Mason Greenwood decision sees Gareth Southgate lose England’s Euro 2020 wildcard

Mason Greenwood being pulled out of the Three Lions Euro 2020 squad on Tuesday morning was a blow to Gareth Southgate.

A statement by Manchester United confirmed he has been suffering with an underlying injury he picked up with the Young Lions in March.

Regarded as one of his country’s brightest talents, Greenwood has forged a reputation for his refreshingly-direct approach and his clinical eye for goal with either foot.

Greenwood, 19, has not featured for his country at senior level since his debut last August, as he was sent home for breaching coronavirus regulations in Iceland the following month.

But he forced his way back into Southgate’s 33-man preliminary squad with a fantastic run-in during for the Red Devils during which he scored six goals in his last eight Premier League appearances.

Greenwood was poised to build on his sole England cap this summer

The spritely teenager tore through tired top-flight defences – and this was very much the role earmarked for him in the England set-up this summer.

Providing a brief breakdown of Southgate’s attacking selections in the preliminary squad, there are three centre-forwards in Harry Kane, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Ollie Watkins.

There are also six wingers, with Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling. Many of these players are also comfortable playing in attacking midfield, and it’s hard to pinpoint the roles Southgate has sounded out for them in his side.

And then there is Greenwood, whose role is – or should we say was – quite clear, and also a unique one.

With many midfielders-cum-wingers in the squad, he was one of the few players comfortable playing on the flank or up front.

This means if England were chasing a game and needing another body in attack, the versatile Greenwood would likely have been one of the first players Southgate would summon from the bench.

Greenwood impressed on the right wing and up front for United during the run-in
Greenwood impressed on the right wing and up front for United during the run-in

There are a host of gifted widemen in the squad, but it’s also worth noting Greenwood – along with Saka – is one of the few who plays the majority of their minutes on the right wing.

There was even a case to suggest the in-form United star deserved minutes at centre-forward ahead of Everton frontman Calvert-Lewin, who is regarded as Kane’s main back-up but scored just three goals in his last 13 Premier League appearances.

Former Three Lions striker Alan Shearer summed up Greenwood’s potential role in Southgate’s side as he made the case for naming the youngster in the final 26-man squad earlier this week.

“I would personally take Greenwood as well, in case we are wanting and needing a goal, and struggling for that,” he told Goal .

He added: “I would have him in, he probably wouldn’t start the first couple of games but if you need a goal late on then he would be a great option to throw on.

The prospect of coming against Greenwood is a daunting one for tiring defences
The prospect of coming against Greenwood is a daunting one for tiring defences

“Having those extra three [places in the squad] might help someone like Greenwood get into the squad.”

It feels unjust to reduce a player of Greenwood’s ability and potential to a super-sub role, but that’s exactly what England need heading into the Euros; a player with electric pace capable of driving at fatiguing full-backs and centre-halves while producing the vital goal or assist to show for it.

How big a miss is Greenwood from the England squad? Comment below.

As noted by Rio Ferdinand, who was speaking before Greenwood pulled out, the youngster would also have greatly benefitted from a first taste of major international tournament football.

“You look at Mason’s ability and you think the growth he’s got in his game… if you give him the opportunity to come here and get the experience you think what that would do for him in future tournaments even if he doesn’t get on,” said Ferdinand.

“To come and experience it would be great for him and I would definitely give him the opportunity. At the back end of the season he has been really, really good.”

Greenwood will not have the chance to rekindle his blistering late-season form for his country, nor will he gain valuable experience at this summer’s tournament.

His woes are shared by Southgate, who has lost his wildcard on the eve of the Euros, leaving a void in the squad he will struggle to fill.

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