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March International Break: The lead up to the European Championship

During this edition of the international break seen England, Scotland and Northern Ireland play in friendlies, meanwhile in Cardiff, Wales were fighting for their spot to be at the Euros in their two fixtures.

 

England


England had the harder two fixtures on paper facing Belgium and Brazil, who are fourth and fifth on the FIFA World Rankings, with Brazil being the first fixture on Saturday night. Three players received their first England caps as Anthony Gordon started on the left-hand side to receive his first cap and then Kobbie Mainoo and Ezri Konsa coming off the bench to receive their first caps. The game ended in a 1-0 defeat at the hands of the 17-year-old wonderkid Endrick ten minutes from time, but looking at the statistics, it was an even affair and seeing a lot of players that don’t usually see the nod to experiment, to see what the best starting eleven is for Gareth Southgate was good, especially Mainoo, who got his first start against Belgium on Tuesday night and was player of the match with his dominant midfield display and may have solved Southgate’s midfield combination problem with him and Declan Rice just sitting in behind Bellingham seems to be on pitch and paper, the perfect midfield trio and Mainoo showing he can do it for country as well as club, another player who hit a personal achievement was Ivan Toney, who scored his first goal for England from a spot kick and a late Jude Bellingham goal seen honours even at Wembley as their goals cancelled out Aston Villa’s Youri Tielemans’ brace for Belgium.

 


Overall, for the Three Lions, it was a tough camp in regards to results against tough opponents, but with seeing the likes of different and young players, one of them could be the missing piece for a European Championship trophy that they just missed out on almost three years ago on penalties.

 

Scotland


Scotland travelled to face the Netherlands on Friday night at the Johan Cruyff Arena, where they lost 4-0, but score line doesn’t match up with how well  Scotland played. Steve Clarke’s side did impress for long durations and had a lot of good chances in those periods but did get taught a hard lesson by the 90 against a ruthless and very good Dutch side. When the Oranje Holland went 1-0 up through Reijnders, Scotland’s heads didn’t go down, they kept on fighting but again, the elite level they were playing at, they just couldn’t keep up and let in a further three goals in the last 20 minutes but it was still a good showing considering the score line and they now had Northern Ireland to look forward to back in a rainy Glasgow.

 

The Tartan Army were expecting Scotland to sweep aside their neighbours from across the water, and this did happen to an extent according to the post-match statistics, but we all know the only stat that matters at full-time is who got the ball over the goal line the most, and that was Northern Ireland, who took the win by one goal to nil, thanks to Liverpool’s hard working Conor Bradley, who never gave up on the ball at the by-line and nicked it off of Merseyside rival and Everton’s Nathan Patterson, and drove into the box and took a shot that seen a deflection that seen it go past Angus Gunn and into his top left-hand corner. Scotland did pile on the pressure throughout the full game but ultimately it was the final third passes and crosses that let them down and it seems to be a different Scotland side to what we have seen in the qualifying stage for the Euros so can they pick up with the last international break before the tournament starts?



Wales


Wales played both Euro play-off games at Cardiff City Stadium and first up it was Finland, who they had to beat to face Robert Lewandowski’s Poland for a last chance to be at Germany this summer, and they did, they swept Finland aside 4-1 in a dominant display, so all focus was a head to Tuesday night against Poland.

 

When the Welsh started against Poland, it was very cagey, both teams seemed quite anxious and not passing with fluency or able to counterattack one another. Wales thought they went one up through a Ben Davies header but he was found to be in an offside position so we were still at a stalemate and it lasted that way through 90 minutes with a pretty even affair, so that meant we had an extra 30 minutes to see if either nation could get the job done before penalties came into play, but neither team couldn’t and Bournemouth’s Chris Mepham was sent off with a second yellow card in the very last minute of extra-time but Wales were able to hang on for the shootout. Poland took first meaning if they score, the pressure went on to the Welsh and that’s exactly what happened, Poland scored all five of their penalties and Wales keeping par for their first four, meaning the pressure was on Wales and Dan James to score just to keep his country alive in the shootout to take it to sudden death, but former Arsenal and current Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny got his hand to the ball and was the hero that sent Poland to another European Championship and seen Wales fall at the very last hurdle.



Wales would have been very disappointed after being quite used to qualifying for major tournaments as of late but with a strong squad that only seems to be getting stronger, they should bounce back and should see them back in the Euros and or World Cup in the not too distant future.


Now that all the spots have been filled for the 2024 edition for the European Championship, take a look below at the completed groups.



Scotland will kick off the full tournament against hosts Germany on 14 June, followed by Switzerland on 19 June and the final group game on 23 June against Hungary in hopes of advancing.


England will face Serbia to kickstart their campaign on 16 June, Denmark on 20 June and Slovenia on 25 June to close off their group stages and in hope that they can go in better than the last Euros and lift the trophy in July in Berlin.



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