So far, so boring, and that’s so fine for Gareth Southgate’s “defense-first” England.
The Three Lions boss has made it pretty clear from his lineups and tactics that he’s all about those zeroes and happy to ride with a lone goal on the way to EURO 2020 glory.
Or at least the knockout rounds.
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Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips have let few pass into England’s final third and Southgate has used veteran fullbacks Kyle Walker and Luke Shaw around three different combinations of center backs between John Stones, Harry Maguire, and Tyrone Mings to shut the door on everyone.
And while this isn’t a 1,000-minute clean sheet streak like Italy, England is happy to go ahead and then shut ‘er down.
“I think if you spoke to the players, we spoke a lot about that freedom, but we are a little bit short in a few areas of match fitness and sharpness, and I thought as the game wore on that started to take its toll a bit,” Southgate said via the BBC. “We have hit the woodwork in all three matches and the other thing we have to get better on is our attacking set-play which is normally such a good source of goals for us and our deliveries have been really poor. We are difficult to score against at the moment and although we’re not perhaps flowing as much as we’d like, that solidity is critical for any team doing well.”
England only scored two goals in three matches, but they’re one of only two sides to keep a zero on their balance sheet through three matches (Italy. Sweden can also join if it blanks Poland on Wednesday).
Put another way, the Three Lions have scored two goals through three matches. Finland is the only team to play three games, have scored two or fewer goals, and still be alive to quality for the knockout rounds.
So is there anything to worry about? Is “a win is a win is a win” the thing to say here?
(Obviously, we’d say that the thing to say here is that they could score a lot more goals if they, y’know, started one of the best chance creators in the world… but what do we know?)
The numbers behind England’s three matches
Granted the Three Lions are one of 16 teams to play three matches while eight others will play their third matches on Wednesday, but the averages don’t Iight up the night, either.
England’s 53.9 percent possession is ninth in the tournament, its passing percentage of 85.9 eighth.
The Three Lions are allowing a measly 8.7 shots per game — seventh-best — but their shot attempts are eye-popping bad. Their 7.3 shots taken per game, however are third-worst in the tournament.
Game-by-game, how’s it gone? Super consistent. And that’s a positive. Whether England has more of the ball or just the same, whether they take more shots or fewer, they are not allowing anything.
England 1-0 Croatia
xG: 1.51 – 0.36
Shots on target: 2-2
Big chances (SofaScore): 2-0
England 0-0 Scotland
xG: 1.45 – 0.66
Shots on target: 1-2
Big chances (SofaScore): 3-0
Czech Republic 0-1 England
xG: 0.31 – 1.48
Shots on target: 1-3
Big chances (SofaScore): 0-3