Jadon Sancho could hold the key to England beating Scotland

Harry Symeou
Sancho didn't make England's 23-man squad against Croatia
Sancho didn't make England's 23-man squad against Croatia / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Several jaws dropped to the floor last Sunday when England manager Gareth Southgate opted to leave Jadon Sancho out of his 23-man squad for the Three Lions' opening Euro 2020 game against Croatia.

Three players did have to miss out from England's 26-man camp, granted, but it was still a surprise to see Sancho - who enjoyed another individually superb season for Borussia Dortmund - sidelined alongside Ben Chilwell and the injured Harry Maguire.

But while the 21-year-old may have been excluded for that particular game, it's unlikely he'll find himself in the same position for the crunch Group D clash against Scotland.

Southgate's men could seal their passage into the round of 16 with victory, and there's a growing expectation that changes will be rung in personnel. Reece James is expected to come in on the right side of defence, while it's also thought that Luke Shaw - after a superb season with Manchester United - will replace Kieran Trippier on the left.

Further forward, Southgate is more likely to keep things the same, given how impressive Kalvin Phillips, Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden were against Croatia. But against the Scots, Southgate is aware that he'll need a different kind of threat from the bench, given Sterling and Foden tend to prefer cutting inside their opposition full-backs, and that's something Sancho offers in abundance.

raheem sterling
Raheem Sterling scored England's winner against Croatia in the Three Lions' opening game at Euro 2020 / Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images

Where as Foden and Sterling tend to utilise the half spaces to create room, Sancho will look to stretch the game and get down the wing to cause problems for Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney. His pace is well documented, but his guile, technical ability, crossing and composure on the ball are other strong areas of his game.

Indeed, width could be the key to the game, given that Scotland are likely to setup with a back five. Foden and Sterling may be restricted in terms of space, and the introduction of Sancho - an entirely different proposition - after half time could alter the complexion of the game.

Pinning back one of Scotland's biggest threats in Robertson is sure to be a plan from the first whistle, but should Foden start on the right - as expected - it's highly likely that the Liverpool full-back will be able to push on an extra five to ten yards up field, knowing Tierney is there to provide cover.

Jadon Sancho, Marco Reus, Mario Gotze
Sancho contributed directly to 20 Bundesliga goals last season / THOMAS KIENZLE/Getty Images

There'll also be tenacious duo of Scott McTominay and John McGinn, looking to drop in and provide a shield for the backline when Scotland are out of possession, allowing the Liverpool man to roam.

Robertson is arguably his country's most attacking outlet, so Sancho featuring in some capacity could have a huge impact at both ends of the field. Given he'd prefer to get down the wing and beat his man for pace, 27-year-old Robertson would have to think twice before over committing, particularly as England full-back James also loves to venture forward.

That could cause an unwelcome doubling up situation for Scotland, restricting Robertson's confidence in leaving Tierney to do most of the defensive work.

To highlight Sancho's threat, he scored eight Bundesliga goals and provided 12 assists for Borussia Dortmund, while his tally over the past three years reads an impressive 92 games played, with 37 goals scored and a further 41 assisted.

Jadon Sancho, Gareth Southgate
Sancho could be key against Scotland, should England need a goal / ADRIAN DENNIS/Getty Images

Those aren't average statistics, those are statistics of a player with huge ability to influence games and make things happen. Manchester United's two-year pursuit of him in the transfer market attests to that, too.

Some argue that Sancho has been overlooked because he doesn't play in the Premier League week in, week out, but it's highly unlikely that Southgate will shelve him once more. Instead, he could have a pivotal role to play as England prepare to take on their arch international enemy for the first time at a major tournament since Euro 96 - when Paul Gascoigne scored that iconic goal to seal a 2-0 win for Wembley.