England celebrates without the BVB star: The risk without Sancho is rewarded

England celebrates without the BVB star
The risk without Sancho is rewarded

Jadon Sancho not in the squad, the “Yorkshire Pirlo” in midfield – and he even changes his youngest: England coach Gareth Southgate surprised with his line-up at the successful start of the European Championship against Croatia. Will the nation now unite behind its team?

In the worst case scenario, what shouldn’t Gareth Southgate have to listen to? The fact that England’s national coach did not even call a highly talented like Jadon Sancho into his squad caused astonishment shortly before the start of the European Championship. That he preferred to trust Raheem Sterling, who had been looking for his shape for months, was a risk. But after Sterling’s redeeming goal for the 1-0 win against runner-up world champions Croatia, in the end not only Southgate smiled with relief, but an entire nation. England’s successful start to this European Championship could also be the start of a great summer.

“We needed this win,” said Sterling after the final whistle. “And we stuck together.” It should also have been a first step to bring your own fans even closer together. Even before the Croatia game, some of them booed at Wembley when the players fell on one knee to show their support in the fight against racism. Many others applauded loudly. When Sterling scored the winning goal in the 57th minute, the football temple in north-west London was drowned in the bright sunshine in the collective cheers. Southgate wants to create these images: hugs, joy, unity.

“We waited so long until the beer gardens were allowed to reopen, and I am sure that the beer will be both drunk and splashed around everywhere,” said the coach. The 50-year-old has a unique sense of what people in England like to hear and what their mood is like. “But the win on Sunday at Wembley has to do with the fact that he ignored the mood of the nation,” wrote “The Athletic”. Southgate did its thing with a line-up that many fans would have liked to have seen differently. Incidentally, the template for Sterling’s goal was provided by Kalvin Phillips, who played in the second division last year.

“All decisions made right”

And so the media raved about the 25-year-old midfielder, the Times called the Leeds United professional “Yorkshire Pirlo”. Phillips has not (yet) achieved as much as the former world-class strategist Andrea Pirlo, but he and Sterling shone at the start of the European Championship. Shortly before the end of the game, Southgate took even more risk when he replaced his by far youngest player in the middle of the tense final phase: Jude Bellingham from Borussia Dortmund came on the field in the 82nd minute at the age of 17 years and 349 days, which he did is now the youngest player to ever appear in a European Championship.

“Southgate had to make some tough decisions but he made them all right,” wrote England former striker Alan Shearer in his BBC column. “You can see how strong we are from the players who weren’t even on the bench.” Sancho is the best example of this. Whether the 21-year-old will return to the squad for the Three Lions’ next game against Scotland on Friday remains to be seen.

One thing is certain: Southgate will not allow itself to be carried away by public opinion in this decision. He doesn’t get euphoric after the first win either. “People can be happy and splash their beer around, it’s great that we can bring this joy to them,” he said. “But we have to focus on the next game.” Regarding the Sancho case, he said: “I don’t like it myself that we have to remove players from the squad. Unfortunately, we can only name 23 players, that’s just unfortunate.”

The squad consists of 26 players, so three have to go on match day. In addition to the injured defense chief Harry Maguire, it was 1-0 (0-0) against vice world champion Ben Chilwell – and surprisingly Sancho too. “We had to fill certain positions,” said Southgate, but the team manager did not reveal what made the difference. For the offensive flank, he decided on Marcus Rashford, Jack Grealish and Bukayo Saka, all of whom sat on the bench. And Sancho? At least he tried to hide his disappointment. In the stands he clapped and cheered on his team – but the demands of the lightning-fast offensive artist are completely different.