Jamie Carragher has handed England a reality check on the cusp of Euro 2020 by suggesting the nation's expectations of reaching the semi-finals are 'lofty'.
Carragher, who won 38 England caps in his international career, has sounded the alarm over England's current centre backs, the team's lack of preparation and a lack of quality compared to the likes of tournament giants France and Portugal.
England kick off their Euro 2020 campaign on Sunday when they face Croatia in their opening group game at Wembley but Carragher fears England fans will be left feeling deflated by their 'failure' to win the tournament.
Jamie Carragher (left) has handed England a reality check on the eve of Euro 2020; He fears for Gareth Southgate (right) if anything less than the semi-final is deemed as failure by the public
Carragher says making the last four will require an 'outstanding performance' from England
Writing in The Telegraph, Carragher shared his thoughts on the expectation surrounding Southgate's England squad this summer.
He said: 'England's participation in major international tournaments tends to follow the same pattern. Anticipation, over-expectation, disillusionment and recrimination. Usually, this is caused by the misguided belief the national team is ready to win the World Cup or European Championship.
'Making the last four of the European Championship will require an outstanding performance, so the nation would be wise to remind itself of England's current standing and the challenge ahead before over-optimism takes hold. I fear for him [Southgate] and his team if anything less will be considered a poor return.'
Carragher also highlighted the effect the pandemic has had on England's preparation heading into the tournament.
The former Liverpool player said 'no one has suffered as much as England' when it comes to the knock-on effect of the pandemic to the football calendar.
He worries that England have been affected more than any other nation by the pandemic, with Manchester City and Chelsea playing in the Champions League final less than two weeks ago
Both the Champions League and Europa League finals featured many of England's top players
Seven of England's starting XI played in the Champions League final, while two featured for Manchester United in their Europa League final defeat.
Many of those players are key men for England, including Phil Foden, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford.
As a result, Carragher believes England's warm-up games against Austria and Romania were a 'waste of time' because Southgate was forced to rest pivotal players to prevent injuries ahead of the tournament.
He said: 'England's warm-up games were a waste of time, Southgate in the unprecedented position of being unable to select a line-up resembling that which will kick off the tournament. The inability to fine-tune is a serious issue heading into Sunday's game, adding to the injuries affecting two of his most senior players and leaders, Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson.'
With Harry Maguire's (right) fitness still under question, he worries England will be exposed
Carragher claims Southgate's squad is lacking a centre-back of the calibre of a Rio Ferdinand
With Maguire's fitness still a problem, Carragher worries England will be exposed at the back.
He claims Southgate's squad is lacking a centre-back of the calibre of John Terry and Rio Ferdinand.
He said: 'Southgate will look at the balance of his squad and lament not having centre-backs of the calibre of John Terry and Rio Ferdinand. In Maguire's absence he is relying on back-up defenders whose teams finished 11th, 13th and 16th in the Premier League last season. That means he is heading into the competition mulling over an experimental backline.'
Despite this, Carragher insists he is not trying to 'deliberately be pessimistic or downbeat' and that he is just formulating an opinion based off 'the background in which this tournament is being played, the strength of the main contenders and likely opponents during the knockout stage'.