Euro 2020 final: Neville suspects Sancho could start instead of Saka

By Sports Desk July 11, 2021

Gareth Southgate could spring a surprise by starting Jadon Sancho instead of Bukayo Saka for England in the Euro 2020 final against Italy.

That is the view of former England defender Gary Neville, who believes the spot on the right wing that was filled by Saka in the semi-final win over Denmark is the only position up for grabs.

Neville would have been tempted to play Marcus Rashford if the Manchester United forward had been in better form.

Instead he believes another soon-to-be United player Sancho, who started the quarter-final against Ukraine in Saka's absence, could be the man who gets the nod if 19-year-old is indeed left out.

Saka has had an impressive tournament for England and Neville acknowledges it could be an "unpopular" decision.

He feels it would be easier for Southgate to pick an unchanged side and then take Saka off in the second half as he did in the extra-time triumph in the last four.

The Arsenal youngster has been put forward for many press interviews prior to the Italy clash, but Neville thinks that could be a red herring.

 

"There is only one possible change and that's Saka," he said to ITV Sport.

"I know that would possibly be an unpopular thing to say.

"He may say [to Saka] go for 60 minutes and we'll get you off - which he's done before - he may say that and go with the same team. 

"But I just wonder whether he might bring someone else in.

"Actually putting him up for interviews before the final makes me think he might not be playing.

"If Rashford was in form I'd go Rashford-Sterling just to get in behind [Giorgio] Chiellini and [Leonardo] Bonucci but Rashford hasn't been in the greatest of form. 

"I would think it would be Sancho if Saka doesn't play.

"I think you have to play two of the quicker ones, so it would be Saka, Sancho or Rashford with Sterling on the other side."

 

Phil Foden missed training on Saturday with a knock and the Manchester City star is the only injury doubt for England.

While he called the development "a blow", Neville believes England can cope due to their strength in depth, particularly in the attacking positions.

He told Sky Sports: "It would be a blow for Phil Foden personally and for the team because he is an important part of those six or seven forward players that we have that float around Harry Kane.

"One of the great strengths in this tournament is that you can start Bukayo Saka and Raheem Sterling and bring on Jack Grealish or Jadon Sancho or Phil Foden and not really drop in quality that much.

"We have got an exceptional amount of talent in those positions.

"We are better in the latter half of games, the danger against Italy is that if we do start badly in that first half an hour then the Italians will punish us more than Denmark did.

"You don’t want to be behind to a team with the defensive record that they have.

"It's important that Foden is fit for him personally but if not then an injury is an injury, it's important that we have a lot of players who are fit in those positions going into the last 20 minutes of games which has become critical for us."

Related items

  • Croatia boss Dalic laments ageing squad and defensive issues for Euro 2024 struggles Croatia boss Dalic laments ageing squad and defensive issues for Euro 2024 struggles

    Croatia are on the brink of an early Euro 2024 exit and Zlatko Dalic apportions their struggles to an ageing squad and defensive issues.

    Dalic's side must overcome Italy on Monday to have any chance of escaping Group B, sitting on just one point after a 2-2 draw with Albania followed a 3-0 humbling by Spain in their opener.

    Croatia have not gone through a group stage without winning at a major tournament since the 2006 World Cup (D2 L1) as those defensive problems referenced by Dalic remain the main issue.

    They have conceded five goals in two matches so far, only letting more in at two major tournament group stages, shipping six at Euro 2004 and as many at the World Cup 10 years later.

    "We haven't started well," Dalic told reporters on Sunday. "We haven't been up to our usual standards because we've been conceding too many goals.

    "We only conceded once in the group stage in Qatar 2022, we've conceded five thus far here.

    "The players are three years older. We are also coming up against strong opposition here as well. Perhaps the main issue is that we started to concede goals this season."

    Indeed, Croatia have an ageing midfield with Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic, as well as calling upon veteran Ivan Perisic.

    Yet that experience can still prove pivotal. Modric played 64 passes in the final third against Albania, the second-most by a player on record in a European Championship match (1980 onwards), behind Mesut Ozil for Germany versus Greece at Euro 2012 (74).

    Modric also made his 34th appearance across the Euros and World Cup combined in that Albania draw, a total only six outfield European players can better.

    That in-game knowledge and quality could prove decisive when they meet Italy, in what Dalic acknowledge is a winner-takes-all clash.

    "We know it's essentially a knockout match tomorrow, and there won't be any extra time and we must simply win the game," Dalic said.

    "It's a must-win, any other result will send us home. We don't want to go home so soon.

    "We'll try to stop them from getting that draw. We'll try and stay relaxed to not lose our cool or lose our heads and not allow the opposition to get on top of us.

    "Anything can happen tomorrow night but we're ready to take it on again."

    Dalic has previously apologised to the travelling Croatia supporters for their performance against Spain, though his side are creating ample chances to win games.

    Croatia have already had more shots (38) and more shots on target (15) at this tournament than they had in their Euro 2020 group stage (30 shots, 10 on target).

    They have only had more efforts on target at the group stages of two Euros – 19 in 2004 and 16 in 1996 – with Dalic just needing fortune to fall in Croatia's favour in Leipzig.

    He continued: "Yes, there is pressure. And that comes down to the results we've had thus far and also to the thousands of fans that have been travelling and will be there in Leipzig as well.

    "So there is pressure for us to put a smile on their faces, to try to get a good result for our country. We need to show our true level. So right from the word go, we need to try to put things right."

  • Spalletti willing to switch things up after 'mistakes' in Spain defeat Spalletti willing to switch things up after 'mistakes' in Spain defeat

    Luciano Spalletti is aiming to get Italy back to their best against Croatia on Monday after admitting to not getting things right during their defeat to Spain.

    Spain secured top spot in Group B after their 1-0 victory over Italy on Thursday, with Riccardo Calafiori's own goal handing La Roja the win in the 55th minute.

    Despite the narrow scoreline, Italy struggled to test their counterparts in the final third, managing just four shots in the match, with Unai Simon only having to make one save.

    Spalletti had named the same starting line-up from their comeback win over Albania but used all five of his changes by the 64th minute.

    The head coach admitted even that was not soon enough for his team, but is confident Italy will bounce back on Monday.

    "Of course, after a game like that, there is the notion and the idea to change the team a little bit," Spalletti said.

    "I probably made mistakes in not mixing things up quicker in terms of the performance we produced, but I thought it would be a gamble to tweak anything because we saw everything that had been said in recent times.

    "Now that we have noticed that there is a bit of fatigue and rust in terms of results, we certainly will change things."

    Italy know that a win will confirm second place in the group, while a defeat will either knock them out immediately if Albania beat Spain or leave them waiting to see if they can go through as one of the best third-place teams.

    "There are certain matches which ultimately dictate whether it's been a great tale or a tale to forget, so the glory of your tale comes down to matches such as this," Spaelletti added.

    "Talk is cheap, you've got to go out there and walk the walk. We said things we weren't able to exhibit against Spain, we need to walk the walk and leave talk to one side."

  • Rashid lauds Buttler and Jordan heroics after England thrash USA Rashid lauds Buttler and Jordan heroics after England thrash USA

    Adil Rashid lauded the match-winning abilities of Chris Jordan and Jos Buttler after England secured their T20 World Cup semi-final spot on Sunday.

    England smashed the United States with a 10-wicket victory as Buttler powered an eye-catching 83, smashing six fours and seven sixes from just 38 balls.

    Matthew Mott's white-ball side reached their 116-run target with a huge 62 deliveries to spare, sealing their place in the last four with ease after only just sneaking into the Super 8s phase.

    Yet the convincing victory would not have been possible without Jordan, who managed four wickets from five balls – including a hat-trick – to end the USA's innings inside 19 overs.

    Rashid, who also took 2-13 from his four-over spell, lavished praise on the England bowler, as well as captain Buttler.

    "CJ's a match-winner," Rashid said in his post-match interview. "He's been doing it for a number of years, especially at the back end.

    "Jos is a world-class player and has been for many a year, and hopefully we can carry it on now in the semi-finals."

    Rashid was keen to share the credit among the entire England line-up, too.

    "All the bowlers bowled extremely well and to restrict them to 115 was very pleasing," the leg-spinner added. "Always nice to keep it tight and get an early wicket which brings the new batter in.

    "With the wind, you have to assess which end you're going to bowl. The googly's been coming out nicely, too."

    Buttler seemed intent on a one-man demolition in England's chase, crunching the United States all over the pitch, including hammering 30 runs off Harmeet Singh's ninth over.

    "I thought if we could bring our intensity we'd be too good," Buttler said. "I'm still one of the 11, I've got to do my job."

    "We've got great options. We wanted to bring Chris Jordan back, adding a bit of depth with his batting capabilities as well. A World Cup hat-trick is a great effort."

    The USA saw their World Cup run come to an end, but their victory over Pakistan will live long in the memory.

    Aaron Jones, the star of the USA for much of the tournament, hopes to have put cricket on the American map.

    "This is our first World Cup," he said. "I don't think people would have thought we'd be playing here against the big boys.

    "Hopefully this will open the eyes of the American public. We've got a lot of calls and messages of support during this World Cup."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.