Gareth Southgate's on the clock - elite managers are taking the shine off his pragmatic England

  • England held to 1-1 draw by Denmark in second Euro 2024 game
  • Three Lions put in dismal performance and clung on for point at times
  • Gareth Southgate must take brunt of criticism for disappointing start
Southgate should be under more pressure
Southgate should be under more pressure / Richard Pelham/GettyImages

International tournaments aren't won and lost on matchday two.

Well, that's the line that will be pedalled out of the England camp after their 1-1 draw with Denmark on Thursday.

The Three Lions stuck to their usual script in their stalemate in Frankfurt, extending their run of draws in their second group stage fixture of major tournaments to three games, joining infamous results against Scotland in 2021 and the United States in 2022.

England's place in the knockout stages of Euro 2024 is all but secure, and that's ultimately what matters. As those previous draws show, it shouldn't have much bearing on future displays.

But this draw felt different. The England of old were simply dull, but the England of today were fragile.

After Harry Kane gave Southgate's side an early lead, they retreated back into their shells for an umpteenth time. This time, their sucker-punch came early in the form of a Morten Hjulmand screamer.

In a higher-stakes game, that would have been the end of England's pragmatism, but they seemed fine to settle for a match in which a draw was always salvageable. Denmark, in need of the points more after being held by Slovenia on Sunday, smelled blood and made the better chances for the rest of the game.

Declan Rice
England did not deserve to win / Alex Grimm/GettyImages

The best team at Euro 2024 so far have been Germany, and that notion extends beyond their status as the host nation. They look completely reinvented under a top-class coach in Julian Nagelsmann, and so far in his short tenure has caused great damage to the idea that international football has to be boring. Beyond them, Italy have also come back roaring under Luciano Spalletti - a manager of similar calibre and recent achievement in the club game.

Southgate's prioritisation of man-management and building a camp that actually likes each other's company has brought England this far, but now the competition is lapping the field in a tactical aspect.

Perhaps the biggest indictment of Southgate's preparation for this tournament is he has twice given up on his prized long-term plan mid-game. Trent Alexander-Arnold, the midfielder, has twice been hooked after failing to make an impact in his pre-determined role, this time coming off after only 54 minutes.

Alexander-Arnold is a fine player and an extremely gifted full-back, but he isn't a midfielder and his displays in the last few days show why Liverpool have never felt obliged to conduct such an experiment of their own. The knock-on effect with England is the team becomes completely imbalanced and lacks control, regardless of whether they have possession or not. It's not a winning formula.

Southgate, no matter his flaws, has led England through their most successful period since they won the 1966 FIFA World Cup. That can't be changed, it shouldn't be changed.

But only delivering glory at Euro 2024 will keep the wolves from his door any longer. If England don't make the jump from contenders to winners, his confusing plans will have been for nothing. The clock is ticking to tinker his way into a new way of playing.