate his team again?
Fifa ranking: 5
Coach: Fernando Santos
England record: P23 W10 D10 L3.
Euros so far: 3-0 win in Hungary did not reflect a tight game, with Raphael Guerreiro only opening the scoring with six minutes left. Ronaldo looked ominous when scoring the two goals which followed, then again when giving his side the lead in Munich. That impression did not last and now defeat to France would send them home.
Strengths: A far better team on paper than the champions of 2016, with Ruben Dias in central defence, Diogo Jota assuming some of the attacking responsibility and exciting options off the bench. Have Cristiano Ronaldo.
Weaknesses: Defence seemed shambolic at times against Germany, Bruno Fernandes looks tired, Ronaldo undeniable but has been a tournament of fits and starts so far.
Hungary have had full support for their first two group stage games
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
Fifa ranking: 37
Coach: Marco Rossi
England record: P22 W15 D2 L5 F56 A30
Euros so far: Cruelly denied an opening goal by pesky Var against Portugal, then wilted after conceding. Stirring draw against France. A lively team, stern at the back with a bit of punch up front too. A sense that they’ve been boosted more than any other side at the tournament by home support, given the Puskas Arena has been full for their two previous games. Travel to Munich on Wednesday night which should indicate just how key that crowd has been.
Strengths: Mainz striker Ádám Szalai has been leading the line well, winning plenty in the air. Roland Sallai behind him has provided creativity. Obstinate in defence, holding on against France showed their quality and determination at the back.
Weaknesses: A clear step down in quality from the rest of the potential opponents. Mind you, Iceland was supposed to be an easy game in 2016…
So who do England want?
The received wisdom is that England crumble against the first good team they face in the knockout rounds. That has not really been the case in their past two international tournaments. Colombia were fairly strong round-of-16 opponents in 2018 and although Southgate’s team made heavy work of it they prevailed in the end.
Croatia were a sterner test and one his team failed, although it wasn’t the sort of shaming England endured against Germany in 2010 nor a complete battering which they managed to prolong, like Italy in 2012.
In 2014 England were out after two group games, outwitted by Italy and Uruguay. In 2016 they certainly crumbled, but Iceland were hardly in the usual category of teams to fear.
It’s not an unfair trope. The run of 1990 (West Germany), 1996 (Germany), 1998 (Argentina), 2002 (Brazil), 2004 (Portugal) and 2006 (Portugal again) is a stark reminder of England’s tendency to fold as soon as the going gets tough.
But this could be a chance to buck the trend. Who truly fancied England to see off Colombia on penalties in Russia? Who thought Harry Kane would come home with the golden boot (albeit with a Panama-related asterisk)? Who could have imagined the emergence of a player like Jack Grealish on that grim night in Nice five years ago?
Hosting the round of 16 game at Wembley gives England an opportunity to write a new script. Nevertheless, France are to be avoided. They have the look of Champions League finalists, England more like plucky surprise quarter-finalists. It would not be a write-off but you’d certainly expect France to win or draw eight games out of 10 against England. England’s best hope might be a rope-a-dope strategy, sit deep, soak up pressure and nick a goal on the break.
That may suit them more whoever they face, and while Germany and Portugal have inflicted plenty of historical wounds both have vulnerabilities which could be exploited.
Anyone but France. Either Germany or Portugal would be challenging, but the Wembley factor has got to help. Hungary is clearly the dream, but probably best not to cling to it too firmly.
But, yes, once more with feeling: Anyone but France.
What would England’s route to the final be from here?
Victory in the round of 16 would put England into the quarter-final. They would play against either the winner of group E (looking likely to be Sweden) or one of the third-place finishers. With that seen to, and football definitely, DEFINITELY coming home a semi-final with possibly the Netherlands could be in store. Then we’re back to the dreaded France in the final. That’s according to one run-through using our predictor tool.
You can map out your Euro 2020 tournament with it here.
What is the latest England team news?
The last 16 tie may come too soon for Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell, both forced to self-isolate over a potential breach of coronavirus protocols. Hopefully the chat with Scotland midfielder Billy Gilmour in the Wembley tunnel was worth it.
The FA has confirmed Mount and Chilwell will have to isolate until June 28. The round of 16 tie is a day later, so a start seems unlikely, given all of the missed preparations.
Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson did return to action in the Czech Republic win, though. Gareth Southgate is close to having a fully fit squad to choose from.
What are the latest odds for the tournament?
- France 7/2
- Italy 6/1
- Germany 11/2
- Belgium 13/2
- England 7/1
- Spain 10/1
- Portugal 10/1
- Netherlands 12/1
(All odds via Oddschecker)