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Club news

Fletch's Euros column: We have a huge chance


AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth legend Steve Fletcher says England have a big opportunity to continue their progress all the way to the Euro 2020 final after sweeping aside Ukraine on Saturday evening.

Fletcher was among the tens of millions of England fans who watched Gareth Southgate's side put in a commanding performance to win 4-0 and book a date with Denmark in the semi-final on Wednesday.

Harry Kane's well taken early strike set the tone, and after a slight wobble towards the end of the first half a three-goal blitz early in the second half confirmed progress for the Three Lions, Harry Maguire, Kane and Jordan Henderson all scoring headers.

Despite the performance, in his latest Euros column Fletcher says he thinks there could still be more to come for England, and that they'll need to show a similar discipline against the Danes to return Wembley for the final next weekend.

Cherries’ appearance record holder Fletcher, whose grandfather Jack Howe was capped by England in the 1940s, is penning his opinions for afcb.co.uk throughout the tournament.

We got off to an amazing start, we were favourites going into the game but that means nothing; as we saw the night before with Spain and Switzerland, anything’s possible in this tournament.

Getting off to a flying start was huge and it just rocked Ukraine. We were in huge control of the game, the lads looked confident but we had a little spell towards the end of the half where Ukraine had changed their formation and it just affected us a little bit.

They had a few moments in our box, a few shots blocked, Pickford made a save and they started to get on top, they weren’t smothering us but it was a slight concern and half time came at a good time for us.

Gareth Southgate got them in and tactically put it right. We came out as we did in the first half, got the early goal to make it 2-0 and that stopped Ukraine from building any of that momentum.

After that it was just a classy performance, we controlled the game from back to front and everyone grew in confidence, Harry Kane looked a different player.

With him we’re talking about a world-class top scorer, he’s not had many droughts in his career – he’s not gone ten or 12 games like myself without a goal! A drought to him is two or three games.

He gets himself in good areas, in the six-yard box, on the shoulder of defenders, looking for little balls in, and he keeps doing it and doing it.

He hit that volley after scoring twice already and if that goes in it’s goal of the tournament – he wouldn’t have even attempted to hit that in the previous games. Goals bring confidence.

As good as he played I still don’t think he’s moving 100% and firing on all cylinders. I thought previously in the tournament he was at 50%, last night he was about 90%.
At 2-0 it was a precarious position, one goal can change the whole complexion, the third goal was huge, Kane’s header, that killed Ukraine off.

The fourth was good for Henderson, my missus was sat next to me and she said they should just end the game there. I knew what she was saying because it became a non-entity after that.

It took the edge off it with over 25 minutes still to play. We’ll take that all day long, but we watch these games for the excitement so I was chuckling to myself with an England game already being done and dusted at that stage.

It was right to bring Kane off, he’ll have wanted to stay on as a striker and get a hat-trick but looking at the bigger picture he’s got to rest himself and not get injured, Southgate got that right.

I’ve been in games when you’re three or four up and it’s nice, everybody wants to stay on and I’m sure Southgate explained the situation to him.

I’m not sure it’s going to be like that in the next game so we need to enjoy it while we can. Denmark will be tougher opposition but we’ve given ourselves a massive chance, I just hope it’s not like the World Cup and that semi-final, losing to a nation we had a massive chance of beating.

I said in my previous columns that there was more to come, that we hadn’t got out of second gear, but I think we have now. I still honestly think there’s a tiny bit more to come but it’s fantastic for the nation and just what we need.

Is it coming home? I don’t know, I’d love to think it is. Everyone keeps saying it but I don’t want to put a jinx on it so we’ll see.

If we go out with that disciplined performance against Denmark, controlling the ball, attacking the way we did and also being solid at the back we’ll have a huge chance.

You could hear Southgate after the game: job done, but there’s another job to do. They’re not too ahead of themselves, there’s still a lot of football left to play.

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