(Written by Cain Smith)
There are just 50 days until England will kick-off against Croatia at Wembley Stadium in their venture for silverware at Euro 2020. Gareth Southgate’s men enter the tournament as one of the favourites to win the competition with a very strong group of players.
That is a stark difference to Euro 2016, when Roy Hodgson’s England were labelled a disgrace after crashing out of the competition in the round-of-16, when they were embarrassed by Iceland, losing 2-1.
However, it was not all doom and gloom in 2016, with England producing one of their best matches of recent years. Against Wales in the group stages, Hodgson’s men produced a historic 2-1 comeback victory against The Dragons, with a late winner from Daniel Sturridge.
It was a game that initially looked to be one of despair for England after Gareth Bale opened the scoring for Wales in the 42nd minute. The Real Madrid star shot a free-kick from distance with dip and swerve towards the goal but it should’ve been comfortable for Joe Hart.
Yet, the England and Manchester City number one could only parry the ball into his own goal and it seemed that England were going to go out in the group stages of a tournament two times in a row under Hodgson.
That was until the second half, where Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge took to the stage to replace the underwhelming duo of Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling — it was just 11 minutes after their introduction to the game that the scoring was levelled and it was the Leicester City striker who fired in the shot from near range following a cross from his Liverpool counterpart.Embed from Getty Images
This sparked Hodgson’s side into action and led to a bombardment of attacks from England, but they were very well matched by a strong defensive performance from The Dragons.
England probed and probed until they were finally rewarded with a winning goal in the 91st minute of the game. It was Sturridge’s time to provide the finishing touch for his country.
The Liverpool forward had the ball on the left side, on the edge of the area, and played a disguised pass into Vardy’s feet inside of the area. His quick pass found the darting Dele Alli, whose smart flick found the run of Sturridge, who now had the ball in a much more dangerous position. He toe-poked the ball past Wayne Hennessey and it sent the stadium into raptures as England snatched the victory at the death.
Speaking after the match, Roy Hodgson spoke about how substitutions were always going to play their part in the affair, and that Vardy and Sturridge were going to make an impact. The England manager said: “We thought a lot about what the starting XI would be but I didn’t want to start breaking eggs with a big stick, I wanted to keep one or two up our sleeves.
“But the changes were pushed onto me maybe a bit early, although it was always in our mind to get Vardy and Sturridge on the field.”
While it was a disappointing tournament overall for The Three Lions, this was one of the best comebacks for the country in recent years, as well as one of the best off-the-bench impacts in European Championship history for England.
This time around at Euro 2020, England will face another one of their neighbours in the group stage. Southgate’s men, though, will aim to make their game against Scotland at Wembley Stadium more comfortable viewing for the fans than their win against Wales in 2016, but another last-minute winner would not go amiss either.