When a national team reaches a major tournament, there’s always fevered anticipation as to who’ll be in the squad. At least there should be. As a football fan living in England, it’s clear that there isn’t a particularly high expectation of the English team setting the world alight in Russia. The national team has lived far too long on the 1966 victory, and even then only because of a dubious Russian lineman. The teams of the late 80s and early 90s showed promise, but since then it has been all downhill.
Interestingly current manager Gareth Southgate has picked one of the youngest England squads ever to play in a major tournament. Several household names didn’t make it. That’s a brave call, and either sets him up for a major fall when they lose to Tunisia, or gets him a knighthood when they win a penalty shootout against Germany in the semi-finals.
- Goalkeepers: Jack Butland (Stoke), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Burnley).
- Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Fabian Delph (Manchester City), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Harry Maguire (Leicester), Danny Rose (Tottenham), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Tottenham), Kyle Walker (Manchester City), Ashley Young (Manchester United).
- Midfielders: Dele Alli (Tottenham), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea).
- Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Jamie Vardy (Leicester), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal).
Read through the names quickly, and you’d be quite optimistic. With the odd exception, they’re all Premier League first team regulars. Around 75% are from top six clubs, but I can’t help feeling slightly underwhelmed. For a start there are players like Dele Alli. Any Wimbledon fan will tell you that as a former Franchise FC player, they wish he’d disappear into oblivion. My issue with him is that he tries too hard to cheat. He’s young, talented, and immensely arrogant. He’ll get found out at this level.
England’s major problem is defense. There are some OK players, but against the world’s best, I just can’t see them doing well. Even if the likes of Cahill and Jones stay fit. The front line is OK, even if the experiments of having both Vardy and Kane on the pitch at the same time never seems to work. Sterling like Alli dives too much, and Rashford doesn’t dominate games. England’s success depends too much on all players bringing their A game to every game.
Most England fans remember The European Championship two years ago. Back then we were knocked out in the group stage by that major footballing force Iceland! Iceland may not have a team of household names, but they showed that night how 11 players well drilled and playing with pride could upset the form guide.
Southgate’s experiment may well prove to be a tactical masterstroke, but then again it could bring back memories of that truly awful penalty miss against Germany in 1996. Now who was it that missed it again?