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England overcoming psychological hurdles with every step forward

G

areth Southgate credited England‘s “special spirit” as the biggest reason for their seamless progress through Euro 2020 and their run to Wednesday’s semi-final has come via a series of psychological tests.

Then, came the return of football’s oldest international rivalry with the visit of Scotland to Wembley in an occasion described by Southgate as “unique”.

After the Czech Republic, Germany were the next visitors in a grudge match made more significant by the weight of 55 years years of hurt and Southgate’s own personal demons in the fixture.

Southgate had warned his players and the country that they faced “a moment of danger”, with the manager concerned about complacency, flatness and the pressure of expectation against Andriy Shevchenko’s hard-running underdogs.

Through all of these hurdles, England have passed unscathed, their progress never once in any serious doubt.

Some of the football as been impressive – particularly when they released the handbrake at the start of the second half in Rome – but the defining feature of their victories has been control.

The goalless draw with Scotland was the closest Southgate’s side have come to falling short but they are yet to lose their grip on a game, nor have they ever looked close to suffering from the kind of collective anxiety that has plagued previous England teams, particularly in the knockouts.

It is not supposed to be this way, and England’s form so far feels as much as victory for collective mentality as it does for Southgate’s tactics or selections, or the players’ individual quality.


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