The former Three Lions defender says it will take “something really special and spectacular” for Gareth Southgate’s side to reach the last eight
England would be “massive underdogs’ if they face France in the last 16 of the European Championship, but would have a 50-50 chance against Germany or Portugal, according to Gary Neville.
The Three Lions progressed to the Euro 2020 knockout stage as Group D winners after beating the Czech Republic 1-0 at Wembley on Tuesday night, with Raheem Sterling heading home the decisive goal after just 12 minutes.
Gareth Southgate’s men finished the pool with seven points and three clean sheets to their name, but will face a far tougher test in the next round, and Neville has warned that they will need to raise their game in order to get any further in the competition.
What’s been said?
“It’s likely to be Germany or France, maybe Portugal,” the former England defender told Sky Sports when assessing his country’s potential last-16 opponents. “We’re in a good place. In the back of our minds we’ve got a giant of a team to face next Tuesday, but in terms of the job we were asked to do in the group phase, the players and manager have done that in comfortable fashion, keeping clean sheets.
“But the reality will kick in for these players later on in the week, they have a giant of a game on Tuesday. It’s an event in itself and one which would elevate confidence beyond belief if they were to win. But to win those games against a team like France or Germany takes something really special and spectacular.
“We would be massive underdogs against France, against Germany we have an opportunity, Portugal even more so. You cannot go more than a 50-50 chance against Germany and Portugal, for France I’d go 70-30 against, that is not being negative or pessimistic, it’s realistic.
“Look at the France teamsheet and tell me how many England players would get in ahead of Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, Karim Benzema, Raphael Varane. They have a damn good team. All of England’s potential opponents have good players and while we should be confident we have to realise our opponents will be confident as well and that it will be tough to win.”
Who are England most likely to face?
England are scheduled to play against the Group F runners-up at Wembley on June 29, which as it stands would be age-old rivals Germany – who are sitting a point behind pool leaders France on three.
However, Portugal are only a place lower than Germany on goal difference ahead of their last fixture against France, and Hungary still have an outside chance of snatching second spot themselves if they can spring an upset against Joachim Low’s side on Wednesday night.
Neville’s praise for Grealish, Saka & Maguire
England were criticised for a lack of adventure in the final third during their 1-0 win against Croatia and 0-0 draw with Scotland, but Jack Grealish and Bukayo Saka gave them fresh impetus after being handed their first starts against the Czech Republic.
“Grealish, Saka and Sterling’s performances gave everybody a lift in the first half and there was a lot more energy in the game and we looked a lot more balanced,” Neville said of the duo’s impact.
“That brought an energy to the performance generally and, all of a sudden, the rest of the players looked energetic with them. Those three players moved around so quickly like bees that were buzzing and everything felt more enthusiastic.”
Elsewhere, Harry Maguire added extra steel to the defence on his first outing since recovering from a serious ankle injury, and Neville thinks his continued presence will be crucial as the tournament heats up.
“It was critical for Maguire to come back in last night. Tyrone Mings has done really well, but there was a level of order with Maguire on the ball,” the Manchester United legend added. “We’ve seen over the last 12 months with empty stadiums that he is vocal and will dig out his team-mates.
“Along with Harry Kane and Jordan Henderson, who isn’t playing all the time at the moment, Maguire is the figurehead on the pitch that this England team needs. “