Gianfranco Zola has claimed England boss Gareth Southgate was "too conservative too soon" in the Euro 2020 final and suffered the inevitable consequences.

Italy's penalty shoot-out victory over England at Wembley on Sunday has been followed by reports that Southgate could soon be knighted.

That is despite his team falling short when they had home advantage, failing to build on Luke Shaw's second-minute strike that was the earliest goal scored in a European Championship final.

Roberto Mancini's impressive Italy had 19 shots to England's six over the 120 minutes, while also enjoying 65.4 per cent of possession. The Azzurri finished with an expected goals score of 2.16 compared to England's meagre 0.55, underlining their dominance of the chances.

Leonardo Bonucci's second-half equaliser was followed by Italy edging a nervy battle on spot-kicks to land the trophy for the first time since 1968, and Zola sensed England retreated too quickly into their shell.

"Maybe Southgate was a bit too conservative because England boast important players at the highest level," Zola told Stats Perform.

"They were doubtlessly advantaged and having scored after just two minutes gave them further advantages. But especially in the second half, they started defending the goal cushion too early, defending so deep – as they say in England – enabling Italy to find their pace and plays and the equaliser was a natural consequence.

"So Southgate was too conservative too soon.

"Mancini on the other hand was so good. All the subs proved him right. When he subbed [Nicolo] Barella I was expecting more [Manuel] Locatelli than [Bryan] Cristante, but he got that right too as the team kept their pace high, producing quality."

 

Former Italy forward Zola, who won 35 caps for the Azzurri, was surprised by how little influence England's Mason Mount had on the final.

Mount has been impressive in the Premier League for Chelsea, the club where Zola was such a favourite in a seven-year spell from 1996 to 2003.

But in 99 minutes of action against Italy, before being substituted, Mount had only 36 touches of the ball and completed just 15 of 22 passes for a 68.2 per cent success rate. All of Italy's starting XI had a higher percentage than Mount achieved, with Federico Chiesa's 77.8 per cent their lowest mark.

Chiesa was far more threatening than Mount, who was given an advanced midfield role by Southgate, operating just behind Harry Kane but barely having any influence on the game.

In 54 games for Chelsea last season, across all competitions, Mount scored nine goals, had eight assists and created 109 chances. The 22-year-old had one assist in 464 minutes of action at the Euros, creating eight chances over the tournament.

"For sure after what he had shown in the Premier League, in the Champions League and even in the friendlies ahead of the Euros, he didn't shine," Zola said.

"He is young and the long season with Chelsea where he always played may have had an impact on his sub-par performance. Yet, he is a very skilful player and this experience will help him become better and stronger.

"As I am told, he is a level-headed kind of guy so this experience will help him for sure."

Fifty-four passes. In two minutes and 41 seconds of unbroken possession during the closing stages of their Euro 2020 semi-final win over Denmark, England moved to the brink of a 2-1 win in beautifully assured fashion with a 54-pass move. Over the course of the entire additional half hour, they completed 198 passes – more than the Three Lions managed in the entirety of the 1-0 Euro 2000 win over Germany.

Thirty-eight passes. Five days later in the final, Gareth Southgate's team could only manage 38 successful passes in the entire first half of extra time against Italy. That ticked up to 47 during the final 15 minutes of the 1-1 draw but still stood in stark contrast to the supreme example of modern, pro-active game management from the preceding midweek.

Southgate has overseen a period of unprecedented progress during his time in charge of international football's most maligned underachievers. A final for the first time since 1966, back-to-back semi-finals for the first time since 1968. As a major tournament force, England are stronger than they have been at any time over the past half a century by some distance.

But large chunks of Sunday's final defeat to Roberto Mancini's brilliant side felt like they had been transplanted from the bad old days, long before a penalty shoot-out concluded a tale of heartbreak. The lack of control and accompanying slow, sinking feeling could have belonged to any era.

By the final whistle, Italy had completed 820 passes to England's 426. As well as being common to England setbacks of yesteryear, there was also a repeated pattern from two of Southgate's previously most notable defeats in charge. Dictating the terms against elite opponents and being able to wrestle back control during moments of high stress represents something of a final frontier with the 2022 World Cup in Qatar a little over 16 months away.

Verratti and Jorginho torment England like pass masters Modric and De Jong

Leonardo Bonucci scrambled in Italy's equaliser after 67 minutes at Wembley, Luke Shaw having given England a second-minute lead.

When Southgate's team went down to a 2-1 semi-final defeat against Croatia at the 2018 World Cup, Kieran Trippier's free-kick put them ahead in the fifth minute before Ivan Perisic equalised in the 68th and Mario Mandzukic won it in extra time.

In between those two games, England faced the Netherlands in the semi-finals of the inaugural Nations League. Marcus Rashford put them ahead from the penalty spot – yes, he's normally excellent at those – before Matthijs de Ligt equalised in the 73rd minute and the Dutch pulled clear in the first additional period.

First-half leads cancelled out by 67th, 68th and 73rd-minute goals can, of course, just be a coincidence. But England gradually ceded control in each match, conceded and never truly reasserted themselves.

 

On Sunday, Italy had deep-lying playmaker Jorginho and the masterful Marco Verratti calling the tune, while two years earlier the Netherlands had Frenkie de Jong and in Moscow, Luka Modric was at the peak of his powers. Each time, there was a level of midfield expertise to which England had no sufficient answer.

Raw passing statistics can sometimes be misleading. If a central defender racks up more passes than his team-mates – as Bonucci did at Wembley – it does not mean they are the best passer on the field, more that they have a higher frequency of simple passes to make due to their position.

But in the heat of a midfield battle, a player being able to compile pass after pass suggests they might be dictating terms.

At the Luzhniki Stadium, Modric made 71 passes, slightly fewer than his colleagues in the Croatia engine room Marcelo Brozovic (87) and Ivan Rakitic (84). England's starting midfield three – admittedly not a trio who matched up entirely with Croatia in a positional sense – of Jordan Henderson, Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard managed 48, 47 and 38 respectively.

If Modric led an ensemble performance, De Jong conducted England all by himself in Guimaraes a year later. The Barcelona midfielder made 104 passes over the course of 120 minutes, with England's starting midfielders Declan Rice, Fabian Delph and Ross Barkley managing 54, 24 and 56. Only Barkley saw the final whistle, while De Jong's passing accuracy of 96.2 per cent was almost identical to Rice (96.3) at nearly twice the output.

Paired with Leeds United's Kalvin Phillips, Rice had another tall task when taking on Jorginho and Verratti. Once again, it was a case of England chasing around after accomplished technicians.

Paris Saint-Germain's Verratti was in majestic form as he turned the contest in the Azzurri's favour. Of his 118 passes, 111 were successful and 72 came in the England half. Chelsea's Jorginho was similarly efficient with 94 out of 98 completed. Even allowing for Rice's 74th-minute substitution, the Opta statistics for himself (33 passes, 25 completed) and Phillips (39 passes, 30 completed) tell the story of their and England's night.

 

No passing, please, we're English

Despite the weekend sense of déjà vu, it is only fair to credit England with progress when coming up against technically superior midfields.

They gained a measure of revenge against Croatia, who they also beat en route to their Nations League date with the Netherlands, during the group stage and similarly shackled Germany – Toni Kroos, Leon Goretzka, Kai Havertz and all – in a 2-0 last-16 win.

As he did against Die Mannschaft, Southgate switched to a 3-4-3 for Italy and the formation initially overwhelmed Mancini's men, who were attacked repeatedly down their flanks.

This served to remove Italy's midfield superiority as a major factor in the contest until after half-time. Some have criticised Southgate for not being pro-active when the tide began to turn, failing to send on attacking threats such as Jadon Sancho and Jack Grealish to give the Azzurri new and different problems.

While those suggestions are valid, it is also fair to ponder whether England would simply have had fresh-legged spectators to the Verratti-Jorginho show. Studying data from the Premier League and across Europe's major divisions this season, it can be concluded that changing formation, funnelling play out wide and pressing judiciously are all work-arounds Southgate and his coaching team have developed for a problem to which they don't have a direct remedy.

 

In England's top flight in 2020-21, Manchester City's Rodri averaged the most passes per 90 minutes of midfielders to have made 20 or more appearances with 91.24. Next on the list were Chelsea's Mateo Kovacic (87.23), Liverpool's Thiago Alcantara (83.32) and Manchester United's Nemanja Matic (83.05), with Jorginho rounding out the top five on 79.68.

Considering players who featured at least 25 times in all competitions across the big five leagues, Verratti comes in second with a fairly absurd 96.86, from Sergio Busquets (94.63), Rodri and Kroos (88.37).

Miralem Pjanic's debut season at Barcelona was an utterly forgettable affair and one that could not be saved by him tiki-takaing himself to a standstill with 104.29 passes every 90 minutes. High passing numbers do not always mean a stand-out performer but illustrate a certain type of player – a type not readily available to Southgate.

Discounting Henderson's 92.85 per 90, given he played so often in 2020-21 at centre-back (meaning he was also ruled out of the Premier League rankings, having finished top at 95.69 from 21 outings), you have to scroll a decent way down this Europe-wide list to find some English representation.

The Premier League supplied three of last season's four European finalists and all of Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United boasted brilliant English players who were pivotal to their success. But in each case, overseas players were entrusted with the midfield duties that generally undo England.

Yet, in some respects, Qatar 2022 is further away than it might seem. If Euro 2020 had actually taken place in 2020, it is more likely Shaw, Kyle Walker and John Stones would have missed out on the squad rather than made up three-quarters of Southgate's first-choice defence. Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden, Reece James, Conor Coady, Jude Bellingham, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Phillips and Grealish had not made their international debuts this time last year.

A lot can change between then and now, so who might emerge as a king of control for Southgate?

 

A nudge from Winks? Skipp to it?

The highest ranked English midfielder on the top-five leagues list is Tottenham's Harry Winks, who averaged 71.47 passes every 90 minutes over the course of 28 appearances.

Only 15 of those were in the Premier League and nine were starts. Getting regular football, largely due to a succession of injury problems, has been a problem for the 25-year-old, who is now being linked with a move away from Spurs.

However, Southgate is a fan and is responsible for giving Winks all 10 of his England caps to date. A Shaw-style renaissance is certainly possible.

One factor that might cause him to seek pastures new is Oliver Skipp's return to Tottenham from a successful loan spell at Norwich City.

While helping the Canaries to promotion from the Championship, the 20-year-old averaged 58.52 passes per 90. Nowhere near the towering numbers posted by Europe's best but the third highest among midfielders to have played 30 or more times in a competition of a very different nature.

Skipp has represented England at under-21 level and the pathway from there to the seniors is clear in the Southgate era.

Winks was the only English midfielder to average above 70 passes per 90 on our European list, although Curtis Jones (68.04) – hoping for a more prominent role at Liverpool this season – and provisional Euros squad member James Ward-Prowse (64.75) are other options who might treat the ball with a little more TLC.

 

Can the men in possession be better in possession?

It might seem perverse to say England need to vastly improve their control in midfield, while claiming Rice and Phillips each had fine tournaments, but both statements are true.

Southgate is not averse to hard-nosed selection decisions but whatever the formation or opponent, the West Ham and Leeds favourites started each match in central midfield. Rice's 12 interceptions were only bettered by Jorginho (25) and N'Golo Kante (14), while the Italy lynchpin recovered possession 48 times – shading Phillips (45) and lying behind Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (51).

With the ball, they did not perform their deep-lying roles like Jorginho or De Jong – even allowing for some of Rice's ravishing first-half dribbles in the final – because they were not asked to. Which leads to the obvious question: could they do it?

Plenty of good judges certainly seem to hold Rice in that regard, as evidenced by persistent links to Chelsea and Manchester United. He averaged 47.7 passes per 90 minutes last season and, for all that they enjoyed a brilliant season under David Moyes, West Ham's average possession figure of 42.53 was the sixth lowest in the division.

To understand the full range of Rice's prowess and potential to be England's metronome, it might be necessary to view him on a weekly basis in a different setting.

The same need not be said for Phillips, who did not pick up his "Yorkshire Pirlo" nickname on account of interceptions or recoveries. Control is not always the primary aim of Marcelo Bielsa's high-intensity and ravenous pressing style, all whirring parts and thrills, but Phillips averaged 52.02 passes per 90 last term in the Premier League.

Again, this is not up there with the elite distributors in Europe, but it is a useful return at odds with his 39 passes over the course of 120 minutes versus Italy.

 

Bridging the gr-8 divide

At Leeds, Phillips will generally have more forward passing in closer proximity than those that were granted to him at Wembley on Sunday. This is where the configuration of Southgate's midfield is worth consideration.

It will be intriguing to see whether he returns to a 4-3-3 with two number eights as opposed to a 4-2-3-1 with two holders and a 10 when England resume World Cup qualifying in September.

The defeat to a De Jong-inspired Netherlands and a wild 5-3 Euros qualifying win over Kosovo later in 2019 were influential in the England boss choosing a more cautious approach for Euro 2020, shelving an expansive 4-3-3.

A run to the final without conceding a goal from open play means that decision cannot really be disputed. But perhaps this newfound defensive solidity means the shackles can be loosened once more, allowing more attack-minded players to operate centrally.

The control that eluded England in the matches discussed above was not simply as a result of metronomic passing. De Jong (16) was second only to Raheem Sterling (20) for dribbles completed at Euro 2020, while Verratti had three carries resulting in a chance. Five from Hojbjerg, Lorenzo Insigne and Gareth Bale topped the list in the competition.

Ability to carry the ball, both to ease pressure through linking the play along with creating chances, sounds like quite a good description of Foden. The Manchester City youngster's injury absence felt more regrettable as the final pressed on.

In pre-recorded introductions for ITV's Euro 2020 coverage, Foden described himself as a central midfielder. It is where he played the vast majority of his youth football for City and during most of his early first-team outings.

But in a 2020-21 campaign when it was hoped he would step forward as David Silva's playmaking replacement, he in fact filled the void left by Leroy Sane and turned in electrifying performances on the left wing.

 

"Phil just needs time to improve playing inside," Pep Guardiola said when discussing Foden's positional change earlier this year.

"When you play as a winger you have to play at one tempo and when you play inside you have to play in another one. When he gets this balance he will be 10 times more extraordinary as a player. It’s just a question of time."

Southgate will have an eye on that ticking clock and also how Mason Mount is used by another esteemed tactician. The Chelsea youngster has played as an eight for club and country but was used almost exclusively in the front three after Thomas Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge and plotted a path to Champions League glory.

There are few English players more elegant and effective when it comes to running with the ball at his feet than Grealish. In 2020-21, international team-mate Harry Maguire and Leeds full-back Luke Ayling were the only English players to have more than his 172 instances of carrying the ball towards goal for 10 metres or more. Mount (138) came seventh on that progressive carries list.

But, like Foden and Mount, most of Grealish's best recent work has come in the forward line. The likes of Verratti and De Jong are masters of their craft because they play in their position every week.

Still, dropping one of his twinkle-toed playmakers a touch deeper might become an irresistible work-around, especially if paired with a Henderson back to his talismanic best in central midfield for Liverpool. In 2019-20 he was the heartbeat of the side that won the Premier League, averaging 74.44 passes per 90 into the bargain. Suffering against Modric and Croatia before failing to stem the tide when short of match fitness versus Italy should not cloud perceptions of the 31-year-old's supreme qualities.

Then there is the tantalising prospect of Bellingham's next stage of development under the highly regarded Marco Rose at Borussia Dortmund. The 18-year-old could be frighteningly good by the time the 2022 World Cup rolls around. If Southgate can hit upon a formula for midfield that can both dictate and create, we could be able to say the same for England.

Gareth Southgate has urged England to grasp the opportunity to put the Three Lions' poor Euros knockout record behind them but does not feel the omens will have a negative impact on the team.

England have never won a Euros knockout match in 90 minutes, with four of those six games going to penalties – only one of those (v Spain, Euro 96) ended in a victory for the Three Lions.

It is a damning indictment of England's underachievement in the tournament throughout its history.

While Southgate believes his young team have a great chance to overcome such a poor record, he also feels the players should not feel any extra pressure because of it.

"It's an incredible record really," Southgate told reporters on Monday. "I think it's something we've talked a lot about as a team over last four years – this team has that opportunity [to buck the trend].

"In previous eras we've spoken about the past and baggage. There's no reason for these players to feel that way, as most weren't born when those games happened. It's an irrelevance for them.

"But it's a fantastic game to be involved in and great opportunity to progress to a quarter-final."

 

A key area for consideration before Tuesday's game is whether Ben Chilwell or Mason Mount will be involved.

Both have been isolating after being identified as close contacts of Scotland's Billy Gilmour, who tested positive for coronavirus, but they will be allowed to mix with their team-mates again from midnight on Monday.

Southgate accepts the situation certainly has not been ideal, but he thinks either player could cope if needed to start.

"They're having to travel separately to the team," Southgate added. "They have had individual training programmes this week. The only sessions they've been able to join in with is when there's not full team training. That's the basis on which we have got to make a decision.

"Clearly, it's really complicated because there's the physical periodisation that you would want for a game like this. Then there's the tactical training.

"The meetings we've had, they have to be in a separate room and dial in on Zoom. The whole experience for them, including travelling down tonight is very, very difficult.

"But they are young players who can get on with things pretty well. It's a decision I've got to take when we're looking at how they've been able to train and everything else. There's a lot wrapped up in that call."

Southgate will surely be hoping star striker Harry Kane can finally have an impact at Euro 2020, with the Tottenham forward struggling to make his mark in the group stage.

He has managed just five shots in total and only one of those was on target, with Kane on zero goals from an xG value of 1.4.

His 11 touches in the penalty area are one fewer than Che Adams of Scotland, who finished bottom of England's group – but Kane insists his performances are the least of his worries if the Three Lions continue in the tournament.

"I've always said as a striker, you go through spells, sometimes spells don't go your way," he said. "The most important thing for me is we are winning games. The first objective was to qualify, which we've done, the second is to reach the quarter-finals.

"Whether I'm scoring, the most important thing is winning. That's all I'm focusing on at the moment. However we get it done, that's our main objective and we'll do everything in our power to get through."

Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell were "gutted" to be missing out on England's final Euro 2020 Group D game against the Czech Republic.

Mount and Chilwell are self-isolating for 10 days after coming into close contact with Billy Gilmour, their Chelsea team-mate who was man of the match for Scotland in their 0-0 draw with England at Wembley last Friday before testing positive for coronavirus.

The England duo have since returned negative PCR and lateral flow tests but are isolating in line with advice from Public Health England.

Gilmour has had to miss Scotland's decisive group clash with Croatia at Hampden Park on Tuesday, but no other member of Steve Clarke's squad has been ruled out despite their bubble being compromised, indicating none of the party have breached tournament protocols by being in sustained proximity to the 20-year-old midfielder.

Sky Sports reported that Gilmour, Chilwell and Mount spent 25 minutes in conversation in the Wembley tunnel after the match.

"I'm absolutely gutted to have to miss tonight’s game. I'll be cheering on the boys as usual and ensuring that I'm ready to go again when called upon. Come on @England!," Mount tweeted on Tuesday.

In a similar post, Chilwell said: "It's a tough one to take and I'm gutted but I want to wish the boys all the best tonight in the game, I'll be cheering you all on. I will make sure I am ready for when I can rejoin the squad. Lets go @England!"

Left-back Chilwell is yet to feature for England at Euro 2020, with Atletico Madrid's Kieran Trippier starting the tournament in the 1-0 win over Croatia before Manchester United's Luke Shaw was handed the position against Scotland.

Mount, by contrast, has established himself as an integral part of Gareth Southgate's plans, starting both games in an attacking midfield role.

He has had more shots than any England player (four), with the expected goals (xG) value of his attempts (0.66) second only to captain Harry Kane in the squad.

The Athletic has reported Southgate will satisfy a huge clamour for Jack Grealish by selecting the Aston Villa playmaker in Mount's absence, while Harry Maguire is set to make his first appearance of the tournament – replacing Tyrone Mings as John Stones' centre-back partner.

If England beat the Czech Republic, they will top Group D and play their last-16 game at Wembley next Tuesday, the day after Chilwell and Mount's stipulated period of self-isolation ends on June 28.

Although that would make both players' participation in that match doubtful, they would definitely be unavailable in the event of any draw or defeat against the Czechs that leaves Southgate's men as runners-up, as that would mean England face a knockout match at Parken Stadium in Copenhagan on Monday, June 28.

If England were to lose to the Czech Republic and a victory for either Croatia or Scotland resulted in enough of a goal-difference swing to leave Southgate's team third, Chilwell and Mount would have to wait and see which best-third place slot their team end up with, given England's last-16 match in that instance could take place on June 27 or June 29.

England duo Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell will miss the match with the Czech Republic and must self-isolate up to and including June 28.

It was confirmed on Monday that the Chelsea players had begun isolating after being deemed close contacts of Billy Gilmour, who tested positive for coronavirus after Scotland's 0-0 draw with England at Wembley last Friday.

The Football Association said the precautions had been taken after consultation with Public Health England, despite both players returning negative PCR and lateral flow test results.

On Tuesday, the FA said Chilwell and Mount will train individually in private areas of England's St. George's Park base, where the rest of the squad will return after their final Group D match with the Czech Republic.

It means that, should England win and top the group, Mount and Chilwell will miss the last-16 match, which takes place on June 29.

If Gareth Southgate's side fail to take three points, they will finish second in the group behind the Czech Republic, meaning their first knockout match will be on June 28.

England said via Twitter: "We can confirm that Ben Chilwell and Mason Mount must isolate up to and including next Monday [28 June]. This decision has been taken in consultation with Public Health England.

"The pair were confirmed overnight as close contacts of Scotland’s Billy Gilmour after his positive test following last Friday's match.

"Chilwell and Mount will isolate and train individually in private areas at England’s training base St. George's Park, with the rest of the squad returning there after tonight's fixture against Czech Republic at Wembley.

"We will continue to follow all COVID-19 protocols and the UEFA testing regime, while remaining in close contact with PHE.

"The entire England squad and staff had lateral flow tests on Monday and all were again negative, as was the case with Sunday's UEFA pre-match PCR tests. 

"Further tests will be carried out as and when appropriate."

Gareth Southgate once again found himself preaching calmness after coronavirus uncertainty hit England's plans for their concluding Euro 2020 Group D game against the Czech Republic.

Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell are self-isolating after interacting with their Chelsea team-mate Billy Gilmour, who featured for Scotland in last Friday's 0-0 draw at Wembley before testing positive for coronavirus.

The FA announced Mount and Chilwell had returned negative PCR and lateral flow test on Sunday and Monday respectively but, after then training with the England squad, they were advised to isolate following consultations with Public Health England.

Speaking at a pre-match news conference, where Mount had initially been slated to join him, Southgate conceded both players were major doubts for the Czech Republic clash, which England need to win to top the group.

He will wait until Tuesday morning before making a final decision on his starting XI, by which point further advice on Mount and Chilwell's case is likely to be forthcoming.

But, as he did in the immediate aftermath of a disappointing performance against Scotland, Southgate again urged composure under pressure – citing Spain midfielder Sergio Busquets testing positive for COVID-19 and Christian Eriksen's shocking cardiac arrest while playing for Denmark as examples of the unexpected difficulties that can arise during tournaments.

"Spain had a similar situation, they've ended up drawing their two games. Denmark have obviously had a tragic situation," he said.

"This is tournaments, you have to adapt, you have to respond. It's why the depth of the squad is so important and calmness around whatever's going on at any given time is critical.

"We don't have all the information so we're going to take our time to see exactly where we stand in the morning."

Southgate also pointed out there was a wider context to be acknowledged when it came to football players being ruled out of matches against the backdrop of a global health crisis.

"It's obviously a massive disappointment for players to miss any matches but we are in the same situation as everybody else in the country," he said.

"Other people, their working lives and ability to earn money have been affected. In a more serious sense, the deaths we've had.

"Of course, at this moment in time, ours is a high-profile situation and it's not ideal. But, in context, it's just one we have to adjust to."

Two players who will be available are Manchester United centre-back Harry Maguire and Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson, with their recoveries from respective ankle and groin injuries having restricted them to watching briefs so far.

Southgate praised their influence on the squad over recent weeks and the return of two experienced heads could come as a timely boost.

"Both are training very well and both will be involved tomorrow," he said.

"We're happy with their progress. Already, without being on the pitch they've had a massive impact around the training sessions and the squad.

"I couldn't be happier with the influence that our senior players have had. Of course, they want to get on the pitch and are hoping they can play a big part in this tournament for us."

Harry Kane's form and the omission of Jack Grealish from Southgate's starting line-ups have dominated recent discussion around the England side, although Jadon Sancho's negligible role at Euro 2020 to date is also a curiosity.

The winger, who scored 16 goals and supplied 18 assists in all competitions for Borussia Dortmund this season, was an unused substitute against Scotland after missing out on the matchday squad for the 1-0 win over Croatia, where Raheem Sterling scored the only goal.

"We just have so many good attacking players. Raheem, Phil Foden in terms of wide players who can play in those area and come inside," Southgate added.

"We have Jack Grealish, we have Marcus Rashford, we have Bukayo Saka and we have Jadon.

"If you weren't asking me about Jadon, you'd be asking me about one of the others. That's the nature of it."

England players Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell have been forced to self-isolate after coming into close contact with Billy Gilmour – the Scotland midfielder who tested positive for coronavirus.

Gilmour was named man of the match in Scotland's 0-0 Euro 2020 Group D draw at Wembley on Friday but it was confirmed on Monday he would have to isolate for 10 days, forcing him out of Tuesday's crunch clash with Croatia at Hampden Park.

England also conclude their group campaign with a match against the Czech Republic at Wembley, although manager Gareth Southgate has now had his plans disrupted after Mount and Chilwell interacted with their Chelsea team-mate.

"We don't know at the moment," Southgate said when asked at a pre-match news conference whether the pair would be available to play. 

"There's got to be quite a doubt but there's still a lot of discussions and investigations going on behind the scenes,

"At the moment they are isolating, we just have to find out over the next 12 hours or so."

The duo returned negative lateral flow tests on Monday and trained with their international colleagues but, on the advice of Public Health England, they will now be kept away from the rest of Southgate's squad and backroom staff until further advice is received.

"As a precaution at this time and in consultation with Public Health England, Ben Chilwell and Mason Mount are isolating after interaction with Scotland player Billy Gilmour at Friday's match," a statement published on England's official Twitter account read.

"The pair will be kept away from the rest of the England players and wider support team, pending further discussions with Public Health England.

"The entire squad had lateral flow tests on Monday afternoon and all were again negative, as was the case with Sunday's UEFA pre-match PCR tests.

"We will continue to follow all COVID-19 protocols and the UEFA testing regime, while remaining in close contact with Public Health England."

In the event of a 10-day isolation period, beginning from their contact with Gilmour, Mount and Chilwell would be ruled out of facing the Czech Republic – who are level on four points with England at the top of the group – but would be available to return for a potential last-16 encounter on Monday or Tuesday of next week, providing they do not return a positive COVID-19 test in the interim period.

Left-back Chilwell is yet to feature for England at Euro 2020 and did not make the matchday squad for their opening 1-0 win over Croatia.

Mount, who had been due to take part in the news conference alongside his boss, has been an integral part of Southgate's side for some time, however, starting both Three Lions' matches at the tournament so far.

England's performance in the draw with Scotland was heavily criticised and if Mount has to sit out against the Czechs, it would only further increase the clamour for Aston Villa's Jack Grealish to be handed a starting berth.

Mason Mount is relishing pitting his creative wits against the great Luka Modric when England take on Croatia in their Euro 2020 opener on Sunday.

Real Madrid playmaker Modric was influential as Croatia came from behind to beat Gareth Southgate's side 2-1 after extra time in the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup.

A generation of exciting young talent will try to help England right that wrong at an expectant Wembley, with Chelsea star Mount one of the leading lights.

No Englishman created more goalscoring opportunities than the 22-year-old's 87 in the Premier League in 2020-21. Mount ended the top-flight campaign with six goals and five assists before laying on Kai Havertz's winner in the Champions League final against Manchester City.

Chelsea secured their place in the continental showpiece with a 3-1 aggregate semi-final win over Madrid, and Mount enlisted the help of club team-mate and Modric's international colleague Mateo Kovacic to secure a prized possession – the Ballon d'Or winner's shirt.

"Ever since he was in the Premier League with Tottenham, I have watched him quite closely," Mount said of Modric.

"Playing against him, it was weird because I had watched him so much. I kind of knew his moves and what he was going to do."

Speaking at a pre-match news conference, Modric reprised the row over Croatia's impression of English arrogance at Russia 2018 in the form of the "It's Coming Home" slogan – the chorus line from the Euro 96 song Three Lions, despite it largely being used in self-deprecation by England fans.

"That arrogance is not so much related to the players but the people around them, some of the journalists and commentators," he said.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

England – Raheem Sterling

Southgate looks set to keep faith with Sterling, who only scored one of his 14 Manchester City goals this season after the end of February. If he sees off the claims of Jadon Sancho and Jack Grealish for a starting berth, it will be because of his fine form in international colours. Since Russia 2018, no England player has scored more goals from open play than Sterling's 11.

Croatia – Ivan Perisic

Perisic netted the equaliser when the sides met in Moscow and tends to revel on the big stage. The experienced Inter winger is one of three European players to have either scored or assisted in the past for major tournaments since Euro 2012, alongside Andres Iniesta and Cristiano Ronaldo.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- England are taking part in their 10th European Championship finals – no team has played as many games in the tournament without ever reaching the final (31).
- Croatia have lost against the eventual winner in three of their past four major tournaments: Spain at Euro 2012, Portugal at Euro 2016 and France in the final of the 2018 World Cup.
- England have never won their opening game at a European Championship (D5 L4). Croatia, meanwhile, are unbeaten in their five Euro openers (W4 D1).
- Harry Kane was the top scorer in Euro 2020 qualifying, netting in every one of England's eight matches (12 goals), becoming the first player to do this in a single qualification campaign for the Three Lions.
- Since the start of 2019-20, only Zlatan Ibrahimovic (25) has scored more Serie A goals for Milan than Ante Rebic (22).

Manchester City have four players in the running for the Professional Footballers' Association's (PFA) Men's Footballer of the Year award.

City cruised to Premier League success this term, with Ruben Dias, Phil Foden, Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne all key to their triumph.

All four have been named on the PFA's six-man shortlist for the prize, which is voted for by the players.

Portugal centre-back Dias – winner of the Football Writers' Association gong – is seen as arguably the favourite after a stellar first campaign at City following his move from Benfica last year.

While City only conceded three goals fewer (32) than in 2019-20 (35) when they finished second to Liverpool, many have compared his quick adaptation and influence to that of Virgil van Dijk after he joined the Reds from Southampton.

Admirers have also credited Dias' steadying of the City backline with playing a major role in the improvement of John Stones alongside him, the England international finally reaching a level many suspected he may never find despite his potential.

For a while earlier in the season Gundogan looked as though he would probably be the frontrunner for end-of-season prizes, as he embarked on a remarkable scoring run that ultimately helped him finish with 13 in 28 Premier League appearances – more than double his previous best for a domestic season.

Only Bruno Fernandes (18) can better that among midfielders, though nine of his were penalties – none of Gundogan's were, with the German deployed in a more advanced role as City largely played without an out-and-out striker.

De Bruyne's nomination did not come as a surprise either, the Belgian having laid on 12 assists this term, a haul bettered by only Harry Kane (14).

Foden is the youngest of the six nominees and it is likely to be the first of many for him, with the 21-year-old having a hand in 14 goals (nine scored, five assisted) in what was a breakthrough season – his 1,611 minutes played not far off double the 892 he managed in 2019-20.

Fernandes and Kane are the two non-City representatives up for the award – they are also the two players with the most goal involvements in the 2020-21 season.

Tottenham star Kane took home the Golden Boot thanks to his tally of 23, while he also topped the assist charts.

Fernandes netted 18 times for Manchester United and equalled De Bruyne's assists haul of 12.

They are two of just nine players across the top five European leagues to reach double figures for assists and goals in 2020-21.

Foden is also up for the Young Player of the Year award with Trent Alexander-Arnold, Mason Greenwood, Mason Mount, Declan Rice and Bukayo Saka – an all-English shortlist.

Champions League man of the match N'Golo Kante covers so much ground he is like "two players", according to former Chelsea midfielder and assistant head coach Eddie Newton.

Kante was in imperious form on Saturday as Chelsea edged past Manchester City 1-0 to secure their first Champions League triumph since 2012, Kai Havertz scoring the decisive goal shortly before half-time.

The France international won 11 of 15 duels, recovered the ball 10 times for his team, and the shortest man on the pitch won four out of seven aerial duels – nobody on his team tallied more.

Former Chelsea playmaker Joe Cole hailed Kante's display, telling BT Sport: "I don't think there's a more important player for his team in world football than Kante."

And Newton, who played for Chelsea between 1990 and 1999 and had spells as assistant head coach in 2012 and 2015-16, was in agreement, describing Kante as the Blues' "engine".

"He's an integral part of any team," Newton exclusively told Stats Perform. "He is the engine. He doesn't care about the razzmatazz, he's a very humble human being. 

"He raises his game every single time. He trains the way he plays. His levels are always the same. 

"His mindset is very strong. Physically he's a joke and able to cover so much ground; he's like two players. 

"He inspires players around him. It motivates you to do more. If you're going to war together, you're going to raise your game, that natural human spirit will rise to the occasion. 

"That's what he does; motivates and inspires others to raise their game."

Newton was also fulsome in his praise of Mason Mount and Reece James, who are both expected to be named in Gareth Southgate's final England squad for Euro 2020. 

Mount laid on Havertz's goal with one of three key passes – the most of any player on the pitch – while he finished with a joint game-high pass completion rate of 96 per cent. 

James, meanwhile, superbly shackled City forward Raheem Sterling, making more tackles (seven) and clearances (five) than any player on the pitch. 

Right-back James is a year younger than 22-year-old Mount and Newton believes the pair can be integral figures for Chelsea over the next decade. 

"Everyone at Chelsea is proud of what Mason's done," he said. "It doesn't matter how many people are around you, this young man's mental attributes set him apart. 

"Reece was outstanding and was very close to being man of the match. He took Sterling out of the game, nullified him, forcing Sterling to defend. Maybe he won't get the plaudits, but he was outstanding. 

"He's done himself so many favours with his performances and his attitude. His work rate, concentration and adaptability is very strong. 

"Another one for the future. You're looking at so many players. It's a fantastic squad that is quite young. 

"This is the beginning of a cycle. It could be the next 10 years for Chelsea. For the rest of the league, they'll be looking at Chelsea and it's ominous for them."

Chelsea star Mason Mount savoured the climax to "a long, long journey" after the Blues beat Manchester City 1-0 to win the Champions League on Saturday.

Premier League champions City were eyeing a 2020-21 treble, and instead Chelsea claimed their second Champions League crown thanks to Kai Havertz's 42nd-minute goal.

Mount split City's defence with a sublime throughball for Havertz, who became the first player to score his maiden Champions League goal in the final since Ilkay Gundogan in 2013.

Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea nullified City to become the third English side to win the Champions League on two occasions, after Liverpool (2004-05 and 2018-19) and Manchester United (1998-99 and 2007-08).

Mount – the first English player to provide a Champions League final assist since Manchester United's Wes Brown in 2008 – revelled in the feat afterwards.

"I can't put it into words – it's impossible," Mount told BT Sport. "I've played in two finals for Chelsea, FA Cup and we've lost them both, and the way that hurt.

"To go all the way in the UEFA Champions League, I can't put it into words – it's such a special occasion.

"City have top, top players, it was such a tough game. We get one goal, kind of on the break, and then we defended for our lives.

"What it means to us is unbelievable; it's a long, long journey to get to this moment here."

Chelsea have lifted the trophy in six of their seven major European finals in their history, with this their fourth European success in the Roman Abramovich era alone (Champions League in 2020-21 and 2011-12, Europa League in 2012-13 and 2018-19).

Kai Havertz became the first player to score his maiden Champions League goal in the final since Ilkay Gundogan in 2013 when he broke the deadlock for Chelsea against Manchester City on Saturday.

Germany international Havertz – a big-money signing from Bayer Leverkusen ahead of the 2020-21 campaign – put Thomas Tuchel's side ahead three minutes before the interval in Porto. 

The 21-year-old had made 20 appearances in the competition with the Blues and Leverkusen without scoring prior to that strike. 

He was teed up by Mason Mount, who became the first English player to provide a Champions League final assist since Manchester United's Wes Brown against the Blues in 2008. 

Havertz is the youngest German player to have netted in the European showpiece match since Lars Ricken for Borussia Dortmund against Juventus in 1997.

Thiago Silva, meanwhile, became Chelsea's oldest player to appear in a major European final, aged 36 years and 249 days. He overtook Claude Makelele, who was 35 years and 93 days when he faced United 13 years ago.

The Brazilian's game ended early, however, the Brazil international substituted with an injury in the 39th minute. 

Toni Kroos hit back at Mason Mount after the Chelsea midfielder took exception to the Real Madrid star's comments ahead of their Champions League semi-final second leg. 

Kroos said prior to Madrid's 2-0 defeat to Chelsea on Wednesday that he "never lost sleep" over an opponent during his illustrious 15-year career.

Mount made note of that remark after Chelsea advanced 3-1 on aggregate to set up a Champions League final showdown against Premier League rivals Manchester City.

"I saw one of their players say before that he doesn't lose sleep over individuals," Mount told CBS Sports. 

"But I think as a team, they need to lose sleep over us as a team."

Kroos responded in a tweet on Thursday, paying a sharp-edged compliment in the process. 

"Still sleeping ok. But well done yesterday. congrats," he tweeted. 

"Good luck in your first CL final."

The allusion in Kroos' final sentence seemed clear enough. 

While the 22-year-old Mount will be playing for the Champions League title for the first time, Kroos already has won four of his own.

The 31-year-old earned the crown in 2013 with Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich and three in succession from 2016-2018 with Madrid. 

Kroos is also a World Cup winner with Germany.

 

Christian Pulisic admitted to being "very frustrated" at being left out of Chelsea's starting line-up for Wednesday's Champions League semi-final second leg with Real Madrid.

The United States international scored a crucial away goal for the Blues in last week's first leg but was named among the substitutes for the return fixture at Stamford Bridge.

He again made his impact known, however, by setting up a goal for Mason Mount 18 minutes after being introduced from the bench in the 2-0 win, which saw Chelsea through 3-1 on aggregate.

"I'm very frustrated," Pulisic, who has struggled with injuries this term, told CBS Sports. "There's not much else to say. I wanted to play from the beginning, as I always do.

"I've had to continue to prove myself over and over again. But, as always I reach out to God and he gives me strength. With that behind me, nothing can stop me really."

A look at the Opta stats shows Pulisic has a right to be frustrated, having now scored and assisted a combined four goals in the Champions League in nine appearances this term.

Only Olivier Giroud and Timo Werner have been directly involved in more (both six) - in eight and 11 games respectively.

For comparison, Mount - who has been superb for Chelsea this season - has three direct goal involvements in 10 Champions League games, while Kai Havertz has two from 11 respectively.

Focusing on the Premier League, meanwhile, Pulisic has four goals and one assist in 23 appearances this term, just 14 of those being starts.

Pulisic's average of a 0.26 goals per 90 minutes is slightly better than Havertz's return of 0.25 and behind only Giroud (0.5) and Tammy Abraham (0.52) among Chelsea's attackers. Werner, for context, averages 0.23.

The 22-year-old also performs better when it comes to chances created per 90 minutes in the English top flight when compared to Havertz - 1.37 to the German's 1.07.

But Pulisic still ranks some way below Hakim Ziyech, who has created 2.54 chances per 90 minutes this season and will also perhaps feel that he should be starting more often.

Mount (2.68) and Callum Hudson-Odoi (2.71) lead that particular metric, incidentally, which only highlights just how many options Thomas Tuchel has available in that zone.

One area Pulisic struggles in comparison to his attacking rivals is passing accuracy in the opposition half - 80.95, which is lower than Havertz's 84.3, Mount's 85.45 and Hudson-Odoi's 85.65. ​

The American's win rate when starting games also does not make for good reading.

The Blues have won 13 and lost just two of the 20 league games Pulisic has not featured from the beginning this term, compared to four wins and five losses in the 14 games he has been included in the XI.

Chelsea average 1.8 league goals with Pulisic in their starting line-up, as opposed to 1.3 without, while their average goals against rises from 0.6 to 1.4 when he starts.

Tuchel ultimately knows best when it comes to his team selection - and he is backed up by the possibility of a Champions League and FA Cup double - so Pulisic will simply have to keep proving himself if he is to hold down a regular starting spot.

Mason Mount was delighted to fire Chelsea into the Champions League final against Manchester City but felt Real Madrid got off lightly with a 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge.

Timo Werner headed Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea into a first-half lead in London but the tie remained in the balance until Mount made it 3-1 on aggregate five minutes from time on Wednesday.

Chelsea were far superior and passed up a host of chances to make the game safe – Opta's expected goals xG projection tallying 3.8-0.5 in Chelsea's favour.

"We should've probably had about five," Mount beamed in his post-match interview with BT Sport. "But the most important thing is we won. We want to go into every game winning it.

"It was 1-0 but that really didn't matter because if they score, they were back in the game.

"To get that one late on, you can see by the celebrations, it was a massive goal for us and gave us breathing space in the last five minutes.

"We gave everything and we had that desire to win first half. We had a couple of opportunities where we won the ball and should've scored but we got the one late on and it's great.

Werner nodded in a simple finish after Kai Havertz's 28th-minute chip looped down off the crossbar – a first Champions League goal from open play in Chelsea colours for the Germany forward, who came in for criticism for spurning a glorious chance during last week's first leg.

"I said to Timo, 'It must've felt like an eternity for the ball to drop down'," Mount said. "We're all buzzing for him."

City can seal the Premier League title in what is now a dress rehearsal meeting with Chelsea on Saturday.

Pep Guardiola's City have already lifted the EFL Cup for a fourth consecutive season, although Chelsea's 1-0 win over a much-changed XI in last month's FA Cup semi-final will give them hope they can deny the Premier League leaders an elusive first success in Europe's top competition.

"We haven't won anything yet. We've got two massive cup finals and hopefully we can win," Mount added, with Leicester City up at Wembley in the FA Cup final 10 days from now.

"We've got [Manchester City] on Saturday. We've played three times already this season, so it will be a stunning game."

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