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Best England performance of the tournament claims John Barnes

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BonusCodeBets had the pleasure of sitting down with former Liverpool and England winger John Barnes who shared his thoughts on England’s 2-1 win over the Netherlands yesterday evening. Barnes shared his thoughts on the performances of Manchester United midfielder Kobbie Mainoo and the match winning goal scored by Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins.

In this article:

  • First half against Holland was England’s best of the tournament
  • Southgate has created a positive harmony which reflects in the impact of the substitutions
  • Mainoo doesn’t give the ball away
  • Watkins offers something different to Kane

First half against Holland was England’s best of the tournament

England are through to another Euro Championship final under the stewardship of Gareth Southgate. After going 1-0 down thanks to a stunning opening goal from Xavi Simons. England haven’t been at their best during competition so far having scraped through against both Slovakia and Switzerland. However, Barnes claims England’s first half which saw Harry Kane restore parity from the penalty spot was England’s best half of the tournament so far and reserved praise for the likes of Ivan Toney, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ivan Toney for staying ready when called upon.

“It was the best performance of the tournament so far, particularly in the first half. It’s a sign of a good team when you can win football matches without playing well. Now, we’ve not played well until yesterday. Well, the first half, but we got the job done. You have to have the resilience and the determination even when things aren’t going well to not lose football matches. And that’s what they’ve shown.

“So, you know, coming back to score in the 96th minute when Jude Bellingham scored the overhead kick when they’re not playing well. Saka scored in the 80th minute. You know Ollie Watkins coming on to score.

“It shows that the harmony within the squad is good because the easiest thing to do if you are a substitute like Watkins, Ivan Toney and Trent Alexander-Arnold is to be unmotivated and unhappy because the team’s not playing well and Gareth’s not making any changes.”

Southgate has created a positive harmony which reflects in the impact of the substitutions

Ivan Toney played a crucial role in England’s 2-1 win over Slovakia and then went on to score his penalty alongside Trent Alexander-Arnold in the following clash with Switzerland which went to a penalty shoot out. Meanwhile, Watkins came off the bench to score a dramatic 90th minute winner against Ronald Koeman’s men. Barnes is full of praise for the harmony Southgate has created in the England camp.

“However, that’s been an easy thing to do. But Gareth has managed to keep the harmony within the team. Even when the players aren’t playing, some of them are called upon to come on. They come on and they don’t sulk. You know, they don’t throw their toys out the pram, they come on and they perform. Um, so yeah, just yesterday in the first half, the performance was as good as I’ve seen it.

“We looked more comfortable playing three at the back with an extra midfield player in Mainoo and then two number tens. The balance is better. I think Foden and Bellingham then made better decisions because in the early matches, both of them, every time they got the ball, we’re trying to do something special and trying too hard.

“Whereas yesterday they dominated possession, made good decisions as well. They kept it simple, instead of going to try and do something spectacular. So it was a much better all round performance.”

Mainoo doesn’t give the ball away

One of the best performers on the day and in the tournament so far has been Manchetser United’s breakout star Kobbie Mainoo. Having been overlooked for Alexander-Arnold and Connor Gallagher during the group games, Mainoo stepped in for the clash with Slovakia and hasn’t looked back since.

“Well, his confidence. He gets on the ball. He doesn’t give the ball away. He’s not the most spectacular player. But of course, you need players like that. That is what Gareth Southgate was talking about when he spoke on replacing Kalvin Phillips. Mainoo is probably better on the ball than Kalvin Phillips because he gets the ball and he finds the spaces to put the ball into.

“Into Bellingham, Foden and Saka, whereas just having one player (Declan Rice) there isn’t really enough. Declan Rice can’t be there by himself with more attacking players. It’s crazy. So I think now we have a much better balance.”

Watkins offers something different to Kane

Four touches. Four. Two of them to help send England into the Euro 2024 Championship Final. Touch with a pin into a swift swivel and bang. Beyond the keeper and just like that Ollie Watkins has made his mark on this summer competition with a stunning goal. A goal that has become a trademark for Watkins. But the timing? The moment? The technique and self belief. It came from a burst of movement we just don’t see from Harry Kane these days. It gave the Netherland defenders something different to contemplate. Barnes was full of praise for Watkins and the way in which he was able to seize the moment.

“As I said, when you’re coming on and you haven’t played, you have to be ready. You can’t be sulking because you haven’t played on the field. You should be playing because they’re not playing well. He did well. This is what he gives. He can run in behind. England have missed people running beyond because Harry Kane doesn’t do that anymore.

“He looks to come short. They have Bellingham. Yes. But that’s not really his game. He can play as the box to box, but he’s not a striker who’s going to make runs beyond the back.

“Foden is a dribbler so they really haven’t got anybody without Rashford who’s going to make those runs. So Watkins coming on will provide that. As to whether you’re not going to really play Kane and him, you’re not going to play two up front.

“He may just have to be happy with coming on to replace Harry Kane or to play upfront with Harry Kane later on. Southgate will never leave Harry Kane out. I mean, he’s a captain. He’s a talisman. He’ll score goals. In the future we’ll have to look at that. But for now, you know, you’re really not going to make a change in this situation.”

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