Come 1pm on Sunday, the mood of England fans will change one way or another.
“Four at the back with those centre-backs? I’d have gone for a back-five.” “I can’t believe he’s gone so defensive with five defenders and two holding midfielders.” “How’s Trippier starting?” “Where’s Grealish?” “Can’t believe he’s stuck with Pickford!” “No Foden? What a joke!”
That’s just a slim selection of what will be heard up and down the land when Gareth Southgate’s starting XI for England’s opening Euro 2020 match against Croatia is named. No matter who the manager picks, some supporters are bound to be left fuming.
Yet, what will almost certainly unite most England fans in uproar is if either Raheem Sterling or Marcus Rashford start the match.
At least one of the pair getting a starting berth seems likely – with reports on Saturday suggesting that Manchester City’s Sterling could get the nod in a front-three – as Southgate has tended to stick with the players he knows and trusts the most when it comes to the big tournaments.
It’s not as though either of the pair are bad players, either, but they are both out of form.
Meanwhile, Sterling’s performance levels dropped massively this past season compared to 2019/20, scoring less than half the amount of goals and falling out of favour under Pep Guardiola.
The last time he was a surprise name on the teamsheet was the Champions League final, which didn’t go well at all.
Jadon Sancho, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish and perhaps Bukayo Saka are all ahead of the Manchester duo in the pecking order in most supporters’ minds.
Even Jesse Lingard has been playing better than them both of late and he couldn’t make the squad.
If Rashford or Sterling make the cut then the majority of the fan base is going to be unhappy and the pressure is immediately going to be turned up a notch on Southgate. A defeat by Croatia after such a divisive selection, with frustrations high,
could potentially lead to a scenario where boos ring down from the stands for legitimate reasons for a change, harking back to the ugly scenes of the 2010 World Cup.
What would your England team be vs Croatia? Let us know in the comments below!
Playing at home had its advantages but also some obvious drawbacks and if England lose the crowd early on it could completely derail all the momentum that has been built over the last few years.
It will be up to Sterling and Rashford, should either start, to make sure that doesn’t happen. They have a massive point to prove in showing supporters that they deserve a spot in the team over the more exciting,
fresher attackers who are vying for their spots. They will have to quell the discontent among supporters that will inevitably be present upon their selection, and justify Southgate’s choice.