Brazil and Germany; the two most successful national sides in footballing history. A total of nine world cups between them, and home to players such as Neymar, Reus, Neuer, Coutinho, Marcelo, Hummels and many more of the world’s best. But what do they have in common? They both played England recently.
England’s complete failure at their last five or six major tournaments has almost certainly removed (even further than before) the majority of expectancies they will get for the World Cup next year in Russia. What’s even more discouraging is their style of play. Often boring, slow and frustrating, and the fact that we know how good the squad disappoints even more. We know that we have quick and talented wingers, prolific forwards (well, one at least) and clever midfielders. It’s not England’s golden generation just yet, but it’s certainly a very talented squad.
England’s slow and frustrating approach is due to a lot of things. The lack of a creative attacking midfielder in the starting line up made the link between midfield and attack collapse, but this was largely due to the absence of Dele Alli. There was no prolific striker to finish opportunities, but this was mostly due to the absence of Harry Kane.
The game against Brazil was congested in midfield and England’s defence often looked strained, which isn’t surprising seeing as they were defending against Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Coutinho. Gabriel Jesus came close to breaking the deadlock after latching on to a genius pass from Neymar, but was substituted off after an injury late on.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek failed to fully replicate his quality performance in the Germany game, being overloaded with the hard-pressing, clever and tricky Brazillian style of play, showing an unfortunate lack of experience against high-class sides. Defender Joe Gomez won Man-Of-The-Match, showing a composed performance and experience beyond his age, muffling the danger of the Brazillian front three.
Recently, both the U17s national side and the U20s national sides have won their world cup competitions, showcasing some fantastic young players. Rhian Brewster, Liverpool’s young forward, scored a hat-trick in the U17s semi-final, and Manchester City’s Phil Foden scored a brace in the final as England came back from 2-0 down to beat Spain 5-2.
But what about the senior World Cup? The tournament in Russia next year will be crucial, as ever, for England, whose fans will be hoping for them to at least reach the quarter-final, and will certainly demand more than the group stages that the Three Lions failed to escape in 2014. The draw for the group stage will take place on December 1st, with England in the second group of seeds, meaning that there will be at least one tough side in their group. According to the BBC, the bookies make England the seventh favourite to win it, behind Belgium, Brazil, Spain, Argentina, France and Germany, the favourites.
If England are to challenge at the World Cup they will need to improve in a few crucial areas. They still need a goalkeeper who can be relied upon when needed, as I think Joe Hart is too inconsistent. Chris Smalling and John Stones will need to be on top form to keep the defence locked up, and they will need to have both Dele Alli and Harry Kane linking up and scoring goals.
Just to finish off, I’d like to welcome our new Europa league and Championship correspondent, Joey, to the Dugout team.
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