Rod Liddle

England had it and they threw it away

Gareth Southgate cannot grasp when a game is going against him and has no comprehension of what to do to change it

England had it and they threw it away
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England: 1 (Shaw) 

Italy: 1 (Swarthy cheat)

England had it and threw it away. Much the better side in the first half, finding acres of space along the right flank. But the Italian manager, Roberto Mancini, recognised the problem and changed the game. As Italy swarmed forward in the second half, Gareth Southgate had no answer: it was almost a re-run of the 2018 semi final in Russia against Croatia – he cannot grasp when a game is going against him and has no comprehension of what to do to change it. His substitutions were appalling: Henderson horribly off the pace, Saka horribly out of his depth. Two very bad changes indeed. The godforsakenly late introduction of Grealish gave England a new cutting edge: too little, too late, Gareth. And then to give the crucial penalties to our youngest most inexperienced players.

England are a good side. They are 4,596 times better than Scotland, for example. But then North Macedonia are at least five times better than Scotland. There are performing geese who are better than Scotland. England have team spirit and a facility on the ball and Southgate deserves credit for that. But they have been hamstrung by a manager who, when push comes to shove, is utterly clueless about the drift of the game, about what is happening and how to change it. He may still be remembered, when all is done, for missed egregiously penalties. All those kids lined up. You idiot, Southgate. Don’t you remember?

The signs were there in the Denmark game: the sitting back on a narrow lead. Against a really good team – and Italy are a really good team – you will ALWAYS concede a goal. His simpering school prefects in the sports pages of the daily press praised the way Denmark were 'contained'. But it only takes a second for that containment to be undone. You cannot contain for 88 minutes.

But, whatever – knight him. And then pension him off. Nice man. Not a good manager.

Oh and well done Italy. Best team in the tournament – as I said at the outset – wins tournament shock. Good tournament though.