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England’s success is hard to comprehend

England’s success is hard to comprehend
England’s success is hard to comprehend

England are in the semi-finals after winning a penalty shootout against Switzerland. How could this happen? The team is playing without any ideas. Unfortunately, this fits with the sporting quality of the tournament.

One of the mysteries of football is that poor performances and lack of imagination sometimes lead to success. This certainly has a lot to do with the internal logic of a major tournament such as the European Championship. Tactical constraints, pure result-based football, a single stroke of genius or simply the coincidence of finding yourself on the easy side of the tournament tree can decide between victory and defeat.

The English team is currently demonstrating exactly these skills.

After winning the penalty shootout in the quarter-final against Switzerland, coach Gareth Southgate’s team is in the semi-finals of the European Championship and one wonders: Which football god do the Three Lions worship that they have come this far in such a shameless manner?

Switzerland’s goal was a wake-up call for England – for a short time

In the match against Switzerland in the Düsseldorf Arena, the first shot on goal was made in the 51st minute! But it was the Swiss, in the form of striker Breel Embolo, who took the shot. Embolo, who the Germans know from his time at Schalke 04 and Borussia Mönchengladbach, was also the one who pushed the ball over the line 23 minutes later to give the Swiss a deserved lead. The goal against was a wake-up call for the English. They suddenly picked up the pace and Bukayo Saka equalized five minutes later with a hidden long-range shot.

The English Ivan Toney, Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham (from left to right) celebrate after their team's victory against Switzerland in the penalty shootout

Penalty drama: England beats Switzerland in the quarter-finals – all highlights in the video

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It actually turned out to be something like a football match, it went into extra time, in which the Swiss were the more active team. The game was decided in a penalty shootout, which the English won 5:3. The Swiss Manuel Akanji was the tragic figure of the evening. His penalty was saved by goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

That’s the story of the game in a nutshell. You could use the phrase that the game was full of excitement to make it look good. But it was only a celebration for the English fans. They celebrated their team with loud chants long after the final whistle. After their team’s performance at this European Championship, they probably can’t understand how that was possible either.

England’s unsightly performances

The successful match against the Swiss hardly represented an improvement on the performances shown so far. A strong first half in the first match against Serbia and a revving-up Jude Bellingham resulted in the only victory in the preliminary round. However, the successful start was not a starting signal for more attractive football. On the contrary: The Three Lions, one of the biggest favorites to win the European Championship, simply muddled through.

This was followed by unsightly performances against Denmark and Slovenia, in which the highly qualified team struggled to a draw (1:1, 0:0). The criticism on the island was devastating, the fans in the stadium booed the players and threw beer mugs at the coach after the goalless and hopeless duel against Slovenia. From an English perspective, the only good thing about it was that they made it to the next round.

The world-class attack around Bellingham, Kane, Saka and Foden was mainly notable for its lack of ideas and a complaining Bellingham when he didn’t get the ball. A functioning midfield with vertical passes to the front or effective pressing – none to be found. Fast combinations are a rarity. Only the defense is stable.

France also stands for unattractive minimalism

Only the occasional flicker of genius from Bellingham or Saka has saved the Three Lions from elimination so far: Bellingham’s sensational overhead kick in the round of 16 against Slovakia saved the team in extra time (in which Kane headed the winner). Against Switzerland, it was Saka’s long-range shot. And, to be fair, the newly gained nerves in the penalty shootout.

In the semi-finals, England will now face the Netherlands, a solvable task and a duel between two great football nations.

However, England is not alone when it comes to unattractive minimalism. France, which will play Spain in the second semi-final, is another team that has made it to the last four with this style of football. The French have a skill in that they have not scored a goal from open play in five matches. Two own goals, a converted penalty by Kylian Mbappé and a penalty shootout win were enough. The latter took place in Hamburg’s Volkspark against Portugal. To the chagrin of the numerous neutral spectators, this quarter-final was also a sporting low point of the tournament.

Unfortunately, the sluggish football a la England and France has become a trademark of the European Championship. Fortunately, there are the Spaniards, who prove that you can get far with an attractive style of play. Or the Turks or the Georgians, who took their hearts in their hands. From a German perspective, it is a shame that it was not enough for the DFB eleven. If you take the beautiful and exciting football as a benchmark, they would have deserved more.

Source: Stern

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