Euro 2020 qualifiers – England versus Czech Republic and BulgariaPublished on: October 6, 2019Author: Sam F
With four wins from four matches, things are looking good for England in the Euro 2020 qualifiers. But will Gareth Southgate use upcoming matches against the Czech Republic and Bulgaria to try out new players?
Both opponents were dismissed with ease by England earlier this year, but a rocky win over Kosovo shows that Gareth Southgate’s team still have plenty to learn. We’ll take a look at how England have performed so far, and what needs to be done to make sure that they keep their 100% record in Group A.
Scotland and Wales have had a very tricky time in their qualifiers, and things are hanging in the balance for the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Plus with big matches coming up for tournament favourites like France, Belgium, Spain and Germany, it’s shaping up to be a fascinating competition.
England’s bid to top Group A
Gareth Southgate’s team would have to do something extremely reckless to throw away their three-point lead at the top of Group A. England have won all of their matches so far, and their 19 goals from four games has made them the joint highest-scoring side in the competition alongside France and Belgium.
It’s been a largely positive campaign for England after their disappointment against the Netherlands in the Nations League. Emphatic victories over the likes of the Czech Republic, Montenegro and Bulgaria have shown that England have what it takes to build on their unexpectedly strong showing at the 2018 World Cup.
But defensive frailties were certainly exposed in their 5-3 win over Kosovo. This hugely entertaining match saw the low-ranked Kosovo side fighting back from 5-1 down at half-time to give Gareth Southgate’s team a real scare.
Thankfully, this encounter gave youngsters like Jadon Sancho a real confidence boost with two well-earned goals. Plus it’s been great to see Raheem Sterling cementing his reputation as one of Europe’s best strikers.
But England do seem to be able to make problems for themselves through silly defensive errors, and so it’s going to be interesting to see how they cope with the pressure of maintaining their 100% winning record.
Interesting clash away to the Czech Republic
England’s previous encounter with the Czech Republic saw them walking away 5-0 winners at Wembley. With a wonderful hat-trick for Raheem Sterling, it was a largely comfortable performance. But this doesn’t mean that England will have such an easy time away from home as the Czech Republic will be fighting for an automatic qualification place ahead of Kosovo.
Gareth Southgate is using the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers to include some new faces in the England squad. Young Chelsea stars like Tammy Abraham, Fiyako Tomori and Mason Mount have been selected, and other youngsters include the likes of Leicester’s James Maddison and Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho.
England could seal their qualification with a win in Prague on Friday night. But getting top seeding is hugely important and so Southgate will be relying on established stars like Harry Kane, Harry Maguire and Raheem Sterling to guide England to an emphatic victory.
Can Bulgaria hold their own against the relentless England attack?
England’s 4-0 win over Bulgaria in September might not have been hugely entertaining, but it at least gave us chance to see Harry Kane getting another hat-trick. The Bulgarians never posed a serious challenge at Wembley, and Monday night’s game in Sofia should be fairly straightforward for Gareth Southgate’s men.
The match will once again give the England boss chance to see which line-up works best. The battle between Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford for a starting appearance is already looking like an interesting contest.
Bulgaria have little hope of qualifying from Group A, and it would be a real shock if England didn’t pick up three points from Monday night’s match. From here, England play their final Euro 2020 qualifying matches against Montenegro and Kosovo in November.
Scotland’s last chance for Euro 2020 qualification from Group I
Steve Clarke’s team face two very different matches in their last-ditch attempt to claim a place in the Euro 2020 finals. Playing away to Russia on Thursday night will be a massive challenge, although three points should be Scotland’s for the taking when they entertain San Marino on Sunday evening.
Scotland are virtually out of the Euro 2020 finals after their four defeats have left them languishing in fifth place in Group I. However, there is still hope as the team’s Nations League group win means that they could still make the finals.
Russia caused heartbreak for Scotland when they came from behind to win 1-2 at Hampden Park in early September. Once again, it’ll be a matter of keeping powerful Russian forwards like Artem Dzyuba contained, but it could be another tough moment for Steve Clarke’s side.
A home victory over San Marino should be a foregone conclusion, but seeing as Scotland only managed to beat the tiny nation 0-2 in March, it’s clear that anything could happen. Ultimately, Group I looks like a two-horse race between Belgium and Russia to claim the top spot.
Wales still hopeful of qualifying in Group E
Ryan Giggs’ team are sat behind Croatia, Slovakia and Hungary in Group E, but they have an important game in hand. Wales’ next match is away to Slovakia on Thursday night, and then they host the World Cup finalists Croatia on Sunday evening.
Both of these games will be very testing for Wales. Daniel James scored an early goal in their slender 1-0 home win over Slovakia in March, and their 2-1 defeat by Croatia in June revealed a Wales team who can show plenty of resilience.
If Wales can get some points from these games, then they could be in with a real chance of gaining automatic qualification from Group E. But with injuries to key players like Daniel Brooks, it could be a difficult few days for Ryan Giggs’ team.
Can Northern Ireland stay ahead of the Netherlands in Group C?
Northern Ireland can consider themselves unlucky to have been drawn alongside Germany and the Netherlands in Group C. But Michael O’Neill’s side have shown plenty of resolve in their campaign, and they only dropped points in their last match which saw them beaten 0-2 at home by Germany.
Thursday night sees Northern Ireland having to travel to the Netherlands who are three points behind and have a game in hand. This is going to be a very difficult game to come away with anything, but if Northern Ireland can claim a point, then they could gain automatic qualification along with Germany later on.
Unfortunately, players like Conor Washington and Jordan Jones will be out of these matches as a result of injuries. But Norwich City’s Jamal Lewis has been given the all-clear to play and he’ll have a real task in keeping the fearsome Netherlands attack at bay.
Ireland proving the doubters wrong in Group D
With three wins and two draws from five games, the Republic of Ireland are currently sat at the top of Group D. In order to stay ahead of challengers like Denmark and Switzerland, Mick McCarthy’s team will have to get three points from their match at Georgia on Saturday afternoon.
Ireland won this match at home 1-0 back in March thanks to a goal from Conor Hourihane, and they’ll be looking to Aaron Connelly to perform well this weekend. The 19-year old striker scored twice for Brighton their 3-0 victory over Tottenham last Saturday and he’s a recent addition to the Republic of Ireland squad.
Following this, Mick McCarthy’s side face a very tricky match away to Switzerland on Tuesday night. The Swiss team should be the favourites to win Group D, but with sides like Denmark also producing some decent results, it’s going to be tough to call who will come out on top.
Portugal desperate to top Group B
Portugal may have had a stuttering start to their Euro 2020 campaign, but recent evidence points to a real revival. Their 1-5 away demolition of Lithuania featured four goals from the irrepressible Cristiano Ronaldo, and they should make light work of Luxembourg on Friday night.
However, the main test will come when Portugal travel to Ukraine on Monday evening. Ukraine held Portugal to a goalless draw back in March, and it’s worth noting that Ukraine have only let in one goal in the past qualifier matches. Plus with Serbia also in contention, Group B is one of Euro 2020’s most wide-open contests.
Three-way battle behind Spain in Group F
Spain have dominated Group F will six wins out of six. Robert Moreno’s team face the Scandinavian pairing of Norway and Sweden on Saturday and Tuesday night respectively.
Thanks to a well-earned 1-3 away win at Romania last month, Spain have pretty much claimed the Group F top spot. But the battle for second place looks much harder to call. Just two points separate Sweden, Romania and Norway.
On paper, Sweden should be able to claim the automatic qualification place. But Romania have shown plenty of resolve, and Norway could easily cause an upset. This week’s key Group F matches include Romania hosting Norway, and Sweden entertaining Spain on Tuesday night.
Poland hoping to triumph in Group G
Group G may be one of the weakest groups, but Poland haven’t made it easy for themselves. The team should be far ahead of their rivals, but last month saw Poland beaten 2-0 away to Slovenia before being held to a grudging 0-0 home draw to Austria.
As a result, this week will see hugely important matches in Group G that could settle the competition. Poland have the easier run of things with a game away to Latvia on Thursday night before what should be a straightforward home affair against North Macedonia on Sunday evening.
Ultimately the fate of Group G could come down to what happens in Slovenia’s home match against Austria on Sunday night.
France aiming to wrestle Group H win from Turkey
France may be the World Cup champions, but that doesn’t mean that they are immune from footballing upsets. This was seen when Didier Deschamps’ team were shockingly beaten 2-0 away to Turkey in June.
Such a result caused shockwaves across France, and they now find themselves neck-and-neck with Turkey at the top of Group H. It’s also worth mentioning that Iceland are just three points behind the pair.
All of which sets up this week as a pivotal time in Group H. France face the task of trying to win away in Iceland on Friday night, while Turkey should have an easier time in playing Albania at home.
This will set up massive match on Monday evening when France play Turkey for the top spot in Group H. France have already been dealt a blow with the fact that Paul Pogba will miss this week’s action, but thankfully Kylian Mbappe will be back in the France attack following a successful recovery from a hamstring injury.
A return to form from Italy in Group J
Are Italy finally ready to make a return to tournament football? Early evidence suggests that Roberto Mancini’s team could be back to their best with six wins out of six in Group J.
To be fair, Italy haven’t faced the toughest competition with only Finland proving to be worthy adversaries. Italy won their last Euro 2020 qualifier 1-2 away against Finland thanks to a late Jorginho penalty strikes, and they face some easier matches this week.
This sees Roberto Mancini’s side entertaining Greece on Saturday night, before what should be an easy three points away to Liechtenstein.
With in-form strikers like Teemu Pukki in their ranks, Finland should emerged unscathed from upcoming games against Liechtenstein and Greece to book their place at the Euro 2020 finals.