So England has made history. Except that this was a disgraceful passage with two players sent off in one game for the first time when England lost to Denmark at Wembley 0-1. Reece James, during his full debut, was dismissed after the final whistle and after Harry Maguire, who had suffered a disastrous 31 minutes and had shown a loss of faith. He was sent off the field in the first half since he was red-carded for two sloppy, needless lunges. Now, his early exit raised the issue of if he required a long vacation.
This comes at the end of a time that seems to have taken its toll on Maguire and leaves him seeming as a defensive burden for the club and the country.
Maguire’s troubles began in August when he was sentenced to suspended imprisonment after being found guilty of repeated physical harm, attempted bribery, and brutality against public servants, following a trial in Greece.
He maintains his innocence and has put in an appeal, but he feels and looks like the weight of the happening and the consequences have gone on to the new season. These days, this typically cheerful, assertive character looks distressed.
The first booking was for an ugly, pointless challenge in the Denmark half when he grabbed Yussuf Poulsen by the ankle. The second preceded a further lunge when his touch took the ball away and he attempted to avoid Kasper Dolberg on halfway.
England slipped to third position in their group, a low point seeing how they were in 1st position when Belgium beat Iceland.
Gareth Southgate will consider the opportunities that the 10-men have made, and a great save by Kasper Schmeichel to preserve the outcome, and he will say that his squad has demonstrated a joint front in the face of adversity. But the issues continue to rise and the emphasis will again be on the professionalism within the team. England has endured a tear-up among teammates, quarantine woes, violating the Covid-19 rules, as well as betting charges and red cards over the last year, and the infestation has to be cut out.
The game saw another conservative Southgate team selection founded on three men in the back and Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips in the center.
Southgate will receive backlash for his squad selection, with Grealish sitting on the bench, even though he was fantastic against Wales, as he picked Jadon Sancho, who hardly played, instead. To those of us who were following the game, there appeared to be no clear justification for holding Grealish back while others got a chance, though Southgate will say that he had his motives.
It was an evening with a lot of questions for England and Southgate. There’s going to have to be a wiser way than this when it comes to the true business end of a big championship.