MARK HALSEY: BETDAQ Euro 2020 Ambassador and ex-Premier League referee Mark Halsey discusses all the latest goings on at Euro 2020, including his thoughts on England and Sunday’s final against Italy.

Southgate must take credit for England’s excellent discipline

I thought England’s discipline against Denmark on Wednesday night was absolutely first class. Throughout the tournament it’s been fantastic, with just five yellow cards from six games. Yes, you are going to pick up a caution here and a caution there – Harry Maguire was unlucky to be cautioned against Denmark as he was challenging for the ball. It’s a subjective one. But England’s discipline has been brilliant and that’s got to be down to Gareth Southgate and his backroom staff, including Steve Holland. They’ve worked hard on it and as a result, England haven’t picked up many cautions and they haven’t picked up any suspensions, which can often be a problem for teams in international tournaments. And that’s helped England right the way through to get them to the final, without anybody being suspended from that squad of players.

Watch out for Italy’s gamesmanship

Looking ahead to Sunday’s final, everybody is aware about Italy and that if the game goes on, especially if they take lead, then their gamesmanship can come into play. It will be down to the referee to get on top of that and stamp it out. But as Euro 2020 has gone on, the referees all together in their training camp will have been watching clips of what has gone on during the tournament and have been taking those learnings into their games, having done their homework on certain players and teams, including Italy. The likes of Giorgio Chiellini, they’ll be looking to get into England players’ heads on Sunday. But he’s a wonderful defender. What a leader, and what a fantastic player he is. It should be a fantastic game and England will need to be at their very best to beat Italy.

Watch the video here ->

England lucky to get Sterling penalty

I thought referee Danny Makkelie handled England’s win against Denmark very well. He kept it flowing, kept us on the edge of our seats. You can look at the two penalty incidents… The first one with Harry Kane, you could argue he perhaps caught the heel of the Danish defender. It could have gone either way. If Danny had given a penalty it may have stayed as a penalty as it wasn’t a clear and obvious error, as we saw with Raheem Sterling’s penalty…

When you see it in real time it looks like a penalty, but when you see it again from different angles you can make an argument for there not being any contact in the first instance from Joakim Maehle. He’s not caught him, but there was a coming together of Sterling and Mathias Jensen. Was it enough to make Sterling go down? Possibly not, but we’ve seen before in the competition where VAR has not got involved in subjective decisions, which is what we want, we don’t want it refereeing the game. And on this occasion, it was a subjective decision in real time, which most referees would probably have given. England were lucky to get it, but once the penalty was given it was never going to get overturned.

Refereeing Gareth Southgate

I refereed Gareth Southgate many times while he was playing for Middlesbrough. I was actually the referee of his first game in management when Middlesbrough lost 3-2 to Reading. Gareth was always a pleasure to referee, I always got on well with Gareth.

I remember refereeing Middlesbrough against Arsenal… Middlesbrough were staying at the same hotel as us and I saw them downstairs for breakfast. Gareth said ‘come and have a seat’ so I had a good chat with him about football, about his playing days, me refereeing him, what I thought and what he felt. He was a good talker. You could see he had the qualities, the respect he had for people, the way he spoke to people, he always had a smile on his face. That day I sent one of his players off for a serious foul play challenge and he was fine – he was never one of those managers that came and knocked on your door ranting and raving. He’d come and ask you pleasantly about decisions, for him and against him. I never had a problem with Gareth at all, he was an absolute gentleman, as we are seeing now while he’s managing England.

Thinking back to those days, it’s of little surprise to see him now managing England. He’s done a fabulous job to see England through to their first European Championship final, so let’s hope they can now go on to win it as Gareth and his squad have lifted the nation, there’s no doubt about that.

Watch the video here ->

Refereeing a final

Refereeing a final is just another game. The referee on Sunday will just go out there, referee what’s in front of him. He’ll have to make his presence felt, stamp his authority on the game early on if he needs to – not necessarily with a yellow card but through verbal communication or with his body language.

I’ve refereed at Wembley before. When you walk out, the atmosphere hits you, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. If it’s hot it does sap your energy. But as a referee you can enjoy the occasion as well. It just goes so quick, before you know it, it’s over. I always savoured the moment – luckily the games went well. When I blew the final whistle, I made sure I had a little look around to take it all in. There were some great moments for me refereeing at Wembley and I’m sure it will be the case for Sunday’s official.

Watch the video here ->