winwin analysis | New England plan undermined Harry Kane!

England qualified for the semi-finals of Euro 2024, beating Switzerland 5-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in Dusseldorf, in a match in which Harry Kane did not show his best form.

England have only won four penalty shootouts in their history, and ironically two of those have come against Switzerland, in 2019 in the Nations League and tonight in Euro 2024.

England have reached the semi-finals of a European Championship in two consecutive tournaments for the first time, while Switzerland have now been eliminated in all five of their appearances in the quarter-finals of major tournaments: the 1934, 1938 and 1954 World Cups, and Euro 2020 and 2024.

Did England’s change of plan work?

Southgate switched to a 3-4-2-1 as many expected, and the key change was to have Bukayo Saka on the right wing with Kyle Walker behind him to form a strong front.

The approach did not suit Jude Bellingham, who plays as a No. 10, nor Phil Foden, the outspoken winger, and we have already talked about the conflict of roles between them, so what about their presence in almost the same area?

Saka was a constant threat, scoring a lovely goal and never stopping his runs. Foden and Bellingham could have a bigger impact as they played narrower.

Harry Kane’s movement and touch map shows he touched the ball inside the Swiss penalty area (4 times) only and always moved outside the area

The method helped Saka, but it did not help England, because Harry Kane was almost alone in the attack, and despite that he was strangely falling outside the area, to the point that he touched the ball only 4 times inside the Swiss box.. So who will score?!

Questions about Harry Kane’s performance

England’s attack, led by Harry Kane, is full of question marks. The method is not ideal, and does not provide the required offensive depth. It must be noted that England only scored from its first shot on goal in the 80th minute.

There was not a single shot on target in the first half of the match, and this is the only match in the last two tournaments in which there was no shot on target in the first 45 minutes.

Learning from the 2020 penalty shootout mistake

Penalties are England’s nightmare, having lost the previous Euro final on penalties, but this time England have prepared well for penalties and learned from past mistakes.

Gareth Southgate brought on Toney and Cole Palmer early to take penalties and get a feel for the game, unlike when he brought on Sancho and Marcus Rashford without ever touching the ball and went straight in to take penalties.

There is a difference between a player’s first touch in the match being to take a penalty kick, and a player gaining a sense of the ball before executing it, and this is what Palmer and Tony succeeded in, knowing that they have a good record in penalty kicks in the English Premier League.

Bukayo Saka, one of England’s players who missed penalties in the Euro 2020 final against Italy, also had the courage to step in and take the shot.

For only the second time in their tenth shootout at a major tournament (World Cup/Euros), England have scored all of their penalties in a match (5/5), as they also did against Spain at Euro 96 (4/4).

Saka’s impact with and without the ball

Aside from the Arsenal star’s outstanding attacking performance that made up for Harry Kane’s absence from shining, Saka’s presence in the right wing-back position made one of Switzerland’s most important players, Michel Aebischer, live a hot evening in this match, and focused his efforts more on staying with Saka most of the time.

Apart from the goal he scored, Saka managed 4 dribbles with a 100% success rate, which confirms that this position makes the Arsenal star a crucial element as he enjoys as much protection as possible and exploits the line a lot or alternates with Walker in moving inside if necessary.

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