ENGLAND ANNOUNCE SUMMER WARMUP PLANS
While although the status of this summer’s European Championship is yet to be confirmed regarding either the running or if so, final number of locations, the belief is that the show will go on in some fashion and therefore, plans will still need to be crafted by those competing nations.
Of course, one of the 24 nations that are part of this potential cross-continental party are England and with UEFA considering slimming down the tournament to just one host country, the home of the Three Lions could be in a good position to stage more fixtures.
While, if things remains as they were meant to be last year, Wembley Stadium will still be on hand for the showpiece event and manager Gareth Southgate will be hoping, that his 23-man squad are competing in the final.
If that is the case, then England will need first navigate out of a group that includes Croatia, Czech Republic, and traditional rivals Scotland, as although a third place may be enough to advance to the Round of 16, a top two finish will secure their path to the knockout phase.
Then again, England and their manager Southgate will not want to simply settle for making up the numbers and will instead look to finish top of their group, to forge a potentially smoother path to the final.
Ultimately, there is little time available in terms of pre-tournament preparation and with such a tight turn around from the end of the Premier League and European club competitions, England will have to make best use of their upcoming friendlies.
Friendlies, that have seen the announcement of meetings with both Austria and Romania in June and with these two countries being lined up to play the same role 12 months previous, there seemed no reason to look elsewhere for opposition.
With everyone connected to the competition trying to plan as if nothing has changed, it would have meant very few alternatives would have been available and with the visits of both the Austrians and the Romanians now confirmed, they should offer an ideal warmup test.
Then again, that is not England’s only exposure to international football before the delayed European Championship’s and in March, the task of qualifying for the Qatar 2022 World Cup will being in earnest.
With there being an element of congestion in the fixture calendar, due to the effects that COVID-19 has had on both this season and last, it means England will be competing in a quickfire triple-header of World Cup qualifiers.
Gareth Southgate's side will begin their 2022 qualifying campaign with home fixtures against San Marino (25 March) and Poland (31 March) either side of a trip to Albania (28 March) and though the likes of Robert Lewandowski will provide a challenge, nine points from nine will be expected.
Should that be the case, then it will only set England in good stead for a crack at a first major international success in 55 years and if they can get the better of both Austria and Romania in June, then optimism within the camp will only increase further.