Jack Grealish’s substitution in extra-time following Harry Kane’s winning goal in their semi-finals clash with Denmark in the European Championship attracted some confusion amongst fans.
Speaking after the game, with the Three Lions running away 2-1 victors, Gareth Southgate explained that there was a tactical justification behind the decision to pull the Aston Villa star in favour of Kieran Trippier.
“We felt that we know the way Denmark have gone in their previous matches,” the former Middlesbrough boss was quoted as saying by the Manchester Evening News.
“They’ve had very clear strategies when they’ve gone behind, they’ve gone 4-2-4 and thrown everybody forward. We needed to keep pressure on at the front but have the numbers there to deal with the balls in the box.
“In the end, Raheem was causing so many problems and was so difficult to play all night that it was going to have to be Phil or Jack to come off. We made that decision, not an easy one but he totally understood it and in the end said ‘Gaffer, I’m not really bothered we’ve got to the final!’
“But I must say I thought he had absolutely the impact we were looking for when he came into the game.”
The national side is set for the first Euros final in its history, coming up against Roberto Mancini’s highly impressive Italian outfit this Sunday.
As has been the case for a number of the manager’s calls across the tournament, the substitution appeared to work in the side’s favour, with England controlling proceedings in the remaining allotted time.
With Italy lying in wait in the not-so-distant horizon, however, Southgate will have a serious tactical battle ahead of him as he faces former Manchester City coach Mancini.
With the spectre of Euro 1996 still haunting the Englishman, this weekend’s clash represents a huge opportunity for the coach to put to rest his demons and hand fans a first trophy since 1966.