100 games in, will Southgate’s England now stand and deliver?

July 6 – It will be Gareth Southgate’s 100th match as England manager, and it could be his last. England take on Switzerland in the quarter-finals of Euro 2024 as underdogs seeking to finally ignite their campaign after a turgid time in Germany so far. 

With Marc Guehi suspended at the heart of the English defence, Southgate may switch to a back five though domestic pressure is on him to be more adventurous and switch to a back three.

Ezri Konsa is likely to get a start with Southgate not having shown any faith in Lewis Dunk.  Star man Jude Bellingham is available after avoiding a ban for an offensive gesture during the Slovakia match. He likely still needs to scratch that itch of burning criticism that upset him in the first instance.

The narrow escape in the second round has instilled the team with more confidence, so they say, but all of those considerations will be forgotten if the Three Lions do not improve on their woeful performances in the past four matches.

Certainly they should look at their opposition who they play with and against most weeks at club level and wonder why they aren’t the runaway favourites.

This will be England’s fourth quarter-final under Southgate’s stewardship.

“I’m very proud but it is the least important stat of the week,” said Southgate referring to the century milestone. “The only thing that matters is it is a quarter-final and my complete focus is to get my country into another semi-final.”

“I’m sure in years to come I will look back and reflect with great pride. But at the moment it is the last thing on my mind. It is a fact of life,” he said on the talk about his position. “If you are in one of the most high-profile jobs in world football then there will always be speculation, assessment of what’s going on, so I am not worried.”

He added: “When I was a younger manager trying to forge a career you are worried about if the first job doesn’t go well there won’t be another job. So you are worrying about failing and getting the sack. Now I am older, I’m 53, I’m not worried about losing or what will go wrong. We have the chance to get into a semi-final. It is a positive thing to focus on. It has been my mindset for quite a while now.”

Southgate has been the target of intense criticism following his side’s lethargic outings at Euro 2024 which reached lows against both Slovenia and Slovakia. England supporters threw plastic beer cups at the manager after the goalless draw in Cologne. They still finished top of the group and Bellingham’s masterful overhead kick rescued the team against Slovakia in the round of 16. Never did they however play with any spark.

The manager has rejuvenated the culture around the English team, but this tournament has proven to be very difficult despite the modest opposition and England’s fans have come to expect a more adventurous brand of football than Southgate’s favoured defensive approach and unwillingness to switch styles and personnel mid game.

With great talent at his disposal, Southgate has failed to find any kind of formula to make his team click with England playing with no joy.

Switzerland come into the match high on confidence after outclassing Euro 2020 winners Italy in the round of 16. The Nati have had a consistent presence at major finals and a run to the semi-finals would be a great reward for Murat Yakhin’s side.

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