What Euro 2020 Means For the Qatar World Cup
Well, that was fun. Another tournament done and dusted and another convincing reason to fall in love with football all over again.
Surprise results, heartbreaking finishes and feel-good stories throughout, Euro 2020 will go down as one of the best international tournaments of all time.
From English agony to Italian ecstasy, the final was the icing on the cake for a tournament to savour.
Taking a step back, let's reflect on this memorable few weeks and project what these European championships could mean for the 2022 World Cup which is now less than 500 days away.
The Rise and Rise of the 3-4-3
Considering the short turnaround from now until the World Cup in Qatar, the effects of the Euros on Qatar will be felt even more.
Nearly all the big sides lined up with a 3-4-3, or at least some variation of it over the last few weeks. The Dutch, Germany and Belgium all lined up in a 3-back set, though their approaches were all vastly different.
Despite ranging from attacking wingbacks, ridged low blocks, and overlapping centre backs, the different ways the 3-back setup were used all provided each team with their own unique advantage and method of attack. Even the Italians pivoted to a back-3 for large swaths of their final against England, particularly during their hour-long chase for an equaliser.
As seen through Chelsea conquering the Champions League, a well installed 3-4-3 can allow a team to dominate with the overlap and through overloads in wide areas. Denmark’s Joakim Mæhle, Leonardo Spinazzola for Italy, Belgium’s Thomas Meunier and England’s Luke Shaw were the main beneficiaries of using wingbacks, and all enjoyed breakout tournaments.
Looking at who could have another good tournament next time out, you need to look no further than the next generation of technically capable and physically impressive youngsters who are ready to take over from the old guard.
Spain's Pedri won the young player of the tournament award and earned a place in the Euro Best Eleven and it's not hard to see why. His 29 carries into the final third were 10 more than the next best player in the entire tournament. His 66 progressive carries were bettered only by his teammate Aymeric Laporte while Pedri sent 68 passes into the final third and a further 11 more into the penalty area proving his class and vital importance to a Spanish side that improved throughout the Euros.
Pedri was just one example of how good the next generation of players are. Belgium's Jeremy Doku, Sweden's Alexander Isak, England's Bukayo Saka and Italy's lethal Federico Chiesa are all players who could take the world game by storm over the next few years and should be ready to fire once again come Qatar.
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Where do we even begin when it comes to English national team?
The football gods were once again not on the side of the Three Lions, though of course making it thorough to their first major tournament final in 55 years is nothing to scoff at.
Ultimately though England fell to the Italians in the most heartbreaking, soul-destroying and cruel circumstances possible losing a penalty shootout at a major tournament for a 7th time (they've won just 3).
In a tournament when we were repeatedly told that 'Football was coming home', things took a sharp left and veered violently into oncoming traffic, principally in the form of Gianluigi Donnarumma who English football fans will see in their nightmares for years to come.
With all that said being said, the team England sent to these Euros was remarkably young, while so many of its key players should be either in their absolute peak by the time Qatar rolls around, or at least rapidly approaching it.
The average age of each English squad member at these Euro was just 25.9-years old, meaning they were the tournament's third-youngest squad, while the likes of Jadon Sancho, Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden and Marcus Rashford will all have plenty of opportunities to finally put an end to all that English misery.
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