England, the so called inventor and home of football, have struggled at the international stage. The record of the English national team at the World Cup and European Championship is at best disappointing. The UEFA European Championship has never been won and the World Cup was last won at home in 1966. The best result since has been the being the semi finalists at Italia 90. At Brazil 2014 England finished last in a group featuring Costa Rica, Uruguay and Italy.
The road to Russia 2018 has been smooth on the pitch but anything but off of it. England took 26 out of 30 point in qualifying but went through two coaches after Sam Allardyce left the team after one game as coach due to malpractice issues. Gareth Southgate, the then under 21 coach, replaced Allardyce.
The coach, no matter who he is, faces many questions in finding ready players. The English Premiership doesn’t always help in developing English players so choices and options will not offer the best possible. Goalkeeping has been one of the most difficult. The recent first choice, Joe Hart, has been struggling at West Ham following time in Italy and after being discarded at Manchester City. Jordan Pickford is a young goalkeeper at Everton and is still relatively inexperienced. Others considered are Stoke City’s Jack Butland, Southampton’s Fraser Forster and Burnley’s Tom Heaton. All are the right age perhaps but neither is really experienced at international level.
Other positions are also not filled with players that are sure to inspire confidence. In defence the likes of Gary Cahill and John Stones can be good on their day but are also mistake prone. In midfield there is a mix of every kind of player from an Eric Dier to a Jesse Lingard and from a Dele Alli to a Fabian Delph. Good but not world beaters. Harry Kane has been prolific at club level for Tottenham and will need to be healthy and continue scoring for English as well. Jamie Vardy, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling will all need to be at their best for England to have a chance to move forward in Russia.
Whether Southgate can find the player and achieve something more and whether the players can minimize mistakes are all big questions to be answered this June.