LONDON: Former England manager Steve McClaren believes the fear factor that has hampered the "Three Lions" in previous tournaments has returned to Gareth Southgate's squad, who faced criticism for a flat performance in Friday night's goalless draw with Scotland.
Southgate was hailed at the World Cup in Russia three years ago for removing the apprehension and pressure that has been blamed in the past for England not living up to expectations.
But McClaren, who was sacked as England manager after failing to qualify for Euro 2008, believes that the old problem is back.
"England played with fear. They didn't want to make mistakes. They were playing safe, square, backwards. They weren't aggressive enough," he told Sky Sports.
England were hailed by pundits after their 1-0 opening Group D win over Croatia while Scotland faced questions after a 2-0 loss to the Czech Republic in Glasgow, but the roles were reversed after an excellent display by Steve Clarke's team.
"I think Scotland played angry, hurt from the criticism of the first game. We were passive for the whole 95 minutes," said McClaren, currently technical director at Derby County.
"There is a team inside that squad that can win the Euros, without a shadow of a doubt. Gareth has to find that team. You get performances like that, I've seen it and been involved in it. Getting out of the groups is frustrating," he added.
Former England defender Gary Neville suggested that the much hyped-up "Battle of Britain" may have negatiely impacted England.
"It was a really poor performance, a massive disappointment, underpinned by poor physical levels.
"Is it too big for them in terms of expectation? A few of those lads, it's probably the biggest game they've played in, all the media leading up to the game... Sometimes it can just mentally take it out of you. That was such a lacklustre display in such a big game," he said.
Another ex-England player turned pundit, Rio Ferdinand, conceded that he may have over-reacted to the win over Croatia.
"I watched Croatia again yesterday. We beat an average, ageing Croatian team, let's be honest. They are not the team who got to the final of the World Cup.
"I hold my hand up, I got excited. We all get carried away. You have a right to get emotionally involved. But then realism kicks in," he said.
The drab display from England's top goalscorer and captain Harry Kane, substituted in both games, has caused particular concern for England supporters and former Scotland manager Graeme Souness said unless he can refind his form.
"Harry is England's one player proven to get goals at this level on a regular basis. If that is not happening in this competition, you're not going very far," he told ITV.
"Go back to the World Cup in Russia: His goals got you where you got to, and Harry Kane not performing is a major problem for you. Football ain't coming home with that, not the way they are playing," he said.
"Harry doesn't look himself, he looks jaded, he looks tired and this is a guy looking to get a big move this summer. He needs to waken himself up. He came off in the first game, is he carrying something? He looks a shadow of himself."
(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Hugh Lawson)