Southgate made the right call with team selection in loss to Belgium


Photo Credit: Images

England 0-Belgium 1

There isn’t much to say about the drab match between Belgium and England. Adnan Januzaj beautifully curled finish for the winner was one of the few highlights. Much of the talk before the match was whether there was any benefit to finishing second in the group and possibly having an easier route to the final.

While some actively hoped England would play a weaker side in hope of losing, others said Southgate would be foolish to tinker too much with a winning team in the fear that the team would lose momentum. In the end Southgate decided to make nine changes, leaving the majority of the previous team on the bench.

The last time England performed impressively at the World Cup was in 1990 when they made it to the semi-finals. During that tournament they went in to extra time in all three of their knock-matches, scoring four goals in the second half or extra-time. Since that tournament England have only scored two goals in the second half/extra-time of a knock-out match in the European Championships or World Cup (Frank Lampard extra-time equalizer in the Euro 2004 quarter final v Portugal, and David Beckham’s winning free-kick against Ecuador in the 2006 World Cup last 16). The evidence suggest that England appear to tire in matches which affects their performance late in matches.

Some will criticize this theory and say fatigue/tiredness is not an excuse for a professional footballer. It was common complaint from many of Gareth Southgate’s successors, including Sven Goran Eriksen, Fabio Capello and even Roy Hodgson. Southgate himself was on the bench for England in the 2002 quarter finals, where the team struggled to mount any fight-back against a 10-man Brazil who danced around them with the ball.

Southgate has shown that he is intelligent and has a thoughtful approach to management. Also unlike managers of the past, he doesn’t dwell on how his decisions will be received by the press or the public. Yes, ideally you should go out and play your best team and try your best to win every game, but you also need to weigh the risks of this approach.

There were fans cheering when Belgium got yellow cards, and even their goal, in the belief that England now have an easier path to the final. I don’t believe for a second that Southgate plotted this from the start. Some pundits described the game as two teams trying not to win. It was more a case of two teams of players who have never played together trying to make a game of it.

The match had a feel of an experimental pre-season friendly. I’m sure Southgate and Belgium manager Roberto Martinez have analyzed the different routes to the tournament, and I assume they both came to the same conclusion. Whichever way they go it will be a challenge. Better to gamble by resting your players and giving your star players a week’s rest in anticipation of the last 16, and except whoever the opponent will turn out to be.

Harry Kane suffered an ankle injury in March. Many were concerned if he would have been for this tournament. If he had played and suffered a re-occurrence of the injury in a basically meaningless match it would have been the end of the World Cup it would have been the end of the tournament for England.

Colombia, who had to get a result in their final group game, are now panicking trying to get star-man James Rodriguez fit for the tie. Harry Kane meanwhile while will have had 9 days rest, eager to back on the pitch. Japan may have been the easier opponent but if this England team truly believes in itself then it won’t fear Colombia. And with most of the players getting an extra few days rest over their opponent, unlike previous tournaments, England will be able to perform for the full 90 and extra time if needed.


Nothing Found

Apologies, but no results were found for the requested archive. Perhaps searching will help find a related post.


About Author

Comments are closed.