James Ward-Prowse on the ball for England
There could not have been been any shock, it was simply standard procedure. As he has done for an age, James Ward-Prowse was a supply chain of dangerous deliveries, each one begging to be finished off.
The latest sample of his archive came in England’s final warm-up game against Romania, which ratcheted up the feeling that he should be Trent Alexander-Arnold’s replacement in the Euros squad.
Even before Sunday evening’s showing, the 26-year-old should have been Gareth Southgate’s concrete option to make the final cut with the Liverpool right-back’s tournament cruelly ended by injury.
England has few better, more consistent options over a deadball than Ward-Prowse and set-pieces will count as a fundamental weapon for the team.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin could have had a double from the Southampton’s man service on Teeside and no player fed through more key passes in the match.
It would be foolish to limit Ward-Prowse’s talents to what he can do standing over a free-kick. His efficiency in possession and tenacity out of it was at the heart of England’s most promising moments before his 65th-minute substitution.
He boasted a 100 per cent pass accuracy in the opposition half, with and topped the touches table before his removal.
Ward-Prowse was a driving figure along with the luminary Jack Grealish, and while tournament football has tended to grow risk-averse with Southgate himself favouring a cautious approach, England’s strongest armoury remains their dynamism from attacking players.
In light of the paucity of quality in the centre-back department, and with the manager terming the availability of Harry Maguire as “a bonus” during the showpiece, it seems counter-intuitive not to maximise their offensive might.
Blessed with the bravery and variety of Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho, Mason Mount, Jude Bellingham and Grealish, Southgate needs to ensure England have balance, but without impeding the impact of any of these game-changers.
The Aston Villa ace, in particular, has proven to be England’s ticket to making things happen: to committing defenders, muddling them and winning golden fouls that can turned into goals.
On that note, Ward-Prowse should be in the mix, not just on this solitary performance, but the continued evidence that he can deliver – deadball situation or not.
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