Southgate again got the big decisions RIGHT in triumph over Denmark

Shrewd, calculated and cold! Gareth Southgate once again got all the big decisions RIGHT in semi-final triumph over Denmark… the England boss did not panic with changes like his opposite number and subbing the sub in Jack Grealish was the right call!

  • England manager Gareth Southgate kept his composure in the heat of battle 
  • Denmark boss Kasper Hjulmand used all his subs and it backfired in extra-time
  • Yet Southgate stuck to the process and only made changes when necessary 
  • Even substituting an earlier sub, Jack Grealish, in extra-time made perfect sense
  • Southgate will go down as an national treasure if he can mastermind a final win 
  • Find out the latest Euro 2020 news including fixtures, live action and results here

What’s that? Gareth Southgate stuck to the process and made all the right decisions once again? Well I never.

Amid the cauldron that was Wembley Stadium on Wednesday night against Denmark, the England boss kept his composure. Stayed level-headed. Trusted his players. And it made a decisive difference.  

By the end of extra-time, the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ were ringing around the 60,000-capacity crowd as England – a goal up, and a man up – kept the ball for two minutes and 40 seconds. There were 53 passes in a row. 

Gareth Southgate stayed composed and trusted his team in the semi-final against Denmark

He only made changes when necessary, including a double change early on in extra-time 

1) 69 mins – Bukayo Saka OFF, Jack Grealish ON 

2) 95 mins – Declan Rice OFF, Jordan Henderson ON 

3) 95 mins – Mason Mount OFF, Phil Foden ON 

4) 105 mins – Jack Grealish OFF, Kieran Trippier ON  

But to get to that point, you have to start with the beginning, and a team selection which, while expected, was bang on the money again. 

No back-three like Germany. This was a side fresh off handing out a thrashing against Ukraine and the only change was somewhat expected: Jadon Sancho out, Bukayo Saka in. 

And despite an understandably nervy start by the Arsenal teenager (he wasn’t the only one, cc Jordan Pickford), Southgate’s instincts to utilise raw pace out-wide led to the all-important equaliser. 

Harry Kane made his trademark run short, swiveled and played in Saka bursting through, whose ball across the face of goal was shoveled into his own net by Simon Kjaer, with Raheem Sterling approaching. 

But, in a situation parallel to the last-16 against Germany, it was all-square on 65 minutes. Cue Jack Grealish.

Saka’s work was done, he’d done his part. Enter the people’s hero with a fresh directness. 

An obvious change. The situation was somewhat busier a few yards to the right in the opposition dugout. 

Denmark boss Kasper Hjulmand used his full quota of subs while Southgate did the opposite 

Denmark boss Kasper Hjulmand made three substitutions, as his team wavered without the ball. Before the 90 minutes was done, he’d make two more – his maximum in normal time of five. Watch this space. 

But for Southgate. despite the mayhem and change of personnel in red, he stayed composed. 

Throughout numerous conversations with trusted assistant Steve Holland, he kept with 10 of his starting XI for the entire 90 minutes, as England’s levels of domination continued only to ascend. 

Jack Grealish came on for Bukayo Saka in the only England substitution made in normal time

But amid a stagnant first five minutes in extra-time, an influential double-change. 

Jordan Henderson, the experienced midfield linchpin fresh off the back of his first international goal, replaced a tiring Declan Rice. Tick. 

Then Mason Mount, whose pressing and efficiency on the ball was much-needed again, came off for Phil Foden, arguably England’s most technically eyecatching player. Tick. 

The impetus was felt straight away, throughout the side. Though it was Sterling who won the penalty and Kane who scored the rebound, the Danes were flailing now. 

Phil Foden’s exuberance when he entered the field took the game further from Denmark

And an improbable task was just about to get a whole lot harder for them. Having used their sixth sub in the 105th minute – forward Jonas Wind on for defender Jannik Vestergaard – disaster struck. 

Mathias Jensen went down as the half-time in extra-time whistle blew and was unable to continue – Denmark would play the final 15 with 10 men. 

While unlucky no doubt, it is a scenario which simply would not have occurred under Southgate, who stayed calculated and mindful when all those around the stadium went crazy.  

The injury to Denmark’s Mathias Jensen in extra-time meant Denmark played with 10 men 

Besides, he was making bold – or cold, your choice – substitutions of his own. 

Straight after the goal, Southgate wanted to switch to five at the back and bring on Kieran Trippier. But who would make way? 

The answer, to the bemusement of many, was Grealish, who’d only been substituted on 36 minutes earlier. Gary Neville on punditry duty said the Aston Villa captain would have felt embarrassed. 

Southgate himself explained his thinking afterwards: ‘He’s fine – he understood, he was terrific when he came on, he gave us momentum.

‘But we know when (Denmark have) gone behind in games they’ve thrown four men up front, so we needed to get an extra defender on just to make sure we were more solid and I wanted to keep Raheem’s speed on, so it meant taking one of the two boys off who had just come on.’

Southgate explains his thinking to Grealish after the substitute was subbed in extra-time 

Reportedly, amid the explanation, Grealish also replied with: ‘Gaffer, I’m not bothered. We’re in the final!’

If any moment summed up the collective identity and selflessness of this entire England group, that was it. Tick. 

Southgate didn’t need to worry about affecting an ego. Sure, Grealish would have rather stayed on, but he understood what needed to happen for the team in that moment. 

Alas, Southgate was proven right, as Sterling continued to terrorise the Danish backline with his rapid movement – and he was unlucky not to score in the closing stages, when England went largely untroubled. 

And so we come to that moment of pass after pass after pass. It was a composure and crispness not seen from an England team in such a high-pressurised environment since… ever? 

Southgate celebrates at full-time after all his decisions were vindicated with the victory 

The England players and staff celebrate their win at a jubilant Wembley – roll on Sunday 

It was a vindication of every decision Southgate made. And that doesn’t just go for this match, but the entire tournament. His shrewdness has been arguably his most impressive trait. 

Apart from a stale draw to Scotland, Southgate’s substitutions have been intelligent and incisive. Grealish against Germany. Henderson against Ukraine. That’s just two prior examples. 

Now, onto Sunday. In Italy and England, you have the two in-form teams in the tournament. A mammoth encounter. 

Likely to be decided by fine margins, Southgate’s decision-making in how he utilises his substitutes will again be undoubtedly vital. 

He is already an icon. But hits the nail on the head again, he may just become a national treasure. 

Sir Gareth, anyone? 

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