There is definitely a different vibe about this England team, and not just because they have reached a first big-tournament final since 1966.
Learn about the main men who have got them there, including codename ‘H’, the ‘Boy from Brent’ and the ‘Yorkshire Pirlo’.
Jordan Pickford, goalkeeper
His team-mates think he resembles Shaun, the protagonist from TV series This Is England. At times he resembles a cultured midfielder for the quality of his left-foot deliveries though his excellence between the posts has shone through again this tournament. Playing with a greater calmness that he credits to sessions with a sports psychologist, he broke Gordon Banks’ England record of 720 minutes without conceding, prior to Denmark’s semi-final goal.
Kyle Walker, right-back
“He’s got great energy about him,” says John Stones of his fellow Yorkshireman and club-mate who, at 31 and approaching a decade as an England player, has performed impressively in this EURO. Sent off in Iceland in the first international of the season, he looked at risk of falling behind other younger right-backs but has re-emerged as an integral member of the defence, his enduring speed a terrific asset.
John Stones, centre-back
The stylish Man. City man grew up playing youth football against Harry Maguire in South Yorkshire, when he was at Barnsley and his future England central defensive partner at Sheffield United.
He stepped into the Premier League with Everton in 2013 and, aged 19, gave an early sign of his confidence on the ball with a Panenka-style penalty against Juventus in a pre-season fixture. Now reintegrated into Southgate’s side after a return to form with City last season which earned his inclusion in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year.
Harry Maguire, centre-back
Returned ahead of schedule from an ankle-ligament injury for this tournament – with the help of a battery-powered ankle strap which provides cooling, heating and compression. Maguire had already shown his commitment to the national team by travelling as a fan to EURO 2016 and has happy boyhood memories of “putting my England shirt on with my brothers and playing in the garden” – the standard must have been pretty high given younger siblings Laurence and Joe also became professionals.
Luke Shaw, left-back
Praised by Roberto Carlos on Instagram for his display against Ukraine, the left-back they now call ‘Shawberto Carlos’ has made a spectacular England comeback this year. Absent from the squad for two years, he rejoined in March and is now fulfilling the promise that led Roy Hodgson to take him to the 2014 FIFA World Cup when he was 18. It might be too soon to say he could play in his slippers but he turned up for his interview with EURO2020.com in them – a red pair from Justin Bieber’s Drew House fashion line (a gift from his girlfriend).
Declan Rice, midfielder
Rice shows a maturity beyond his years in the midfield holding role but, off the field, the affable Londoner is one of the jokers in the squad. He has had plenty to celebrate this month – including the birth of his new niece, which he discovered moments after the final whistle against Denmark – and has promised to drink his first ever pint of beer if England win on Sunday.
Kalvin Phillips, midfielder
Southgate was monitoring Phillips closely as he helped local club Leeds United win promotion in 2020, handing him his first cap last September before he’d kicked his first ball in the top flight. A favourite pupil of Marcelo Bielsa, Phillips gave his club manager his first England shirt, though he looks near and far for inspiration – including videos of Leeds’ legendary Scottish midfield Billy Bremner.
The Leeds fans call him the ‘Yorkshire Pirlo’ and he’s been a revelation this tournament, hitting the ground running with the pass for Raheem Sterling’s opener against Croatia.
Mason Mount, midfielder
A UEFA Champions League winner with Chelsea, the intelligent attacking midfielder has better timing on the field than off it apparently – at least according to his great friend Rice, who told us the 22-year-old operates on ‘Mason Mount time’. In other words, Rice explained, “We say to him for the PlayStation, six-thirty let’s be on. He turns up at half-eight and says, ‘Sorry lads, I’ve been busy.'”
Bukayo Saka, forward
“I’ve played defence, midfield and attack,” the teenager with the easy smile told EURO2020.com of the versatility he has shown since coming through the ranks at Arsenal, where he benefited from Freddie Ljungberg’s mentoring in the U23s. For England U19s he featured at left-back, but it was from the left side of the attack that he hit his first international goal to secure the 2 June friendly win against Austria. He has subsequently shone in the EURO as a right-sided attacker.
Harry Kane, forward
‘H’, as team-mates call him, joined Gary Lineker as England’s joint-top scorer in major tournaments with his 10th goal in World Cups or EUROS against Denmark. The Russia 2018 Golden Boot has known disappointment on the European stage: he fired three blanks for Southgate’s U21s in the 2015 finals (when Andrea Belotti scored in the loss to Italy that sealed an early exit) and another four at EURO 2016.
Yet captain Kane has come good as this tournament has unfolded, rediscovering the spark that made him Premier League leading marksman for the third time in 2021/21.
Raheem Sterling, forward
The self-styled ‘Boy from Brent’ – the name of the London borough in which Wembley stands – grew up a stone’s throw from the stadium, which features in a tattoo on his left arm. His donation of 550 tickets for Man. City’s 2019 FA Cup semi-final against Brighton to his old school highlighted that he’s not forgotten his roots and this year he was awarded an MBE for services to racial equality in sport.
He lost his starting place at City last season but has been a key player this tournament, with his speed, dribbling ability and three goals. England have yet to lose a match in which he has scored.
Phil Foden’s Gazza-style hair could well be copied by his team-mates in the event of an England triumph – or so he claims – while Jack Grealish is threatening to make his first trip to Las Vegas. Jordan Henderson and Kieran Trippier play big roles off the pitch (and on it when called upon) while Marcus Rashford, a quieter character, has certainly made a noise with his impressive campaigning for free school meals which earned him an MBE last year.