Welcome to the final part of England at the Euros! We’ve discussed squad composition, used data to fill out an extended provisional squad, looked at our tactical approach, and now all that’s left is the tournament itself! Shall we?

The Final Squad

Some tough decisions had to be made to trim the provisional squad, but in the end Jason Steele, Rico Henry, Max Kilman, Keirnan Dewsbury-Hall, Sean Longstaff, Angel Gomes and Jadon Sancho were the players to miss out.

If I’d had the opportunity to play the warm-up friendlies before confirming the squad then Kilman and Gomes in particular could have really made things tough with good performances, but in the end the more tried and tested options prevailed, with even the more wildcard selections of Lewis and Olise having played for me previously.

Warm Up Friendlies

With the squad selected, we had two games against Sweden and Romania to prepare. This involved getting some extra minutes into a few players who needed a bit of extra sharpness, and giving one last opportunity to some of the fringe players to stake a claim for a more substantial role. 

A highly rotated side secured a really impressive 3-0 victory over Sweden, giving me hope that should the worst happen and any of our key players get injured, that I’ve selected the right options to come in. Jarrod Bowen opened the scoring after just eight minutes, cutting in from the right in typical fashion, before Dominic Calvert-Lewin absolutely terrorised the Swedes and bagged a brace. In my mind this was his statement to say that we can be just as potent without Harry Kane on the pitch. 

Rather worryingly, what I would consider to be our strongest eleven could only manage a 1-1 draw with Romania. In theory it should have been exactly the sort of test we would have wanted, Romania sat deep and I wanted to see how we could break that down. However, our opponents were not happy to just be our test subjects, they played exceptionally and had 60% possession, meaning we had to rely on counter attacks which is not our style. We did go ahead through a Kyle Walker strike, but I could have no complaints when Denis Drăguş bagged a 94th minute equaliser.

Group Stages

Just as in real life, we are contesting Group C with Denmark, Serbia and Slovenia. Interestingly the order of fixtures is different to real life, with Gareth Southgate opening against Serbia and myself facing Denmark first up. I actually prefer it this way; win and we’ve really stamped our authority on the group against what many would consider to be our most difficult opponent.

16th JUNE 2024 – GROUP C – GAME ONE – ENGLAND VS DENMARK

Pickford
Walker – Stones – Maguire – Shaw
Bellingham – Rice
Saka – Foden – Rashford
Kane (c)

Click image for full match details.

A dream start to the tournament and a real statement of intent. Phil Foden was absolutely unplayable as the number ten, with a goal and two assists, while our convincing 3-1 half-time lead allowed me to not over play the likes of Kane, Bellingham and Saka. Calvert-Lewin was the pick of the subs, coming on to grab a late fourth.


20th JUNE 2024 – GROUP C – GAME TWO – ENGLAND VS SERBIA

Pickford
Walker – Stones – Maguire – Shaw
Bellingham – Rice
Saka – Foden – Rashford
Kane (c)

Click image for full match details.

If we aren’t the most feared side at the tournament by now, we should be. This side is absolutely packed with match winners. Although Filip Kostić pinned us back after Jude Bellingham’s opener, I never doubted we would win the match, and Marcus Rashford absolutely stole the show with a stunning hat-trick. An injury to Kyle Walker gave us cause for concern, but he would be fit to play in the later rounds should we make it there. This victory also secured our progression from the group, but anything other than top spot would feel like a massive disappointment.


25th JUNE 2024 – GROUP C – GAME THREE – ENGLAND VS SLOVENIA

Ramsdale
Alexander-Arnold – Konsa – Maguire – Chilwell
Gallagher – Rice (c)
Bowen – Bellingham – Grealish
Calvert-Lewin

Click image for full match details.

Coming into the tournament I was keen to try and give at least some minutes to as many players as possible, and with progression secured I felt confident I could rotate heavily here and still get the win I wanted. Our fringe players stepped up and then some, with yet another emphatic victory. Since 1980 the record for goals in the group stages is nine, by France in 1984 and The Netherlands in 2008. Now, all of a sudden, the record is fourteen! Calvert-Lewin was outstanding again with another brace, and Mason Mount was also able to make a good impact off the bench.

Knockouts

With the group stages navigated with consummate ease, the pressure was only going to increase as we faced knockout football. No margin for error here at all. We started with a Second Round tie against Türkiye, who finished third in Group F.

30th JUNE 2024 – SECOND ROUND – ENGLAND VS TÜRKIYE

Pickford
Alexander-Arnold – Stones – Maguire – Shaw
Bellingham – Rice
Saka – Foden – Rashford
Kane (c)

Click image for full match details.

Another convincing display, and we’re through to the Quarter Finals. We kept up our record of conceding in every game which is a shame, it’s very difficult to win a tournament without a strong defence. However, our incredible attacking unit once again came good, with goals from Saka, another for Rashford, and unbelievably another goal from the bench for Calvert-Lewin, meaning he had outscored Kane by four goals to one at this point. The best super-sub in tournament history?


6th JULY 2024 – QUARTER FINAL – ENGLAND VS ITALY

Pickford
Alexander-Arnold – Stones – Maguire – Shaw
Bellingham – Rice
Saka – Foden – Rashford
Kane (c)

Click image for full match details.

By far our biggest challenge so far, and a repeat of the Euro 2020 final. Luckily for us, it wasn’t the same result. This game was absolutely insane; we went behind after just three minutes, and despite the first half being fairly even we did indeed go into the break behind. 

Bukayo Saka, who had been slightly understated in the tournament thus far, got us back on level terms just after half time, and we continued to battle on. It’s fair to say that despite an even game Italy had the better of the chances, but I always felt we were dangerous enough to bag a winner. Neither side did, and into extra-time we went. 

In an absolute horror blow for Italy, their goalkeeper Donnarumma had to go off with an injury, and with all of their substitutions made, midfielder Bryan Cristante had to don the gloves. We scored what proved to be the winner almost immediately through that man Jude Bellingham, but it would be disingenuous to not mention that as we started to turn the screw in search of a third, Cristante performed admirably and made two or three really good saves.


Into the Semi Finals we marched, where we were met with the astounding news that France, the side I had imagined us facing throughout the tournament, were out after a 2-1 defeat to Poland, a side they had convincingly defeated in the group stages. Of course, nothing can ever be taken for granted, but it’s safe to say I was happier to see us drawn against Poland than France!

11th JULY 2024 – SEMI FINAL – ENGLAND VS POLAND

Pickford
Walker – Stones – Maguire – Chilwell
Bellingham – Rice
Saka – Foden – Rashford
Kane (c)

Click image for full match details.

Another lack of a clean sheet, but another excellent attacking performance saw us march into the final. A return to fitness for Walker combined with a poor 45 minutes for Trent against Italy, plus the need to rest Luke Shaw saw a couple of changes at full-back but it didn’t really affect the fluidity of our performance. Harry Kane finally put in the sort of performance we’ve come to expect from him with a brace, although I did withdraw him before he could secure his hat-trick as I felt the game was won. Calvert-Lewin bagged yet another goal, meaning he was entirely in the hunt for the Golden Boot despite only starting one game!


14th JULY 2024 – THE EURO 2024 FINAL – ENGLAND VS BELGIUM

Pickford
Walker – Stones – Maguire – Shaw
Bellingham – Rice
Saka – Foden – Rashford
Kane (c)

Two final appearances in two European Championships for England, where we faced a very dangerous Belgium side, albeit one that are not the same force as they were at the height of their ‘golden generation’.

Belgium’s route to the final had been based more on keeping goals out than our approach of banging them in for fun; they finished second in their group with two wins and a defeat before eliminating The Netherlands, Serbia (after extra-time) and host nation Germany. In this time they kept four clean sheets, including two in the knockouts, but had only scored more than one goal once in the last four games.

Their squad may not be quite as stacked as it was a few years ago, but they still possess some of the most talented players in the world. Thibaut Courtois has a legitimate claim to being the best goalkeeper in the world, and of course there is the legend that is Kevin De Bruyne. Add in Romelu Lukaku who is unbelievable for his country, and there are definitely players to be afraid of. Lukaku especially was having an excellent tournament, with five goals, but inexplicably he was left out of the starting eleven, with Jérémy Doku and Charles De Ketelaere being preferred as a front two in Belgium’s 3-4-1-2 system.

The game was very even and quite nervy in the early stages; the amount of players that Belgium had in deep positions meant they were doing a far better job of keeping the ball than us, but also weren’t doing anything meaningful with it.

We had a few half chances and as the first half drew to a close we were in the ascendency, when on 40 minutes, who else but that man Harry Kane put us 1-0 ahead, poking home a Phil Foden cross from close range.

The second half followed a similar pattern, with Belgium dominating the ball but creating little, although they did look slightly more threatening after the break. I felt that Belgium missed a step with their substitutions; while we were able to bring on the likes of Mount, Gallagher and Tomori to shore things up and replace tiring legs, Belgium needed game changers. Openda for Doku felt like a sensible change, but rather than bring on Trossard or Lukaku, they turned to wing-back Saelemaekers and replaced Tielemans with a destroyer in Amadou Onana.

With the clock running down, and us holding Belgium at an arm’s length, I started to really feel the nerves. We hadn’t kept a clean sheet at the tournament yet, and this was the first time we were holding onto a one goal lead. Jordan Pickford was having an excellent game, and a big save from him lad to us starting a counter-attack. Mason Mount found our last substitute, Raheem Sterling, with an excellent switch of play, and the Chelsea winger did the rest by beating a couple of defenders and smashing his finish past Courtois to seal the deal.

THE FINAL WHISTLE BLOWS, AND ENGLAND ARE CROWNED EURO 2024 CHAMPIONS!

Click image for full match details.

I’ve won international tournaments on Football Manager before, in fact over various editions I’ve probably won two or three World Cup’s and a handful more Euros with England. This feels different though. My approach to this tournament was far more thorough, and the players I included due to the data weren’t necessarily the best players I could have taken. To have that vindicated by bringing home the trophy not only feels like a great achievement, but also confirmation that following the data can and does work, and that having visible attributes isn’t everything.

Best and Worst

Although we achieved what we set out to, there were aspects of our performances that were excellent, but also some that would require improvement were we to carry on the save.

Best – Attacking Play

This Euro 2024 campaign is the complete antithesis to Sir Alex Ferguson’s famous quote ‘attack wins you games, defence wins you titles’. We scored a whopping twenty-five goals in seven games, with an xG overperformance of 8.77. These are huge figures for an international tournament, with just Hungary’s total of twenty-seven goals at the 1954 World Cup beating this in the history of World Cup and European Championships. 

Worst – Defensive Record

We weren’t bad defensively, but just one clean sheet in seven games doesn’t scream security and in a tournament where we weren’t so free flowing going forward we may have run into some real problems. The full-backs generally did well, although Alexander-Arnold dropped a stinker against Italy, but Stones and Maguire were fairly underwhelming, never making any major mistakes but not really stepping up to take control.

Best – Marcus Rashford and Dominic Calvert-Lewin

In a sea of excellent individual campaigns, these two were by far my favourite. Although Rashford has been my first-choice left winger since the first friendly I managed, the left-wing spot was the only one not occupied by a member of the ‘undroppable’ core. Rashford has pedigree at major tournaments, with three goals at the 2022 World Cup, but I still wasn’t expecting him to have quite the impact he did. That pales in comparison to the unexpected impact that Calvert-Lewin had though. He made the 26-man squad as the third choice striker, and would have been the one left behind if I decided I only wanted one of him and Ollie Watkins. However his performance against Sweden showed me what he could offer, and as the tournament went on I just felt he could and would score every time I brought him on. 

Worst – Set Pieces

I spoke in the last post about England’s record from set pieces at the 2018 World Cup, and how I was hoping to utilise our height to give us an advantage again this time around. This never really came to fruition though with just one goal from a set-piece, courtesy of Harry Maguire in the groups.

Awards

With such an impressive campaign, it’s no surprise that some of our players were recognised with individual awards.

Marcus Rashford was undoubtedly the star of the tournament, with eight goal contributions in six games and offering a threat in every match he played in.

This also ties in nicely to the Golden Boot race. He won the award due to playing less minutes than Lukaku or Mbappé, but in my mind it is actually Calvert-Lewin that should have won it. I think he’s been excluded from the awards due to the small amount of minutes he played, but he also bagged five goals and therefore I have decided that unofficially the two of them will share the award.

Jude Bellingham also had an excellent Euros, in fact he was one of our four of our players to feature in every match, and with six goal contributions in that time we couldn’t have done it without him.

I disagree wholly with the Dream Team if I’m honest. Chilwell played well in limited minutes but I’m surprised to see him included. The others I’m happy to see in there, but Foden and Bellingham almost certainly had better tournaments than Kante and Ilić. Calvert-Lewin should also be in there, but as already explained, I’ll have to include him in spirit.

So with the tournament over, there’s just one thing left to say…

FOOTBALL CAME HOME!

Until next time…

Author

  • adam_otbfm

    Adam, known in the Football Manager (FM) realm as @adam_otbfm, is a fervent gamer and content creator. With a penchant for football simulations, Adam delves into the intricacies of FM, sharing his findings on his blog "On the Break." His creative ventures include replicating football legends like Kaka in the virtual pitch, showcasing a blend of nostalgia and modern gameplay. Adam's musings extend to social platforms like Twitter, where he actively engages with the FM community, sharing his gaming journey with @SJK_Seinajoki. His insightful content and avid participation enrich the FM community, making him a valued member in this virtual football world.

    View all posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *