England’s Defeat by Iceland: Why Gareth Southgate’s Decision to Pick Eze over Grealish Was Justified

England’s Defeat by Iceland: Why Gareth Southgate’s Decision to Pick Eze over Grealish Was Justified

Gareth Southgate won’t have any regrets about the Euro squad he’s named despite Friday’s defeat against Iceland.

Nor should he. I was pleasantly surprised by the ruthlessness he showed in ditching established names to allow all the players bang in form to be on the plane.

There is a conversation about the exclusion of Jack Grealish, James Maddison and Marcus Rashford but the reality is none of them would have started anyway.

In picking his 26 players, Southgate was looking for people who can make an impact off the bench to supplement the core personnel; Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice.

At this moment, Eberechi Eze, Anthony Gordon and Cole Palmer are a better bet than the high-profile stars left out.

England suffered defeat by Iceland on Friday night at Wembley, but Gareth Southgate won’t have any regrets about the squad he’s named

Eberechi Eze impressed in both games last week and is a better bet than some of the more high profile names to miss out

Eberechi Eze impressed in both games last week and is a better bet than some of the more high profile names to miss out 

The result and performance at Wembley was poor but I was involved in a pre-tournament friendly, against South Korea before the 2002 World Cup, and the reality is nobody plays with their usual intensity ahead of such a huge event.

When the real thing comes along and England need a goal at the Euros with 20 minutes to go, I’d rather see Eze or Toney coming on rather than Grealish.

I’m a big admirer of Jack but you couldn’t opt for him right now. He hasn’t scored in 2024 whereas Eze has eight goals. The Crystal Palace player can dribble past opponents like Grealish and has extra pace and confidence. Toney can poach a goal and is a penalty expert.

The squad leaves certain parts of the team lacking experience but Kane is still around at the top end to help the youngsters.

Without big characters like Jordan Henderson, Rice and Saka can step up their leadership roles. Both were excellent at the last Euros. Jude Bellingham, who missed the Iceland game following the Champions League final, has played in more big games at 20 than many players achieve in their whole careers.

The Iceland defeat might even work in England’s favour. Sometimes we go into tournaments with unrealistic expectations.

Jude Bellingham has played in more big games at 20 than most manage in their entire careers

Jude Bellingham has played in more big games at 20 than most manage in their entire careers

I’d always considered England as contenders rather than outright favourites. We have great talent but so do other countries.

The French and Portuguese squads look super-strong. Even a nation like the Netherlands have several defenders good enough to walk into Southgate’s squad.

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