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Club news

Fletch's Euros column: We've got more in the tank

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth legend Steve Fletcher thinks England still have “another couple of gears” as they bid for glory at the European Championship.

Fletcher, writing his second Euro 2020 column for afcb.co.uk, felt Gareth Southgate’s team thoroughly deserved their 1-0 win over Croatia on Sunday.

Raheem Sterling bagged the only goal as the Three Lions won their opening game at a European Championship for the first time.

England continue their Group D campaign against Scotland on Friday before meeting Czech Republic at Wembley on Tuesday 22nd June.

Cherries’ appearance record holder Fletcher, whose grandfather Jack Howe was capped by England in the 1940s, will be penning his opinions for the club website throughout the tournament.

On paper, it was a game between two evenly-matched teams but we were by far the better side on the day.

Sometimes in major tournaments, you have games where one team is expected to thrash the other but it was never going to be like that.

It wasn’t blood and thunder and it was always going to be a bit cagey. I thought we dominated for long periods and controlled it.

Croatia had a small spell of possession after we had scored but without any real danger. If you’re being picky maybe we should have won by more than one goal.

I know Italy and Belgium both won their opening games 3-0 but there was very little chance of it being like that.

I thought it was a very disciplined and classy performance but I also think we’ve still got a couple more gears to go. I didn’t think we were anywhere near our very best.

As a first game goes, it was a good display but there are still a couple more levels to go and we are probably going to need to find them if we want to go all the way.

It was a lovely ball from Kalvin Phillips for the goal and a great finish from Raheem Sterling.

I thought it was a workmanlike performance without anybody really standing out and that’s what wins games and tournaments rather than individuals.

I know there were a few raised eyebrows when Kieran Trippier was named to start at left-back ahead of Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell.

Did people raise an eyebrow when Eddie Howe played Adam Smith at left-back – I don’t think they did.

Gareth Southgate knows his players better than most. He will have had his reasons and now they have been justified.

Trippier can play both sides and he’s experienced. Southgate wanted him to be disciplined against a good Croatia team and that’s why he played him.

Because of the way we are in England and the way we’re passionate about our football, every team selection he makes is never going to suits everybody.

There will always be one or two positions people will debate and that’s why we love the game. If it was straight forward, it would be boring!

If he gets it right, we can all say well done and, if he doesn’t, we can all turn round and say he should have done this or that.

As a manager, you can never win but he got it right.

People were saying he should have played Shaw or Chilwell but they are both very forward-thinking defenders.

He had seen the squad in training for a few weeks and would have worked on it.

I think he will make a couple of changes for every game. He will look at the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses and select a team accordingly.

Of course, he’s not going to make 11 changes for the next game but he might make one or two to try to nullify the opposition and get on top of them.

I think eight or nine players will probably play regularly but, due to the opposition’s positives and negatives, I think there will be some changes.

Our bench was really strong against Croatia and the fact Jadon Sancho didn’t even make the squad shows how strong it was. That was a big call and proves we’ve got strength in depth.

I know France are probably favourites and there are some good teams in this tournament. Germany are very consistent, Italy and Belgium have got off to a good start and then you’ve got Spain and Portugal.

We can be very pleased with our first game and hugely encouraged because we know there is the potential there to do more.

From what I’ve seen so far, we’ve got as good a chance as any other country.

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