David James: England should be gaining confidence from watertight defence
Tuesday, 22 June 2021
Former England goalkeeper and EURO2020.com columnist David James is confident Gareth Southgate's side are heading in the right direction.
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Most people, myself included, want England to go and win 4-0 in every game. That's just being an England fan. But realistically, England just needed to qualify out of the group – the whole point of a tournament is to get out of the group and then go on to try and win your knockout games to lift the trophy. England are through.
There's a lot of talk about who we can face and whether our performances are good enough to challenge certain opponents in the knockouts. But it doesn't matter what England have done up until now because they have qualified.
The idea that you automatically go on to win the tournament if you win all your group games just isn't the case. There's no correlation. Since 1996, eight teams have won all their group games but only one has won the tournament – that was Spain in 2008.
The quality and depth in this England squad mean they're in a good place. I'm happy. I've been in this position – what happens on the field, how the players see the game and how they're going about achieving a result is so different to what fans and commentators want. The team just want to get through. You don't have to play attractive football to be champions.
You can only play what's in front of you. The idea of playing more expansively come what may just doesn't work if the opposition are set up in a certain way. There are different challenges against every team.
Momentum is one thing, but it's all about confidence in a tournament. If you're building confidence from the back, don't underestimate how watertight our defence has been so far. That should hopefully spread through the rest of the side. They can begin to play more expansively when they know the guys behind them are doing their jobs.
England don't know who they're going to play in the knockout rounds so we just have to deal with the Czech Republic game. You can get a lot out of a game like this. There are bound to be personnel changes because there needs to be, and the players coming in will have the chance to familiarise themselves with things like systems and set-play plans. There's a lot to be gained aside from just the result.
I've noticed Jordan Pickford calming things down a couple of times. There's sometimes a sense that everything needs to be rushed to be dynamic, but it's only worth speeding the game up if everyone is in a position to capitalise. There have been a couple of occasions when Jordan's distribution has nearly set up a goal.
If the opposition think you're playing slowly, you can catch them off guard if you sometimes throw in a quicker passage of play. You need to keep the opposition on their toes. There certainly seems to be a plan.