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Contrasting cheers and jeers: Spain and England lead Euro groups with different reactions

If you’re a fan of international football, the current Euro 2024 tournament has been a rollercoaster of emotions. You’ve seen unexpected upsets, brilliant goals, and intense battles on the pitch.

Spain and England, two of the most storied footballing nations, have experienced vastly different journeys in this competition.

As the knockout stages approach, their paths diverge in ways that reflect their unique footballing philosophies, the pressures each team faces, and the unfair nature of football.

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Spain has lit up Euro 2024 with performances that hark back to their golden era. Luis de la Fuente’s squad has displayed a combination of tactical discipline, creative flair, and defensive solidity, making them one of the most formidable teams in the tournament.

Group Stage Performances:

  1. Spain vs. Croatia: 3-0 victory

– Goals by: Álvaro Morata (29’), Fabián Ruiz (32’), Carvajal (47’).

  1. Spain vs. Italy: 1-0 victory

– Goal by: R. Calafiori (OG, 55’).

  1. Spain vs. Albania: 1-0 victory

– Goal by: Ferrán Torres (13’).

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Spain’s journey so far has been marked by dominant performances and a staunch defence that has yet to concede a goal.

Their balanced approach, combining experienced veterans like Daniel Carvajal and Rodrigo Hernández (Rodri) with young talents like Lamine Yamal and Nico Williams and also players with a lot to prove such as Marc Cucurella and Fabián Ruiz, has been a winning formula.

This blend has made them not only effective but also a joy to watch, playing football with a fluidity and grace that few can match.

Euro 2024 Bracket. Source: UEFA

The road to the final in Berlin is fraught with peril for Spain. In the Round of 16, they will face either the third-placed team from Group E (Romania, Belgium, Slovakia, or Ukraine) or Group F (Turkey, Czech Republic, or Georgia).

Surviving this, they are likely to encounter Germany (if they win against Denmark) in the quarter-finals, a team that has been relentless and goal-hungry.

The potential semi-final clash with France or Portugal adds another layer of complexity. France’s unexpected second-place finish has made Spain’s path even more daunting.

Yet, if any team can navigate this treacherous terrain, it’s Spain, whose blend of tactical acumen and individual brilliance stands out in the tournament.

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England: struggling under the weight of expectations

England’s Euro 2024 campaign has been a stark contrast to Spain’s. Gareth Southgate’s team, despite topping their group, has faced significant criticism for their lacklustre attacking performances and conservative approach.

Group Stage Performances:

  1. England vs. Serbia: 1-0 victory

– Goal by: Bellingham (13’).

  1. England vs. Denmark: 1-1 draw

– Goals by: Kane (18’), M. Hjulmand (34’).

  1. England vs. Slovenia: 0-0 draw.

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England’s inability to score more than two goals in three games has been a point of concern.

Despite having the second-highest possession rate in the tournament (59.7%) after Germany, they have failed to translate this ball dominance into goals. With only 28 attempts and 10 shots on target, England ranks in the bottom eight for shots on goal, a statistic that underlines their struggles in the final third.

Southgate’s approach has drawn widespread criticism. England seems content to sit on narrow 1–0 leads, often appearing hesitant to push for more goals once ahead.

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This cautious strategy has frustrated fans and pundits alike, who expected more dynamism and creativity from a squad brimming with talent.

Players like Bukayo Saka, Harry Kane, Phil Foden, and Jude Bellingham are not built to sit back and defend. This England squad should dominate every minute of every game, imposing fear on their opponents as soon as they take the field.

Empty cups thrown at Gareth Southgate as he applauds the England supporters. (Dan Sheldon) @TheAthletic

The situation reached a boiling point after the goalless draw with Slovenia. Fans jeered and threw empty beer cups at Southgate, highlighting the growing dissatisfaction.

Southgate responded firmly, urging fans to support the team and reminding them of the progress made under his tenure.

“I understand it. I’m not going to back away from it,” Southgate said in his post-match press conference.

“The most important thing is the supporters stay with the team. Over the last six or seven years, we’ve made England fun again, and it’s been enjoyable for the players. We’ve got to be careful it stays that way.”

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Former players like Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand have offered surprising support, suggesting that the team is close to clicking and could go all the way if the right players are fielded.

“Might surprise a few… very encouraged by that performance,” Ferdinand posted after the Slovenia game. Ferdinand echoed this sentiment, advocating for the inclusion of fearless youngsters like Kobe Mainoo and Cole Palmer.

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However, a few days ago, Southgate expressed his point of view on the team’s difficulties in pressing, attributing some responsibility to a lack of fitness: “We know with the profile of the players we’ve got, we don’t feel the way to press is really high up the pitch,” he said.

“We don’t think that’s the physical level of the team at the moment.”

This drew a sharp response from Manchester United legend, Paul Scholes, who posted the following on Instagram, “Why are we obsessed with energy when we should be obsessed with the brain?”

Source: TNTSports

In the Round of 16, England will face one of the third-place finishers from Group D, E, or F. Looking at the odds, England are most likely to face the Netherlands in the Round of 16, a very tough opponent.

Then, a potential quarter-final clash with Italy looms, a daunting prospect given Italy’s favourable position in the bracket.

The pressure is on Southgate to adapt and inspire his team to play more assertively.

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As we look ahead, the potential for a Spain vs. England final presents an intriguing clash of styles.

Spain’s fluid, attacking football, characterized by high pressing and quick transitions, would test England’s structured, possession-based approach.

Their impressive form and balanced squad make the Spanish favourites, but England’s disciplined defence and a handful of talented players mean they cannot be discounted.

If the Three Lions find a way to convert possession into meaningful chances and goals, they would become a scary opponent for anyone.

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Both Spain and England face crucial tests as the knockout stages approach. Spain’s path is laden with potential encounters against footballing giants, while England must overcome their offensive shortcomings and navigate a tricky draw.

The Euro 2024 has already delivered unforgettable moments and surprising twists. Whether we witness a battle of contrasting styles in the final or see new narratives unfold, the tournament promises to keep fans on the edge of their seats until the final whistle in Berlin.

Will we see this battle of styles in the longed-for final?

Author

  • Òscar Llopis I Balanyà

    23-year-old sports journalist, fluent in French, Catalan and Spanish. I am a football addict, who’s also interested in basketball and futsal. Above all, I’m a Barça lover and the biggest Messi fan in the world! If you have any exciting information or questions to ask, don’t hesitate to contact me!