Gareth Southgate fears changes to Euro 2020 format because of Covid-19

Gareth Southgate fears that the European Championship finals will not take place next summer or at least not in their intended 12-city pan-continental format.

With coronavirus infection rates rising and restrictions on travel, Southgate said that England would be able to host the tournament if the decision was taken to slim down the number of host nations to only a few or even one.

“I think what is possible and what looks possible is going to have changed frequently over the next few months,” Southgate said. “We honestly don’t know. You couldn’t stand with any certainty and say the Euros will take place next year. You couldn’t stand with certainty and say it is going to take place in the format it is expected to.

“We would definitely be capable of hosting. We are due to host a lot of games at Wembley anyway so I don’t think that will change, but it really is an unknown what the format might end up looking like. It is impossible to predict and we have to be ready to adapt to whatever is thrown our way.”

The England manager is preparing for Sunday’s Nations League tie against Belgium at Wembley, having overseen an encouraging 3-0 friendly win over Wales on Thursday night when he stuck with the 3-4-3 system he tried in last month’s 0-0 draw with Denmark.

Southgate appears to be leaning towards the approach, having favoured 4-3-3 since the 2018 World Cup in Russia, partly as he believes it better guards against the lack of options at left-back and in defensive midfield.

“We feel it suits the personnel that we’ve got very strongly and we think it also gives us strength-in-depth if we have problems losing players,” Southgate said. “We’ve had a couple of systems where, if one or two key personnel aren’t available, then you potentially have to change tack.”

Southgate said last October that he would consider a switch back to a three-man defence.

“We feel that there are so many nuances to these things that we can really advance it,” Southgate said, with regard to honing a system to win at a tournament. “We recognised that ahead of Russia and have felt the same for a reasonable while but there are certain players who are emerging who are helping us to really consolidate that thinking.

“It means in certain positions there will be really intense competition but we need that. The players in the end are going to fight it out whereas a little bit in the 4-3-3, in two or three positions we are quite light of depth and, if we have one or two injuries, we are really short. Part of our thinking is in that depth of talent in all of the positions.”

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