Tag: Harry Kane

Destination Russia

So it’s official- England will be at the 2018 World Cup finals. The next question is who will make the squad. Using the tabloids favourite cliche of airport terminology to illustrate who gets in the squad (or as they say who makes the plane) here’s a quick guide to who’s in, out and maybe

Boarding Pass for Moscow Domodedovo:

If you’re here then barring injury or a dramatic loss of form you will go to the World Cup with England;

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, Jack Butland

Fullbacks: Kyle Walker

Centre backs: Gary Cahill, Phil Jones, John Stones

Central midfielders: Eric Dier

Attacking midfield/ wingers: Dele Alli, Adam Lallana,

Forwards: Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Jamie Vardy

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Sat in the Terminal 5 Departure Lounge:

If you’re here you’re close to going- maybe one good appearance from boarding the plane or perhaps in a 50/50 battle with another player for your place- nobody wants to be 24th man for England- somebody on this list will be;

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Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Fraser Forster, Tom Heaton

Fullbacks: Nathaniel Clyne, Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose, Ryan Bertrand, Luke Shaw

Centre backs: Michael Keane, Chris Smalling, Harry Maguire

Central midfielders: Nathaniel Chalobah, Jake Livermore, Fabian Delph, Harry Winks, Jack Wilshere, Jordan Henderson

Attacking midfield/ wingers: Raheem Sterling, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jesse Lingard, Ross Barkley

Forwards: Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge, Jermain Defoe

Rushing for the Heathrow Express:

If you’re here you might go but you’ve got a lot of work to do. Maybe you’re a young player trying to break through or you’re settling at a new club or returning from injury- it’s a long time until the manager names his 23- at this point in the build up to Euro 2016 Marcus Rashford was still in the Man Utd youth team!

Goalkeepers: Freddie Woodman

Fullbacks: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Aaron Cresswell, Ryan Sessegnon, Ben Chilwell

Centre backs: Jamaal Lascelles, Alfie Mawson

Central midfielders: James Ward-Prowse, Danny Drinkwater, Tom Davies, Ruben Loftus-Cheek

Attacking midfield/ wingers: Theo Walcott, Nathan Redmond, Jadon Sancho, Phil Foden, Demarai Gray

Forwards: Tammy Abraham, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Dominic Solanke

Boarding the flight to Maui:

If you’re here you ain’t going to the World Cup (this time at least) perhaps you went before on those brief trips to Brazil or South Africa or you’re still young and may spend Christmas 2022 in Qatar. OK the vast majority of English footballers won’t be representing their country next summer in Russia. But if you’re like stars here you are a highly paid well known (and maybe even liked) footballer and Hawaii is lovely in June.

Goalkeepers: Ben Foster

Fullbacks: Glenn Johnson, Leighton Baines, Mason Holgate

Centre backs: Ben Mee, Rob Holding, Callum Chambers

Central midfielders: Lewis Cook, Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, Jonjo Shelvey, Tom Carroll

Attacking midfield/ wingers: Marc Albrighton, Ademola Lookman, Josh Onamah, Andros Townsend, Scott Sinclair

Forwards: Andy Carroll, Jay Rodriguez, Andre Gray. Saido Berahino

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England 1-0 Slovenia: Kane sends England stumbling to St Petersburg.

This was supposed to be a party- the moment Gareth Southgate’s England would play some flowing football and storm to Russia. But England qualifying games are rarely that simple. For those who’ve been living on Mars since Sunday night a win would take England through and a draw would be enough if Slovakia failed to beat Scotland.

England started confidently with Sterling in his revised number 10 role causing the Slovenians problems as England dominated possession without creating a clear cut chance. Then in the 8th minute Sterling gave the ball away in midfield and Slovenian danger man Ilicic broke into the England box and was clipped by Hart- fortunately for England the referee saw it as a collision rather than a foul- a let off.

The spanner it through in the works knocked England out of their stride and a loose period of play saw England continuously give the ball away and snuggle to regain their early composure.

As was the case last month against Slovakia it was Rashford who got England going again, a darting run down the left jangled Slovenian nerves and a neat cross almost put Cahill in. Then in the 20th minute the temperature raised after some agricultural defending from the Slovenians and England started to move up the gears. England’s first clear sight of goal came from Henderson in the 25th minute who broke into the box and hit an angled shot that drew a good save from Oblak.

By now Rashford was enjoying himself and playing with the impudence of a schoolboy but the defensive problems continued as Slovenia consistently found gaps between England’s midfield and defence. in the 34th minute Sterling drew a poor challenge from holding midfielder Krhin just outside the box, bit despite the promising central position of the ensuing free kick England opted for the less than prolific Walker to take it, needless to say he blazed it over the bar. Before long Krhin was booked as Slovenia’s defending grew ever more clumsy, but England continued to labour. The last action of the first half inevitably centre on Rashford whose trickery drew a foul and he forced a smart save from Oblak with the ensuing free kick and then a flick on from Cahill with the ensuing corner but with no reward 0-0 at half time

Slovenia started the second half the sharper and Ilicic swung in a cross that left back Jokic headed tamely at Hart. But the game settled back into the pattern of the first half with Slovenia looking tidy with their limited possession and England slow and ponderous whilst keeping it for longer spells. The crowd became firstly bored and then restless as Walker gave away a needless chance and Slovenia again grew in ambition.

Finally on 62 minutes England showed some pace when a quick break from a Slovenia corner saw Sterling feed Rashford who tried to chip the keeper but didn’t get enough on the ball, minutes later another quick move down the left saw Sterling shoot from the centre of the box and force a desperate clearance from Cesar.

The introduction of Lingard for the ineffective Oxlade-Chamberlain gave England the impetus as he linked well with Sterling and Rashford to unsettle Slovenia’s defence and again down the left Rashford created a chance for Kane who’s angled shot flew wide.

But the drab shapeless look soon returned and on 82 minutes some awful officiating saw a foul on Lingard go unpunished then from the ensuing break an offside missed forcing Hart into an excellent double save.

The most entertainment in the closing stages looked like being provided by a paper aeroplane and a (fully clothed) pitch invader, until the 4th official weirdly found 6 minutes of injury time that initially sounded like a punishment for the crowd for laughing at the pitch invasion. But suddenly England found some thrust and the otherwise awful Walker pounced on a poor clearance and whipped in a cross which Kane toe-poked home 1-0 on 93 minutes, 5 minutes later England’s qualification was confirmed.

This game was like a visit to the dentist: awkward painful but with the necceasary work completed. Clearly there’s plenty to work on and the media bullsh$t started in earnest when Ian Wright pointed out how much harder Northern Ireland’s group is (that’s because England are ranked higher than Northern Ireland, Ian!) But the bare minimum requirement has been met and for the next 8 months that will have to do.

Player Ratings

Hart 7- Lucky not to concede a penalty in the early stages and had little to do until his brilliant double save.

Walker 5- Awful until injury time. Started brightly but quickly faded, gave away 2 good chances when he suffered brain farts both by knocking aimless balls into gaping holes in England’s defence. But made amends with his powerful runs in injury time and finally a great cross which Kane dispatched.

Bertrand 6- Solid in defence (as usual) and linked well with Rashford. Edging ever closer to being first choice left back.

Dier 5- Frankly awful, provided little defence stability and ponderous on the ball.

Cahill 6- Solid against nobody for the most part, occasionally threatening at the over end but little to write home about.

Stones 6- As above but little sign of his ball playing skills- his one forward thrust saw him miscontrol and pick up a booking.

Sterling 6- Some early incision and drew some fouls with his footwork but not comfortable as a number 10. Played far better in the final third of the game when played on the right.

Henderson 5- forced a good save from Oblak but like Dier provided neither defensive stability nor attacking incision, how is he in the running for the captaincy?

Kane 6- Had to feed off scraps as England struggled to create chances. Worked hard and took his chance when it finally arrived.

Rashford 8- Creative, quick and the best player in a white shirt by a long distance. One negative was his dodgy set piece delivery.

Oxlade-Chamberlain 5- Early zip quickly disintegrated. Hooked early in the second half. Will be dropped in Lithuania.

Subs

Lingard 7- Bright and linked well with Sterling and Rashford.

Keane n/a Touched the ball at some stage, I think.

 

 

 

England v Slovenia preview

So here we are England will seal their 6th successive World Cup appearance and 9th in the last 10 with a win at Wembley against Slovenia.

With a 5 point lead in Group F and a big goal difference advantage over the rest a point will almost certainly be enough. But against a side ranked 55th in the world a win at Wembley will be expected and for Gareth Southgate a perfect sign off on a successful qualifying campaign in front of 80,000 Home fans. But mess things up and a frosty night in Lithuania awaits to stumble over the line.

Despite their low ranking Slovenia gave England a rough time in a 0-0 draw in Ljubljana a year ago and sit only a point behind second placed Slovakia so arrive at Wembley with qualifying ambitions of their own. Their brightest star is Athletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak who’s impressed in Atheltico’s recent run of Champions League campaigns. Going forward the main creative threat will come from Serie A regular Josip Ilicic- who clocked up 100 appearances for Fiorentina before moving on to Atalanta this summer.

History

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The draw Slovenia gained last year was the first time they managed to avoid defeat to England- losing the previous 4 meetings. The most notable being the final group match of the 2010 World Cup when Jermain Defoe stabbed home the only goal of the game and secured England’s only win of a largely awful campaign. More recently the sides met in the Euro 2016 qualifiers. England came from behind to win 3-1 at Wembley and then 3-2 in Slovenia when Jack Wilshere bagged a memorable second half brace.

Team News

Since the squad was announced last Thursday Fabian Delph and Phil Jones have been ruled out with injury whilst Dele Alli will serve his one match ban for flipping the bird in the Slovakia game last month. It’s a particular blow for Delph who was likely to play following his good run of form for Manchester City. But Delph’s injury is short term and he should be back for City when the Premier League resumes, he currently looks a key component to Pep Guardiola’s side so should get his chance in the November internationals.

England Squad Takeaways

The late call up to the squad is Tottenham’s Harry Winks who’ll be hoping to make his debut. Winks has been promoted from the Under 21’s and with Delph joining a lengthy injury list in midfield has been given his chance sooner than expected, but the talented young playmaker looks a confident player who may well grab his opportunity with both hands and it is good to see a young player with potential getting the late call up rather than a veteran with little upside.

There’s been no word yet on team selection but inevitably there’ll be a lot of focus on the goalkeepers. Southgate backed Joe Hart after his error against Scotland in the summer but then was partly to blame for Slovakia’s goal at Wembley. Southgate needs to give his other keepers a chance with at best 7 games remaining before the World Cup (assuming we make it!) I’d like to see Jack Butland given the start but I suspect the manager will stick with Hart.

Elsewhere the absence of Jones means a change in central defence- the favourite must be John Stones after a good start to the season with City and his ball playing skills should be a huge asset against a side likely to sit deep for long spells.

Prediction

Slovenia will come looking for a point and hit on the break when they can. I expect England will score in the first half and should run out comfortable winners 2-0.

 

Malta 0-4 England 3 points and not much else.

These are the least fun internationals to watch, it’s literally a Premier a league club playing a full strength aside away to Crawley Town.

Gareth Southgate sought to even the odds by selecting Joe Hart in goal. Southgate made the point that this doesn’t mean Hart is guaranteed to start going forward and 3 Premier League games isn’t enough of a sample size to judge his goalkeepers form.

Within a minute Raheem Sterling got a clear sight of goal but mis-controlled. Two minutes later Harry Kane forgot it’s no longer August and hit a point blank header straight at the keeper.

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As the opening period pressed on the selection of Phil Jones & Gary Cahill at centre back whilst the more natural ball playing Stones, Keane & Maguire sat bored looked odd as did picking Jake Livermore who did ensure any hard Maltese tackling was met with greater force but whose passing has all the range of an 8 year old throwing the shot putt.

As a result the remainder of the first half was drab as England were pedestrian whilst Malta played a back 7. The delivery on the flanks and 6 first half corners was awful.

Unsurprisingly Marcus Rashford was introduced for the second half at the expense of Sterling. Within 2 minutes he’d shown more endeavour than Sterling had managed in 45, gliding past the Maltese right back with his pace.

The breakthrough finally arrived on 52 minutes with Livermore looping in a cross which Alli held and a neat reverse picked out Kane who fired home 0-1.

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It sparked Malta into sporadic attacks going close on 58 minutes.

Jamie Vardy came on after 70 minutes and within 3 minutes nipped in behind and forced a decent save from the keeper.

The pace slowed in the final 15 minutes but on 85 minutes Ryan Bertrand made sure of the win with a long range effort that bounced in front of Hogg 0-2.

Rashford continued to impress and a beautiful flick sent Walker away but he shot instead of laying on a tap in for Vardy.

The floodgates belatedly opened and a fine Kane cross was flicked home by late sub Danny Welbeck 0-3 on 90 minutes.

Rashford crossed and Kane smashed home with the final kick of the game for 0-4.

Ultimately England made heavy weather of their night in the Mediterranean sun although the result rarely looked in doubt.

Slovakia will offer a far sterner test but England should benefit from playing opponents more willing to attack rather than packing their own 18 yard line.

Rashford will surely start and I’d expect Dier to replace Livermore. But given England’s lack of creativity in central midfield I’d like to see Keane or Stones play given their ability to bring the ball out from defence.

Win on Monday and England are virtually home and that’s about all Southgate could gain from this game.

Player Ratings

Hart 6- did nothing wrong and a first clean sheet of the season!

Walker 5- Solid but poor control in key situations. It’s fortunate for him Trippier is injured.

Bertrand 6- not great crossing but got his first England goal. Danny Rose & Luke Shaw won’t be quaking in their boots

Cahill 7- showed calm authority cleaning up the odd Maltese break

Jones 6- never looked entirely comfortable but did little wrong.

Livermore 5- a steely presence in a game that was never going to need it. Created nothing and gave away a coupe of free kicks.

Henderson 7- the captain for the night started brightly but faded.

Oxlade-Chamberlain 6- direct and pacey but inconsistent in quality, in other news water’s wet.

Alli 6- still looking for that signature game for England but ticking along for now, nice assist for the opener.

Sterling 4- awful, missed a decent chance in the first minute and then made the Malta right back look like Bonucci.

Kane 8- unlucky with an early header but confidence grew after the opener. It’s now 5 goals in his last 3 internationals.

Subs

Rashford 7- excellent, showed pace and penetration, will start on Monday night.

Vardy 6- showed his usual pace and unlucky not to score

Welbeck 6- late sub showed plenty of energy and nicked a late goal.

New Season- England manager’s to do list

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With a season to go until the World Cup Gareth Southgate has plenty to do. Here’s the key things he chronologically needs to sort out before the World Cup.

  1. Pick a captain. The importance of the captaincy is of course massively overstated, it seems to be important to some of the press and fans (expect Five Live phone-ins to be lit up with black and white cab drivers insisting it’s the biggest decision the manager will ever make) but ask any player or anyone associated with football outside of England and they’ll say it’s not important. However it’s daft to have Wayne Rooney; a player not currently in the squad listed as captain. Harry Kane appears the most likely option as the current Tottenham captain and one of only 2 players guaranteed a place in the side (the other being club mate Dele Alli). Southgate can save himself a lot of grief in the press by picking his captain before the Malta game this September.
  2. Qualify. Obvious and the absolute minimum requirement for an England manager as Steve McClaren, Graham Taylor and even Sir Alf could all testify. England’s remaining away games are against the two weakest sides in their group (Malta & Lithuania) whilst the only sides who could realistically beat England to top spot (Slovakia & Slovenia) both have to visit to Wembley. If England win both their games this September they may find themselves needing only a point from the two October games (Slovenia Lithuania) to ensure qualification. Given the issues to resolve within the team before the World Cup Southgate would benefit from using the final qualifiers as glorified friendlies. England really need to avoid the playoffs given the at least two from Italy, Spain, France, Holland & Sweden will be there with the likes of Croatia, Portugal and Ireland currently sitting second in their qualifying groups.
  3. Decide on a number one. Joe Hart’s tenure as automatic first choice goalkeeper is surely over despite Southgate public backing his man. England have two highly talented young keepers in Jordan Pickford & Jack Butland but neither has played a Champions League game (although Pickford will play in the Europa League this season) and 4 caps between them (all Butland’s). Southgate’s problem is he has to choose between these 2 players quickly in order to give one of them enough caps before the World Cup. Fraser Forster and Tom Heaton complete England’s current complement of ‘keepers, the number one will be largely decided by club form but Southgate has to get it right.
  4. Find a centre back pairing. England has struggled in central defence at their last two tournaments, Southgate needs to find the right combination for a back 4 and preferred trio when flexed to a 3-4-3 formation. At present Gary Cahill is the only guaranteed a place even in the England squad despite ongoing concerns over his international pedigree. John Stones is a hugely talented playmaker but needs a much improved second season at Manchester City whilst Michael Keane made a good start to his England career but must adapt to a new team at Everton. Chris Smalling & Phil Jones appear to be fading down the Manchester United pecking order, England under 21 trio Callum Chamber, Alfie Mawson & Rob Holding will all press their claims and Harry Maguire may come into the equation following his move to Leicester. England have plenty of options but must blood combinations that will work.
  5. Central Midfield conundrum. England’s central midfield places look wide open. Only holding midfielder Eric Dier and the often injured linkman Jordan Henderson look squad certainties. The other veteran options are Jack Wilshere (perma-crock), Fabian Delph (Man City B team), Michael Carrick (turns 37 next July), Jake Livermore & Danny Drinkwater (neither international class) whilst Southgate clearly doesn’t trust Ross Barkley. That may lead Southgate to look at his youth options: James Ward-Prowse, Nathaniel Chalobah, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Lewis Cook, Will Hughes, Tom Davies & Harry Winks are all possibilities but all will need to get regular starts for their clubs and take their chances when they come. At the moment it’s anybody’s guess who will make it.
  6. Promoting Youth. Unlike 2006 or 2010 when players were more or less guaranteed places year in advance this squad will likely contain surprisesI’ve mentioned numerous young options above in England’s problem positions, however I’d estimate only 10-14 players are locked into the squad, that leaves plenty of opportunity for up and coming talents, especially with a former Under 21s manager now in charge. Kieran Trippier, Nathan Redmond, Demarai Gray, Tammy Abraham & Dominic Solanke lead a lengthy list of young players who may just breakthrough the International glass ceiling.

Ranking England’s striker options 

Looking forward to next season- here’s the current England pecking order (as I see it)

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  1. Harry Kane– Surely England’s new captain and talisman he’s paramount to England’s hopes and will remain so for years.
  2. Marcus Rashford– Has yet to excel for England but a superstar in the making could he be our M’Bappe?
  3. Jamie Vardy– Coming off a disappointing season (cut & paste to all Leicester players) but lightning pace and a poachers eye for goal make him our best option off the bench
  4. Jermain Defoe– He’s grown on and off the pitch in an otherwise awful team at Sunderland and deserves to be staying in the premier league with Bournemouth. But as stated before his lack of size means he can’t lead the line so he maybe competing with Vardy for the impact sub role. It’s hard to shake the feeling he’s a flat track bully with England, but should be good in qualifying.Englands-Jermain-Defoe-celebrates-scoring-their-first-goal
  5. Danny Welbeck– Not picked in June at Arsene Wenger’s request, will likely be recalled in September,a good strike rate (at international level) and the versatility to play anywhere along the front of a 3-4-3 will keep him in contention if he can stay fit.
  6. Daniel Sturridge– Even though his fitness record has improved the injuries have taken the edge off his pace and he appears stuck at Liverpool with a manager who doesn’t rate him.
  7. Tammy Abraham– A good fit for Swansea this season. Knock in 15 goals and he’s in contention to be Kane’s back up.
  8. Dominic Solanke– The star of the U20 World Cup and a new signing for Liverpool will be watched with great interest in the coming months. Tough to see him beating out Roberto Firmino just yet, but the less than prolific Divock Origi should be worried. The World Cup may come too soon for Solanke but getting promoted to the U21 squad will be a start.GettyImages-685716954
  9. Saido Berahino– Remember when he was England’s future no9 that was a long time ago! A full preseason st Stoke should help get him back on track after a wasted 2 years.
  10. Jay Rodriguez– Every football fan with a heart will be hoping he can find form at his new club, it’s almost 4 years since his solitary cap that preceded his injury nightmare.
  11. Troy Deeney– Deeney is the archetypal “not good enough for international level” forward, but everyone said that about Rickie Lambert. Deeney reminds me a lot of Kevin Davies (and even he got a cap) but if Marco Silva constructs a more potent Watford team around him Deeney should shine, don’t rule him out yet.
  12. Dominic Calvert-Lewin– Even before he became the third Englishman to score in a World Cup final Calvert-Lewin was starting to make waves at Everton. It’s still early days but with a manager not afraid to play youngsters and a small squad set to compete on 4 fronts chances should come his way. How much time he’ll get in the first team is complicated by the arrival of Alex Sandro & return of a certain Everton old boy. Watch this space.image
  13. Andy Carroll– great in the air, awful on the deck, often injured and possibly on his way to China. Carroll remains an enigma (who hasn’t hit double goal scoring figures in a season since he left Newcastle) but if he hits a hot streak expect some to demand a recall.
  14. Dwight Gayle– Never capped at any level but if he continues his Newcastle  hot streak into the Premier League…
  15. Izzy Brown– Another member of the Chelsea loan army, set for his Premier League bow with Huddersfield. Well it worked for Romulu Lukaku, but the U21’s looks the best bet for now.

Gareth Southgate- reasons to be fearful 

Away day blues- no wins from 4 away matches is a worrying trend- true not many would emerge unscathed from away trips to Paris & Dortmund but England were negative and lucky in Slovenia & Scotland. England’s next 2 away matches are qualifiers in Malta & Lithuania- surely they’ll pick up 6 points and put to bed the away day hoodoo.

No outstanding performance- what has been the best performance of the Southgate era? It’s a slightly unfair question after only 8 games but England have yet to deliver a great performance. The best was probably the 3-0 win over Scotland, a biggest win over the Scots in 4 decades should be applauded and England were marvellous in the final half hour, having gone 2-0 up but it should be noted Scotland should have equalised early in the second half. Surely a year from now we’ll have a greater win to crow about?

Central midfield problems- it was always going to be a stretch to fix all England’s positional problems in 8 games but this one has looked desperate. For the doubleheader with Scotland & France Southgate selected only Jake Livermore and Eric Dier as centre midfielders, given both are defensive ball winners England lacked penetration and a link between defence and attack at Hampden Park, then against the French winger Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain found himself struggling in the midfield engine room. Given there are young midfielders emerging (Davis, Winks, Ward Prowse et all) and the expected return to fitness of Henderson & Wilshere better options should be available next season but this remains England’s biggest shortfall.