Long balls and fear hampered England in Euro 2020 final, Uefa experts claim

  • Technical experts point to long clearances and pass distances
  • ‘When you are winning, you can easily become scared to lose’

Reverting to the long-ball game and being “scared to lose” were factors in England’s Euro 2020 final defeat by Italy, according to a tournament report from Uefa’s technical experts.

While praising Gareth Southgate’s side for their impressive performances during the tournament, Uefa’s report said that England surrendered too much possession in the second half of the final after a “tactically excellent” opening 45 minutes.

“Statistics testified the change of tide,” it said. “Despite their dominant start, possession dropped to 35% – their lowest share of the tournament. Ditto their passing accuracy (one in four went astray).”

The report also noted that Jordan Pickford, the England goalkeeper, made 26 long clearances and England’s average pass distance of 20 metres was a tournament high.

“Aerial bombardment did little to perturb Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, the warriors who had jointly practised defensive arts in over 200 international matches,” it added.

England started impressively and led through Luke Shaw’s second-minute goal, before Bonucci equalised and Italy won on penalties. But Packie Bonner, a former Republic of Ireland goalkeeper, said the lack of possession had been a key factor.

“When you use wing-backs, you need to play out from the back and have a good share of possession,” he said. “When England started to give away possession they started to lose control of the game.

“When Jordan Pickford felt obliged to play it long, the wing-backs found it difficult to get into attacking mode and Harry Kane was losing the ball in the air instead of being able to drop deep and receive along the ground.”

That sentiment was echoed by the technical observer Aitor Karanka, who said: “The pressure seemed to change direction. When you are winning a game, you can easily become scared to lose it especially when you have to manage the pressure of playing in front of your home crowd.”

Italy’s coach, Roberto Mancini, was singled out for changing tactics, which led to Jorginho taking control of the final and becoming “the absolute leader on the pitch”. The midfielder played 98 passes in the final – more than the combined total of England’s midfield.

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It also highlighted Mancini’s decision to replace his main striker Ciro Immobile with Domenico Berardi, with Lorenzo Insigne moving inside as a false No 9, which it said had given England more problems to solve.

Italy’s dominance was reflected by 20 goal attempts to England’s six. But it was their defence that was singled out by Uefa, with Gianluigi Donnarumma, the goalkeeper who was named player of the tournament, Bonucci and Chiellini receiving particular praise.

Peter Rudbæk, Denmark’s technical director, said: “In five years’ time, if I close my eyes and think back to this tournament, I’m sure I will recall that Italy won because they had a very good goalkeeper and two very, very experienced stoppers. Those two guys were the fathers of the team.”


Sean Ingle

The GuardianTramp

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