The unsung heroes of England’s Euro 2020 campaign are midfield duo Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice, as well as goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
That’s according to the latest podcast episode of the collaboration between Eurosport and The Beautiful Game.
In this episode Justin Cole and Deji Odedina were joined by Eurosport’s Pete Sharland to talk about the second-half of the Last 16 matches at Euro 2020.
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LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 29: Gareth Southgate, Head Coach of England celebrates after victory in the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Round of 16 match between England and Germany at Wembley Stadium on June 29, 2021 in London, England

Image credit: Getty Images

To kick things off the team discussed England’s 2-0 victory over Germany at Wembley and straight away Odedina wanted to give some praise to two players who he felt were going under the radar.
“I think two players in this team that are underestimated; Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice.” Odedina said. “The amount of work they get through in the middle of the park goes unnoticed.

'What they do is magnificent! - Do we not give Phillips and Rice enough credit?

“I think people are quick to give Raheem Sterling the plaudits, rightly so, Jack Grealish as well.
“But what that two do in front of the back three is magnificent. Because if you remember before the tournament the central defence was earmarked as England’s weakest point, but they haven’t conceded a goal so far and I believe that is testament to those two midfielders.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 29: (L - R) Jack Grealish, Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips of England celebrate after victory in the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Round of 16 match between England and Germany at Wembley Stadium on June 29, 2021 in London, England.

Image credit: Getty Images

The team then discussed goalkeeper Pickford, with Odedine saying that he felt the Everton man has done a lot of growing up.
“I remember the save against Kai Havertz. Even though it’s a bit central he’s done his bread and butter. We’ve seen over the years him make too many comical mistakes. He often got too involved in the occasion. A lot of people have compared him to Joe Hart. You’re the goalkeeper, you’re supposed to be the centre of calm.”
Odedina then referenced a previous episode of The Beautiful Game podcast where they spoke to former Everton winger Yannick Bolasie, who rejected the notion that Pickford was a rash player.
Odedina continued by saying “For him to take that step and see a psychologist, that’s great for him that shows he wants to improve.
“I think towards the back end of the season, we started to see him put in some good performances. He was dropped for Robin Olsen, then he came back into the team and he started producing saves. For England and Gareth Southgate the key is that he wants players he can trust. Another player, Raheem Sterling, didn’t really perform at the back end of the season for City but when it comes to England these players know how to perform. He’s been a big plus for England."
Sharland quickly agreed adding “I think that last point is the key one. I don’t think under any circumstances Southgate was going to drop Pickford.

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“I have been one of Pickford’s most vocal critics in terms of, I just think he has so much talent and it didn’t always look as if he was applying himself. But the way he’s performed for England over the last year or so proves me wrong and shows that he’s got what it takes to be a top level international goalkeeper.
“Because it is different. He plays for Everton, the defence isn’t great there, he’s relatively busy most of the time. England dominate their games and have most of the possession, it’s an entirely different thing.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 29: England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford saves at close range from Timo Werner of Germany during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Round of 16 match between England and Germany at Wembley Stadium on June 29, 2021 in London, United Kingd

Image credit: Getty Images

Sharland continued by discussing the parallels to the struggles that Joe Hart had at certain stages during his international career.
“It’s something we saw Joe Hart struggle with when he came through at Birmingham City, and then Manchester City, before they started to really improve he was great. He was making 10, 12 reflex saves a game. I always think about that Champions League match with Barcelona.
“When it got to the stage when England were getting better and City were getting better he couldn’t keep up because he didn’t have the concentration levels to be the sort of keeper where you might make one save in the game. It’s something someone like Buffon has done so well."

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Finally Sharland looked at how Pickford has cemented his spot and put to bed any chat about Manchester United keeper Dean Henderson. He also referenced the save Pickford made from Timo Werner, as well as his role in the huge miss by Thomas Muller.
"If Pickford can add that sort of mentality and concentration levels to his game then it shuts down any talk of Dean Henderson. I think in a year, there is a real possibility that if the Euros had been held last summer there would have been a genuine positional battle at goalkeeper. Henderson was coming off the back of a great season with Sheffield United but Pickford had a bit of a rough season with Everton.
"But obviously now with the delay Southgate hasn’t had to make that decision. Pickford has come back stronger and is making those strides, there’s every chance he can be England’s goalkeeper for the next five to seven years. That save from Timo Werner was critical.
"Even with the Thomas Muller miss. He’s always had that part of the game where he can get out quicjly. Obviously against Muller, who’s not the quickest, getting out quickly makes it that much trickier. Other keepers might have stayed, other keepers might not have wanted to get caught and have the ball taken around them. Again that’s awareness, he knew Muller isn’t the type of player to do that. If that’s Werner he’s just going to knock it past you and tap it into the empty net.
"With Muller you know you can come out and make it difficult, get the help from the centre-backs. I think that was a really underrated moment for him."
You can listen to the full episode here.
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