The past week has seen domestic leagues take a break for the Euro 2024 qualifiers and England and Gareth Southgate were criticised once more as they could only draw 1-1 away to Ukraine. In truth England qualifiers have felt like a drag for some time and this is due in part to how strong the national side have become. There doesn't seem to be much of a challenge and as long as you're well disciplined, patient, solid and professional you'll get the job done. England tick all of those boxes. It has led to various qualifiers especially over the past decade feeling like a breeze, there is almost no risk, England know they will qualify with games to go, it is a case of when and not if and it is affecting the quality and excitement of the games. There are various qualifying methods now because of the Nations League, fair play points, and play-offs and it is obvious that UEFA do not want their prized tournaments taking place without the historical best nations.
Of course, having said that Italy are making heavy weather of qualifying for major tournaments. The holders of the European Championships may not be taking part in next summer's tournament. Of course the Italians also failed to qualify for the last two World Cups which is frankly shocking given their standing in the game. Germany have just lost 4-1 against Japan which has led to the sacking of coach Hansi Flick and one has to wonder if England have a genuine if not clearer path to finally winning a major competition for the first time since 1966- and their first ever Euro's? Germany and Italy have been power houses in international football boasting some of the greatest players that have ever lived but with those two teams possibly out of the picture quality wise that must elevate this England side. Of course Germany will be hosting Euro 2024 and the team will be working hard to improve in the next nine months but the nation has looked average for a good 3 years now and they may well come into the competition housing the poorest German national side seen in a generation. Of course as the old saying goes 'never write off the Germans', let's remember 22 years ago when England infamously beat them 5-1 in Germany in a World Cup qualifier. And yet when the World Cup came around the following year it was England out by the quarter finals and Germany made it to the final.
Going back to England, and question marks will remain over Southgate in the crucial moments. One can ask why the trio of Harry Maguire, Jordan Henderson and Ben Chilwell started against Ukraine? Maguire isn't getting the game time he needs for Manchester United, Henderson seems like a player whose time has come and gone and Chilwell has played under 50 games in the last three years for Chelsea because of injuries but that of course is also going to affect his overall progress. Southgate has done a very good job for England but you wonder if sticking with the same trusted players is going to end up being his achilles heel?
To win Euro 2024: France 5.00, England 6.00, Germany 7.00, Spain 9.00, Portugal 11.00
It seems that Liverpool best make use of Mohamed Salah this season because it could well be his final one for the club. Salah has become a legend at the club, scoring consistent goals, important ones and brilliant ones and had the Saudi League got their way this summer he would have left the club already. It is staggering to think that Liverpool were offered £150m for a 31 year old, even as great as Salah has been. In truth the Reds had to reject the offer in their minds not because of the quality of the player but because they had no time to replace him, it would have possibly derailed their season. We say possibly because for a good 18 months now Salah has not played like the world class player we know he can rise too. And yet he keeps scoring goals, they just seem to be less important ones. His mazy runs and solo goals have also largely been replaced and at times his body language has been one great sulk. Salah is still a dangerous player of course and any top side in Europe would love to have him but his destiny now seems wrapped up in the Saudi League and the country knows he would be a fantastic representative for them. They will come in next summer instead and of course offer the Reds crazy money again and surely there is no way Liverpool will reject this time around.