Euro 2020 Delayed: A Bizarre Opportunity?

Yesterday, Uefa announced that Euro 2020 has been postponed until the summer of 2021 following the Coronavirus pandemic.

Many of the European nations involved in the tournament had formulated the majority of their squad for the tournament, with perhaps just a few spots left up for grabs for potential surprise inclusions. The extra year delay, however, means that there is plenty more time for players to stake their claim for a place in their country’s squad.

Gareth Southgate, manager of England, has the luxury of having a multitude of young, top-quality players knocking at his door for a place in the senior squad. If these players continue to improve and thrive over the next 12 months, then Southgate will be forced to at least consider their induction into his team. In this article, I outline exactly who those players could be:

Harvey Barnes

The Leicester winger has enjoyed a fantastic season thus far, most recently scoring twice and providing an assist in the 4-0 win against Aston Villa. After spending the first half of last season on loan at West Brom in the Championship, Barnes was recalled by his parent club and has thrived under Brendan Rodgers. This season, Barnes has scored six goals and provided six assists in the Premier League, and in recent months has become an increasingly integral member of Rodgers’ team, particularly when Vardy’s goalscoring form began to drop.

These performances have surely not gone unnoticed by Southgate, and although Barnes faces stiff competition in the winger department (with the likes of Sterling, Rashford, and Sancho in the same position), if his form continues to improve he will put himself in a very strong position come next summer.

Bukayo Saka

Despite being just 18 years of age, the level of Saka’s performances since the turn of the year had led to many people advocating for his call up for this summer’s Euro’s before they were delayed.

At the beginning of the season, Saka was deployed as a left winger, playing most of his minutes in cup competitions such as the Europa League. However, after injuries to Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac, Saka was converted to first-choice left back, and he hasn’t looked back since. Although he has had previous experience in the position, he is most comfortable further forward, but one would never know given the quality of his play. Bukayo has become somewhat of an assist king, providing nine so far this season, many being fantastic crosses for his Arsenal counterparts. Not only that, but he has also scored three goals.

Competition at left back is not as fierce as other positions in the England squad, with the likes of Ben Chilwell, Luke Shaw, and the aging Danny Rose being the only viable options. England’s lack of strength and depth in the left back position makes Saka’s chances likelier, and if he decides to remain in this position, his chances of getting on the plane seem feasible.

Phil Foden

After winning the Golden Ball for his performances in the 2017 U17 World Cup, Phil Foden was the young English talent everyone was looking out for. Under the guidance of Pep Guardiola at Man City, he was expected to kick on and quickly rise through the ranks to the England senior squad.

Although he has put in a number of impressive displays for his club, he has suffered a huge lack of playing time in the last few years. Despite being the recipient of high praise from Pep Guardiola, who called him “the most talented player” he had ever seen, he played just 13 Premier League games last season. Hoping to make a significant jump in the number of appearances this season, he has instead been restricted to just three starts and a total of 14 Premier League appearances, totaling only 354 minutes.

The quality of Foden is undoubted, and fans were given a reminder of this with his man of the match performance in the Carabao Cup Final. However, unless Guardiola gives him the opportunity to showcase his ability on a regular basis, an England call up is unlikely. With the departure of David Silva looming, Foden is the natural replacement for him in the starting lineup. Man City and England fans will be watching eagerly to see if this happens.

Mason Greenwood

The young forward has burst onto the scene this season at Manchester United under the guidance of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Making 38 appearances in all competitions, Greenwood has scored 14 goals — an impressive return for an 18 year old. Greenwood has showcased his ability in a number of positions, often playing on the right wing but also slotting in at center forward.

Although many of his performances have been superb in an inconsistent season for Man United, many critics argue that it is still too early for a senior England call up. The year-long delay, however, provides Greenwood with more time to mature and stake his claim for a place in the squad.

Not only is Greenwood blessed with versatility, but he is also ambidextrous. His ability to use both feet with equal ability is a rare but extremely valuable quality, and a lack of left-footed wingers in the England squad will make Greenwood’s prospects more likely as Southgate looks for fresh options in his attack.

Reece James

After spending the 2018/2019 season on loan at Championship side Wigan Athletic (where he won their player of the season award), James was brought into the Chelsea first-team squad by Frank Lampard. Throughout the current season, James has put in a number of consistent performances and has made the right back position his own. His form has led to Azpilicueta moving to the left back position, and James has now made a total of 26 appearances in all competitions.

England are blessed with a plethora of options at right back, with Trent Alexander-Arnold, Aaron Wan-Bissaka (who is still uncapped by England but surely in line for his debut), Kyle Walker, and Kieran Trippier all current options. However, with Walker and Trippier aging, and the possibility of Alexander-Arnold moving to a midfield position, Reece James could quickly find himself in the England senior set up. James has not only showcased his ability to deliver brilliant balls from the flanks, but has displayed his physical strength and his calculated ability on the ball. If he continues his strong form, an England call-up is surely forthcoming.

Ben White

By far the most notable and surprising pick for a potential call-up on this list, Ben White is expected to kick-on from a fantastic season on loan at Leeds United and showcase his ability in the Premier League next season.

Ben White has been the standout defender in the Championship this term, making 37 appearances in the best defensive side in the league. He is expected to be thrown into the first team squad by Brighton & Hove Albion once he is recalled before the beginning of next season. If his form can translate to the Premier League, his fantastic on-the-ball ability and strong defensive capabilities can help to form a rock-solid partnership with Brighton captain Lewis Dunk.

Southgate may see center half as the position in his squad that requires the most work, so the inclusion of fresh faces in the squad may be welcome. If White becomes a mainstay in a Premier League defense next season, he may be too good for Southgate to ignore.

Any More Potential Call-Ups?

Southgate is lucky to have a multitude of young, fresh options to add to the England senior squad. Who else do you think has an opportunity to receive a call-up before next summer’s European Championships?

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