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England 0-0 Scotland: Five talking points as Harry Kane struggles but Billy Gilmour comes of age at Euros

·4-min read
England 0-0 Scotland: Five talking points as Harry Kane struggles but Billy Gilmour comes of age at Euros
 (The FA via Getty Images)
(The FA via Getty Images)

England’s Euro 2020 campaign hit a bump in the road on Friday night as they were held to a goalless draw by a much-improved Scotland at Wembley.

Here, our chief football correspondent Dan Kilpatrick picks out five key talking points...

Wembley atmosphere electric

So much of the build-up was coloured by nostalgia and, for England, memories of Euro ‘96 but there was also a sense that the fixture no longer carries the same significance as 25 years ago.

Clearly, there is an element of truth in that assessment – English and Scottish football have drifted apart – but the occasion nonetheless lived up to the billing, even if the football itself was disappointing.

Even with Wembley less than a quarter full with just over 20,000 fans, including around 2,500 Scots, the atmosphere crackled with electricity.

The pantomime boos of both anthems preceded a raucous first half of celebration, which gave way to a more tense and nervy - but no less enjoyable - atmosphere as the game progressed.

It demonstrated that this fixture still has a special meaning, while it was encouraging to hear far fewer boos for both sets of players taking the knee before kick-off.

Kane disappoints again

Harry Kane’s subdued performance against Croatia last weekend could be put down to a slow start to Euro 2020 in the searing heat, but another anonymous outing suggested the captain is out of sorts.

Is Kane unfit, distracted by doubt over his club future or simply struggling for service in an England team which is yet to click?

It feels like a combination of all of the above but it would too generous to Kane to suggest his display was down to his teammates alone.

 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

At his best, Kane is a player who grabs the game by the scruff of the neck and makes things happen, regardless of his service, and there was no evidence of that at Wembley.

He was hooked with 15 minutes remaining for Marcus Rashford after failing to have a shot on target again.

His form leaves Southgate with a potential headache over the fitness of his captain and talisman.

Gilmour dazzles

Chelsea’s Billy Gilmour walked away with the man of the match award after a full Scotland debut which further underlined his astonishing potential.

Gilmour, 20, was perhaps the most surprising of Steve Clarke’s four changes from the defeat to the Czech Republic but he was unfazed by the occasion in a superb display at the base of Scotland’s midfield.

 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

His individual duels with club-mate Mason Mount were particularly compelling and Gilmour often came out on top, helping to keep the ball moving for Scotland.

Clarke afterwards warned of the need to manage the youngster but there is no doubt he will be handed another start against Croatia next week when he will face an even more intriguing battle against a legend with whom his game bears some resemblance – Luka Modric.

England midfield ponderous

While Gilmour and John McGinn shone for Scotland in the middle of the park, even without the presence of Scott McTominay who returned to the back three, England’s midfield endured a difficult night.

After looking controlled in an impressive display against Croatia, Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice here looked cautious.

The pair were too slow and safe in possession, often sending passes backwards or sideways and leaving England’s attackers short of service.

You wondered if Jude Bellingham or even Jordan Henderson, who was again an unused substitute, may have offered more thrust or invention.

Southgate’s natural caution

Phillips and Rice were really only a reflection of Southgate’s inherent conservatism, which seemed to hold back his side on the night.

The manager admitted afterwards that he was unwilling to throw caution to the wind in search of a winner for fear of losing the game and leaving England’s tournament fate in the balance.

Southgate is obsessed with balance, understandably, but he must also find a happy medium between being secure and being expressive.

England are unlikely to win the Euros with excessive care.

The decision to replace the lively Phil Foden with Jack Grealish was another example – why not sacrifice Rice or Phillips and move Mason Mount into the midfield? – while Kane might have stayed on the pitch, even after an underwhelming display.

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