Before anyone shouts at the phone or computer, we know football is a game of opinions and that’s what makes it so intoxicating and infuriating, especially in a major international tournament.

Like most sports fans, we have been glued to the Euro 2024 tournament, gasping in delight at some tremendous encounters and yawning through some turgid England performances.

But we are through to the knockout stages and the draw has been kind.

While England do not yet know their opponent in the last 16 on Sunday afternoon, we do know the Three Lions are on the other side of the draw to the powerhouses Spain, Germany, Portugal and France, meaning we can’t play any of those teams until the final.

The pathway has opened kindly for England manager Gareth Southgate, and not for the first time in a major tournament, but we’ve decided to give him a helping hand by picking our team for the next match, along with player ratings for the tournament so far.


GK: Jordan Pickford – A goalkeeper who deserves more credit for his consistently excellent performances between the sticks for England. He never lets us down and his antics are great fun to watch. Next time he plays a simple ball to the centre-backs, just watch Pickford’s shouting and waving of the arms. He is our Antonio Rudiger, a bit mad but superb fun.
Tournament Rating: 8.0 – Faultless group stage.

RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold – The midfield experiment did not work but there was no harm in trying, particularly against ‘weaker’ opposition. We will play a third-placed finisher in the next round, so the odds are in favour of another team that will let England have the ball. Kyle Walker is a brilliant defender, super fast, as we all know, but we probably won’t need a brilliant defender. Trent is a world class passer of a football, so let’s give him a shot in his natural position.

Tournament Rating: 6.0 – Midfield role didn’t work but there have been glimpses of his passing quality.

CB: John Stones – Easy decision at the heart of England’s defence, just a quality performer and vastly experienced.
Tournament Rating: 7.0 – Possibly could get more involved in our attacking play but his role for England is very different to the one he has at Manchester City. He is in the team purely to defend and he’s done that very neatly.

CB: Marc Guehi – Well played young man, he has filled the Harry Maguire-shaped hole with tremendous assurance. The only question for Southgate is whether, if by some miracle we score early goals in the next round and effectively win the game, he has the courage to give one or both of his centre-backs a little rest. And more importantly, give one of the other defenders a taste of the tournament, as they might be needed in future big games.
Tournament Rating: 8.0 – Calm, confident, good on the ball and even the odd small error has been swiftly rectified.

LB: Joe Gomez – It would be lovely to see Luke Shaw back to full fitness, as the lack of a natural left-footer on this side is massively damaging the balance of the team, we would go as far to say that this has been our biggest issue. Kieran Trippier is a solid performer but he has no trust in his left foot, even for the simplest of passes. Gomez is also right-footed but he has played on the left many times for Liverpool and deserves a chance to impress.
Tournament Rating: N/A – Yet to make an appearance.

CM: Declan Rice – His past performances for England, as well as a fine season for Arsenal and previous excellence at West Ham, means Rice has credit in the bank, but the honest truth is that he has looked poor so far. His first touch has been heavy, taking the ball on the half-turn looks clunky and he’s not got forward enough. The few times he has probed in attacking areas, Rice has looked like the player we know he can be.
Tournament Rating: 5.5 – Meh

CM: Kobbie Mainoo – He showed enough sharpness, energy and composure as a sub against Slovenia to earn a starting berth. Most importantly, he is a player full of confidence after a superb breakout season at Manchester United. Tournament football is all about ‘the moment’ and he is a form player at the moment.
Tournament Rating: 7.5 – We can only rate on what we have seen so far, and Mainoo was quality on Tuesday night.

RW: Cole Palmer – The forward areas are where it gets particularly controversial. Will Southgate have the courage to ‘rest / drop’ his top players….highly doubtful from a manager with a proven record of shirking difficult decisions. Palmer has been inspired for Chelsea this season and the touches he showed as a late sub against Slovenia, the creativity and, most of all, the confidence, should earn him a start.
Tournament Rating: 8.0 – Super sharp in his brief cameo.

CAM: Phil Foden – The crucial number 10 role and, as we said at the start, these are just our humble opinions…and the opinion is that Phil Foden is by far the best player in this England team, potentially the best in any England team. His mind and feet work at a higher level than anyone else, his best position is central and, while Jude Bellingham has the power and physical presence, Foden is technically superior.
Tournament Rating: 7.0 – Poor against Serbia, ok against Denmark, sharp against Slovenia.

LW: Anthony Gordon – The commentators said it a million times against Slovenia, ‘we need pace and players to take on the full-backs’. England are not good enough to pass their way through teams who are defending deep with the low block, but Gordon has the pace and skill to ruffle feathers.
Tournament Rating: 8.0 – He’s only played a few minutes but in that short space of time, Gordon played a pass ‘through the lines’ that opened up a tight defence…others have failed to do that in three full matches.

CF: Harry Kane – He is our captain and the greatest England goalscorer of all time. Not been at his best so far but Kane is the man any team would want to lead their forward line.
Tournament Rating: 6.5 – Scored against Denmark, still the main dangerman in the penalty area and we all know Harry Kane can play better.

The Manager
Tournament Rating:
3.5 – It might seem like jumping on the bandwagon and yes, we know Gareth has ‘got us to a major final and semi-final’ but on the evidence of this tournament, it has been very poor. The reality is that England have, by a long way, performed the worst of all the pre-tournament favourites.

We all have a Southgate opinion but just listen to the pundits when they talk about England. Many of them are former team-mates of Southgate and his buddy, so they are probably being kind, but phrases like ‘no plan’, ‘basic football’, ‘lacking intensity’ are seriously damning when assessing a coach in the world of elite football.

There are two big questions for Southgate: Do you have the personality to inspire the team to win the biggest of games and do you have the courage to make difficult decisions at crucial times in a game?

Our verdict on the evidence so far…no chance!  

The subs and their tournament ratings

Kyle Walker:
6.0 – Probably England’s best ever right-back and we will need his pace and defensive qualities later in the tournament, but in the games so far, where we have dominated the ball, Walker has been sloppy in possession.

Kieran Trippier: 6.0 – He hasn’t made any defensive errors but Trippier is very limited at left-back.

Jude Bellingham: 6.0 – Excellent in the first half against Serbia, disappointing since then. He is a powerhouse and will be an England star for the next decade but Bellingham has occasionally looked immature in his decision-making, weary on the pitch and technically scruffy. Top managers, brave managers, would take him out of the spotlight for a game or two….   

Conor Gallagher: 4.5 – We know it sounds harsh but you have to grasp opportunities at a major tournament, Gallagher had his chance and didn’t take it.

Bukayo Saka: 5.5 – He did have some bright moments against Serbia but the reality is Saka has been far below his normal standards. His second half to the season at Arsenal was a little lacklustre and he looks low on confidence. Saka is in danger of becoming a ‘one-trick pony’ and defenders are possibly figuring out the ‘trick’.

Ollie Watkins: 7.0 – Our local favourite and on the brief outing he has enjoyed so far, Watkins looked sharp.

Jarrod Bowen: 7.0 – Another who has looked bright in his two substitute appearances and a good option from the bench.

Eberechi Eze: 6.0 – Only a fleeting display so far and he has immense quality, the ability to glide past players, but probably a star of future tournaments, rather than this one.   

Aaron Ramsdale: N/A
Dean Henderson: N/A
Luke Shaw: N/A
Ezri Konsa: N/A
Lewis Dunk: N/A
Adam Wharton: N/A
Ivan Toney: N/A