Ben White and England chase Euro 2020 top spot


Ben White’s chances of emulating Steve Foster 39 years ago seem to have diminished.

And not just because England could really win the group.

Returning to the 1982 World Cup, defender Albion Foster played the third match of the opening group stage with already qualified England.

His role, replacing the resting Terry Butcher, in a 1-0 victory over Kuwait remains the last England appearance for an Albion player in a major tournament.

England don’t have that kind of luxury at Euro 2020.

A 0-0 draw against Scotland, when the Whites were left out on Matchday 23, brought them closer to qualifying.

But their place in the round of 16 is by no means certain for the last round of matches tomorrow.

There’s an argument that it’s better to be a finalist than win the group given how the raffle works.

This is an argument based on avoiding opposition from the particularly strong F group.

But this theory is wrong if the ambition for England goes beyond reaching the quarter-finals.

Admittedly, first place in the group would see England face a group side involving Spain, Sweden, Poland and Slovakia in the round of 16.

But the next stage will see them face off against the winners of powerful Group F in Copenhagen.

In contrast, England’s top spot would see them face off against Group F finalists at Wembley, albeit in the bottom 16.

England would certainly need a lift – and a display of offensive flair – against the Czech Republic.

They received as much criticism after Scotland’s draw on Friday as they received praise when they beat Croatia 1-0 in their opener.

Harry Kane has taken a lot of criticism but boss Gareth Southgate has made it clear he will stay with the Tottenham man.

“You can assume that, yes, absolutely,” Southgate replied when asked if Kane would keep his place.

“He’s fundamental not only for the goals he scores, but also for the construction game and all that it brings.

“I know there will be a lot of questions that will be asked about him right now, but he’s been there 100 times and I’ve answered them a few times in the past and he’s found the goals that have won . us the next games and I expect it to be the same in the future.

Southgate went on to explain why he had knocked out Kane in both matches so far this summer and hailed the 27-year-old striker as his key man.

He told ITV Sport: “In one of the games we were already ahead and needed the energy to push and hold the lead, we didn’t need an extra goal.

“During the World Cup we found ourselves with him playing a lot of football and we felt the need to handle that load a bit this time around and we have some good options on the bench to bring people into the game. .

“But he’s our most important player, there’s no doubt about it.

“You just have to look at his scoring record with us to see how important he is to the team.”

Kane’s former colleague at Tottenham, Kieran Trippier, also supported the center-forward.

Trippier said: “He works so hard for the team that people might not recognize what he does outside of the ball, the pressing.

“I believe in Harry and I know he will score goals, but it’s the job he does for the team. Some people might not recognize what it does, the linking game.



“Harry’s chances will come and he will definitely score goals.

“Harry has had an amazing season with Spurs. Harry is in good shape, he works hard every day in training and it’s just about trying to give him chances. But he will score goals.

“He’s our captain, he’s our leader. Like I said, he’s a great player for us and we just have to create chances for him to score goals.

“He’s an amazing professional and we just have to try to put him at the end of the day and try to create as much for him as possible.”

In 1982, there was no reward for being at the top of your group.

England were then drawn into a tough section in the second round with West Germany and Spain, while second-placed France had Northern Ireland and Austria easier.

The first place is up for England this time and will undoubtedly have its reward.

But, with or without White, they still have work to do.


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