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Southgate Did It Again. How Did England Reach the EURO Quarter-Finals?

Slovakia's head coach, Francesco Calzona, had an excellent starting plan. In addition to their usual quality pressing, we saw impressive attacks from their own half: Denis Vavro, Milan Škriniar, and Stanislav Lobotka regularly drew England players to them, stretching the team vertically and then used long passes to catch the opponents during transitions.

The best moments came when England's defenders failed to switch between a back four and a back three (with the ball and under high pressing, Kieran Trippier moved up into the attack, while Marc Guéhi and Kyle Walker became the wide center-backs). Up front, David Strelec or one of the eights would latch onto the ball, followed by the inside forwards Ivan Schranz and Lukáš Haraslín bursting into the penalty area. This was a superb team interplay from Calzona.

Southgate responded with strange match management. Until the 66th minute, the English head coach made no substitutions. Still, with Trippier's injury, he decided to change the game plan – Bukayo Saka started covering the entire left flank instead of Kieran. Cole Palmer came on for the right wing. It's not that Gareth turned the game around. Still, England gradually gained attacking momentum, overwhelmed the aging Slovak team, and eventually took the game to extra time.

Ivan Toney entered the game successfully (an assist and 4 out of 5 aerial duels won). He helped England take the lead, after which Southgate shut the game down again. Gareth parked the bus comfortably, using the hardworking Eze and Saka as wing-backs in a 5-3-2. This encapsulates Southgate's approach – yesterday's game likely didn't win England any new fans, but the team advanced.

Published by Patrick Jane