Mason Mount (left) and Kalvin Phillips (centre) have led England's defensive efforts
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
Not as dangerous in attack
Gareth Southgate’s side have scored just four goals in their four matches, the lowest return of any team in the last eight. This is not just bad luck, either: England have taken only 27 shots in the tournament so far, the fewest of the sides who remain in the competition. It has certainly not been free-flowing attacking football from Southgate’s side, although no one can claim they were not efficient with their chances against Germany in the round of 16.
Of the remaining teams, Spain have been the most threatening side going forward. They have scored 11 goals in their four matches, taking 71 shots in total. Italy and Denmark have also been far more aggressive than England in attack, taking 87 and 75 shots respectively and scoring nine goals each.
Dangerous in Attack
Able to control matches with the ball
A long-running issue for England in tournament football has been their inability to dictate the tempo of matches. That seems to be changing at last, with Southgate’s side showing far more patience in possession than previous national sides. England have put together 72 passing sequences of more than 10 passes, a tally bettered only by Belgium (73) and Spain (115).
The concern might be that England have not used these passes to regularly open up the opposition. There is a fine line between controlling the game and enjoying sterile possession, and Southgate will need to get this balance right when they come up against a Ukraine side which is expected to be defensive in their approach.
Not making the most of Kane’s strengths
Harry Kane’s struggles over the past few weeks have been well documented, although he is not entirely to blame. The service to England’s main striker has not been consistent, with Kane perhaps the main victim of the team’s calm control of the matches they have played.
Kane produced one of his best seasons in a more direct system under Jose Mourinho at Tottenham Hotspur, but is now having to adapt to a markedly different style of play. It says plenty about how the national side has evolved, for example, that England have played just 23 crosses in open play so far in the tournament – the lowest of any of the remaining teams.
Spain and Denmark, by contrast, have played more than 70 crosses from open play, and their strikers have had many more chances to score in the opening four games. Spain’s Alvaro Morata, Pablo Sarabia and Ferran Torres have all struck from crosses at the tournament.
Crosses in open play
One of the competition’s most formidable defences
A by-product of England’s patient control of matches is that they have conceded impressively few chances. Their expected goals against figure (the number of goals they would be expected to concede based on the chances they have allowed the opposition) is just 2.7. Only Italy have boasted a more tight defence so far in this tournament.
England are the only team who are yet to concede a goal this summer, and they have allowed just eight shots on target so far. Again, only Italy (five shots on target faced) rank higher in this key defensive metric.
Mount and Phillips lead the defensive efforts
Mason Mount and Kalvin Phillips are best known for their passing range and creative ability, but so far they have excelled as terriers in the midfield. Despite playing only two of the first four matches, Mount has already made eight tackles this summer – only six players in the remaining teams have made more.
Phillips, meanwhile, has won back the ball on 28 separate occasions. Of the players still in the competition, only two (Denmark’s Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Spain’s Jordi Alba) have been more effective at regaining possession. Phillips has also won the ball in the final third on four occasions (again, only Spain and Denmark players rank higher), showing that he has been willing to press high and force the agenda for England.