Home BETTING TIPS Saka has been the brightest star of England’s Southgate era

Saka has been the brightest star of England’s Southgate era



There was widespread surprise when, as England lined up for kick off against Switzerland on Saturday, Bukayo Saka took up his position on the right wing. Widespread reporting before the Euro 2024 quarter-final claimed Gareth Southgate would shift his team to a back three with wing backs, which he did, but they got wrong which side Saka would operate on.

It’s just as well they did, because without Saka on the right wing, England probably would have lost to Switzerland. They would be home from Euro 2024 by now, having failed to find a way past the stubborn Swiss defence. Instead, though, Saka produced a moment of magic to keep The Three Lions in the tournament.

His left-footed strike from outside the box into the far corner of Yann Sommer’s net to get England back on to level terms at 1-1. From there, Southgate’s side won the penalty shootout, with Saka one of the five England players who found the back of the net from the spot. He couldn’t have done any more to get his team through to the final four.

“I gave him a massive cuddle on the pitch,” said Southgate. “Of course I’m pleased for everybody, but for him especially when his went in. That takes courage but we have belief in him. We had belief in him previously. He’s now got a lot more experience of those pressure moments and his all-round performance was exceptional.

“The detail of how he had to defend, track and be in the right positions was very complex down that side of the pitch. Then to give us the outlet in those one against one situations, we felt could be a real advantage for us. He did, he kept that positive note, so, yeah, his performance was immense.”

England boast some of the brightest attacking talents in the international game right now, but Saka has shone brighter than any other star in the Southgate era. Time and time again, the Arsenal winger has produced for his national team when they have needed him to. Saturday was just another instance of this and he will have another opportunity on Wednesday to push England into another European Championship final.

Jude Bellingham has also done his bit to rescue England at Euro 2024, but the Real Madrid midfielder has struggled to influence matches on a consistent basis. Some of this has been down to Southgate’s insistence on using Bellingham higher up the pitch when his starting position for Real Madrid is deeper. Others suggest Bellingham is fatigued.

Harry Kane scored 44 goals in all competitions for Bayern Munich last season, but has been a shadow of his usual self at Euro 2024 so far, registering just five touches in the opposition box against Switzerland. Kane is one of the best centre forwards in world football. However, that hasn’t been evident in Germany this summer.

Then there’s Phil Foden. Fresh from winning the Premier League Player of the Year award, the Manchester City attacking midfielder was expected to be a key figure for England at Euro 2024. Instead, he has been anonymous in the majority of the matches he has played. There has been more chat around Foden than any other England player at Euro 2024, and not for positive reasons.

At club level, Bellingham, Foden and Kane might operate at a higher level than Saka, but the Arsenal winger is the most reliable performer for his country. Southgate’s tactics and general approach as a coach might not produce attack-minded football on a regular basis, but Saka is the exception – and he is exceptional.