The Brighton, Aston Villa, and Liverpool players who could now hold the key to England's Euro 2024 hopes

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The Three Lions will face Switzerland in the Euro 2024 quarter-finals on Saturday.

Before Jude Bellingham’s moment of upside down divinity, before a nation bellowed in unison and pints and furniture and pets went flying hither and thither, before Harry Kane remembered at long last that he is Harry Kane, there was the dross.

England are through, somehow, but they are by no means cured. Were it not for Kyle Walker’s very best Rory Delap impression and the acrobatic iridescence of a Brummie boy prince, the Three Lions would be staring down the barrel of an inquest the likes of which this country has not seen since Partygate. It would have been the spikiest omnishambles the national team had faced since their Icelandic humiliation eight years ago, and the collective radiated fume would have created a mushroom cloud visible from space.

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It also, without question, would have ended Gareth Southgate’s 99-game tenure as manager in the most ignominious of circumstances. Instead, the Waistcoated One stumbles to his century against Switzerland in Dusseldorf on Saturday evening with a mob of bemused critics snapping at his heels.

Southgate and England will, however, have to contest that quarter-final without their best performer of the tournament so far. Marc Guehi has been a revelation at Euro 2024, the understudy who has seized his limelight and has shone consistently even has many around him have threatened to fade to black.

Just three minutes into his side’s harum-scarum escapologist act against Slovakia, the Crystal Palace was sold short by a lacklustre pass from the increasingly concerning Kieran Trippier, and was subsequently booked for a marginally late challenge on David Strelec. Perhaps another referee would have taken a more lenient view of the incident, but there are blackjack dealers on the green-felted tables of Las Vegas casino floors who brandish cards less readily than Halil Umut Meler.

Either way, once the Turk’s pencil hit the page of his notebook, it was settled; England will play the Swiss without Guehi. This leaves Southgate with a fistful of alternatives to choose from. Alongside John Stones, the Three Lions can realistically call upon Lewis Dunk, Ezri Konsa, or Joe Gomez. Of that trio, Dunk may prove to be the most likely option. The Brighton talisman has played the most football at centre-half this season, and is well-suited to a possession-based approach that aspires to build attack from the back; only Manchester City maestro Rodri completed more passes in the Premier League over the course of the 2023/24 campaign.

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Comparatively, Konsa in particular looks to have been taken as a a covering option at full-back more than for his prospective presence in the middle, while Joe Gomez can’t even get a look-in out on the flank, despite having deputised so effectively during the more injury ravaged moments of Liverpool’s season. Either one is, of course, capable of partnering Stones, and would perhaps represent a more naturally athletic option to counter the busyness of Breel Embolo, but if Southgate plays to type, then Dunk feels better positioned to get the nod of approval.

It would be a huge ask for a player who has amassed just six senior caps to step up to the plate at such a crucial juncture, especially in a side who appear as disjointed as England presently do, but that being said, Guehi had only featured eleven times for the Three Lions prior to their group stage opener with Serbia a couple of weeks ago. Inexperience does not necessarily correlate with ineptitude.

Whoever Southgate does eventually opt for, though, is going to have a monumental task ahead of them. Switzerland made Italy look decidedly ordinary on Saturday evening, and will represent England’s toughest opponent of the tournament to date by quite some distance. Whether it be Dunk, Konsa, or Gomez, Guehi’s replacement - the deputy to the deputy, if you will - will have to be unflinching and sharp from the off. If they are not, the Three Lions may finally unravel in a manner that would ensure Southgate doesn’t make it to game 101.

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