England World Cup Feel-good Factor Dented By Familiar Failings
Muhammad Rameez 11 days ago Wed 12th September 2018 | 08:37 PM
England returned from Russia filled with hope after a World Cup that promised a brighter future with a run to the semi-finals for the first time in 28 years.
Leicester, United Kingdom, Sept 12 (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News, app - 12th Sep, 2018 ) :England returned from Russia filled with hope after a World Cup that promised a brighter future with a run to the semi-finals for the first time in 28 years.
Defeat to Spain in their Nations League opener on Saturday -- following losses to Croatia in Russia in the last four and to Belgium in the third-place playoff -- meant England had lost three consecutive games for the first time in 30 years A run of four straight defeats for the first time ever was avoided with a scrappy 1-0 friendly win over Switzerland on Tuesday. But it was a performance that caused more reason for concern than optimism.
England manager Gareth Southgate bemoaned his side's inability to keep the ball under pressure against Spain's midfield maestros in a repeat of their World Cup heartache when Croatia's Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic took control of their semi-final.
Southgate accepted the fault had been tactical as well as technical, and made the changes necessary for a better second-half display that yielded victory thanks to Marcus Rashford's winner.
However, the England boss was also quick to highlight another familiar problem as justification for a lacklustre first 45 minutes.
"They needed the game.
It was important we gave them that opportunity," said Southgate, in the unfamiliar role of an international manager trying to get his players match fit.
And he pointed to the stresses and strains of a World Cup summer on a shallow pool of talent as a reason for an understandable early season hangover.
"We've asked a lot physically of the players through that tournament. Our players were out on their feet by the end.
"To get a team together for that third-fourth play-off was tough. Then they've had this minimal pre-season period." Spain's 6-0 thrashing of Croatia already means England's chances of reaching the semi-finals of the Nations League look slim.
"For the teams that got to the last four, Roberto (Martinez, Belgium manager) has the Harlem Globetrotters and France have quite a lot of depth as well," he said in reaction to Spain's humiliation of the World Cup finalists.
"For ourselves and Croatia we are a smaller pool of players."England's ability to cope with the best teams in Europe faces another stiff test next month in a daunting double-header away at Croatia and Spain in the Nations League.
After a summer during which he was lavished with praise, Southgate is being forced to wrestle with familiar flaws.