They aren’t amongst the favourites for the World Cup, but Gareth Southgate’s side could cause an upset this summer.
After all, we have one of the best strikers in the world and that’s often – but not always – an advantage. However, Southgate will have selection issues as on paper as there are many players who could have an impact.
Since becoming the England national team manager back in 2016, Southgate has always preferred three defenders at the back. With Manchester City’s John Stones and Leicester’s Harry Maguire looking assured of their places in the World Cup, Kyle Walker has been shuttled between right back and central defence in some friendlies.
We’ve seen in previous tournaments – notably 1990 – that some flexibility is desirable when picking a team. Southgate will be expected to field creative players like Dele Alli even though a 3-4-3 would not favour the Tottenham midfielder. Alli is not a flying wing player like Raheem Sterling or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain but he can cause problems for defences by dropping in the hole behind Kane and creating chances.
Southgate has a number of options upfront: Danny Welbeck and Harry Kane have very good strike rates at international level, with Jamie Vardy and Marcus Rashford in reserve. Vardy could be an ace in the hole this summer, especially if Southgate decides to go for a surprise 4-4-2 line up – even if that means omitting Dele Alli:
An alternative could be a 4-3-1-2 formation:
That’s without picking the likes of Rashford, Lingard, Smalling, Trippier, Shaw, Bertrand and
Jones, who will all hoping to earn a flight to Russia in a few weeks time. Flexibility could be Southgate’s secret weapon in the 2018 tournament, but a lot may depend on the individual performances of Kane and Alli on the biggest stage in the football world.
Both the players and the fans will be hoping for a better performance than in Brazil four years ago: on paper, the players who could feature in Russia this summer should be able to get out of Group G but that’s what we assumed last time round – and look what happened then!
I’ve got to say that 8-0 was what I was hoping for on Friday, but the best part about that win was the dramatic improvement in the goal difference. Tomorrow’s game is a much sterner test – in his first article for the site, guest contributor Owen Barnes tells us what to expect.
The Montenegrins now stand two points clear of England – however the dismissal of crucial midfielder Nikola Pekovi may prove costly to their chances of winning tomorrow’s game.
Montenegro started the game against Moldova leading group H, previously beating San Marino 3-0 in a match they dominated. With England trampling over the San Marino side 8-0 we can imagine many English supporters rubbing their hands at tomorrow’s fixture. However, with Stefan Joveti and Vuini leading the front line for the national side England cannot afford to be complacent.
The controversial issue with Rio Ferdinand’s absence in previous games may give Montenegro a chance to pounce. Ferdinand has been brilliant for Manchester United in the past month and they may feel his absence against the two technically-gifted strikers. However Hodgson seems confident that the pairing Phil Jagielka and Tim Cahill can deny the Serie A strikers of causing any upsets, despite Moldova only having two shots with none on target.
England will start the game as favourites, with their star man Wayne Rooney scoring six goals in his past four games for the lions. He has shown consistency, which could be the lack of pressure from his club allowing him to focus on his international career, but he will need to be in top form to solve any sticky situations he faces. The potential attacking force of Rooney, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ashley Young can cause serious problems for the oppositionâ€™s back line. Link up play from team mates Young and Rooney as well as the pace of Oxlade-Chamberlain will produce goals, assists and flair as seen in the San Marino game.
As the Moldovans came close to scoring within two minutes of the kick off last Friday, the English front three are certainly with the ability of causing havoc for Montenegro. Moldova dealt with the efforts of Joveti and Vuini very nicely, but the Montenegrin strikers will also continuously test England’s defence. Having netted 23 goals between them in Italy this season, their total of five shots on target tested the Moldovan keeper Serghei Pascenco, who did well to keep the game at deadlock until the 78th minute, where Vuini proved his finishing with a scrappy volley inside the penalty box. One possible area for English concern is when Joveti is standing over the ball in set pieces: when San Marino were in the English half for a corner there was some doubt how England would cope. Thankfully Kyle Walker was able to rescue the lions by dribbling a good 60 yards down the right hand side to put San Marino back under pressure.
With England having an advantage in goal difference, a clean sheet at the Podgorica Stadium would be a real achievement. Hodgson may look at James Milner for stability, which could mean allowing Tom Cleverley to rest. The absence of Jack Wilshere could be costly for the English midfield unless all midfielders put in a good shift. A big test awaits for England and they must maintain possession and keep the ball away from Montenegro’s attacking force.
Predicted score: 2-1 England (Rooney, Lampard) (Jovetic)
Betting odds (SkyBets): England 4/5, Montenegro 7/2.
England Possible Line-up (4-4-2) Joe Hart, Kyle Walker, Phil Jagielka, Michael Carrick, Leighton Baines; Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Milner, Frank Lampard, Ashley Young; Wayne Rooney, Jermain Defoe.
Congratulations to Ashley Cole, who will win his 100th England cap this evening when he plays against Brazil in a friendly tonight.
Rather than take the obvious route, I thought we’d celebrate the group of players Cole joins this evening. The most astonishing thing about the Centurions is that it wasn’t until Billy Wright won his 42nd cap in May 1952 that he broke the record for England’s most capped player – Bob Crompton of Blackburn Rovers had held it for almost forty years. Or to put it another way, Crompton’s record was set before the start of the First World War and wasn’t broken until seven years after the Second World War finished.
Another surprise was that I’d assumed that it’d taken Billy Wright longer to win a century of caps because England had played fewer games in his era. Wrong. Billy Wright and David Beckham’s England careers both lasted fourteen years, whilst Bobby Moore won his caps in just twelve. At the other end of the scale, Peter Shilton earned his 125 caps in 19 years – with the vast majority of them coming after he took over from Ray Clemence in 1982.
So here’s a timeline of who, how and when the Centurions reached their milestones.
28th September 1946:Â Billy Wright makes his full England debut in a 7-2 win over Northern Ireland at Windsor Park in Belfast. Wright’s first international appearance was at the start of the year in an unofficial ‘victory international’ against Belgium to celebrate the end of the Second World War. Bobby Charlton is eight years old, Bobby Moore is five.
19th April 1958: England beat Scotland 4-0 at Hampden Park and Bobby Charlton scores on his England debut. Billy Wright wins his 89th cap in the same game and just under a year later wins his 100th cap in another win against Scotland. This little ditty is number one in the charts:
Peter Shilton is seven years old, Bobby Moore has just celebrated his 17th birthday and is a few months away from making his West Ham debut against Bobby Charlton’s Manchester United. Charlton won’t be playing though. He’s recovering from injuries sustained in the Munich Air disaster, which happened 55 years ago today.
28th May 1959: Billy Wright wins his final cap in an 8-1 win over the USA.
20th May 1962: England beat Peru in Lima in a friendly before the World Cup: Bobby Moore makes his first appearance for England, alongside Bobby Charlton who is winning his 34th cap. Elvis is about to take over at Number One with this song…
11th June 1970: Bobby Charlton makes his 105th and last appearance for England, who are beaten 3-2 by West Germany in the quarter finals of the World Cup in Mexico. ‘Back Home’ has just been deposed at Number One by this song and England won’t qualify for another World Cup Finals tournament for 12 years…dark days indeed.
25th November 1970: Peter Shilton makes his England debut in a friendly against East Germany which England win 3-1. Bobby More wins his 85th cap.
14th February 1973: Bobby Moore wins his 100th cap in a 5-0 win over Scotland. Exactly nine months later, Moore makes his last appearance in an England shirt in a 1-0 defeat to Italy. Earlier that day, Captain Mark Phillips had married Princess Anne.
15th June 1988: Peter Shilton wins his 100th cap in the 3-1 defeat by the Netherlands in the European Championship finals. Just over two years later, Shilton makes his last appearance between the sticks in the 3rd place playoff defeat to Italy in the 1990 World Cup: David Beckham is 15 years old and has already signed schoolboy forms for Manchester United. Ashley Cole is nine.
24th February 1993: Bobby Moore dies aged 51.
3rd September 1994: Billy Wright dies in London aged 70.
1st September 1996: England beat Moldova 3-0 in a World Cup qualifier in Chisinau and David Beckham makes his England debut. Incredibly, the Spice Girls are number one with ‘Wannabe’.
28th February 2001: England beat Spain 3-0 in a friendly at Villa Park and Ashley Cole wins his first cap. David Beckham is making his 38th appearance but the game is overshadowed by the Selby rail crash.
26th March 2008: David Beckham wins his 100th cap in a 1-0 defeat by France. Eighteen months later Beckham makes his final appearance in an England shirt in a 3-0 win over Belarus in a World Cup qualifier.
It’s highly likely that the next Centurion has probably just finished his tea and is about to watch England v Brazil…
Who will be the next England player to reach a century? Can Frank Lampard get back the squad and win the 6 caps he needs, check the latest odds at FREEbets.org.uk, visit the site now to get more information
First of all, I’m not really that interested in friendlies. I didn’t watch the game last night: my mother in law did and she sent me a text saying ‘what a goal’ because she was watching it. I turned over, thinking Sweden had equalised (I imagined the score was still 2-1) but I had to watch the end of the game to see Zlatan Ibrahimovic score his wonder goal…and surely I’m not the only person who thought that Joe Hart was to blame for it.
The real story last night happened in Montenegro. Two goals from Andrija Delibasic and one from Elsad Zverotic gave the hosts a 3-0 win over San Marino and sent Montengro back to the top of World Cup Qualifying Group H: having played the same amount of games, the Montenegrins have two more points and exactly the same goal difference. We play them in Podgorica at the end of March 2013 in a game that will go a long to way to determining who wins the group and who has to face the playoffs – and at the moment, that could mean a potential tie with France, Croatia or Sweden.
So although it was good to see three young debutants in Stockholm last night – and not forgetting that Steven Gerrard reached a genuine milestone, for which he deserves congratulations – the result is a little worrying. England have only kept four clean sheets in the last ten games and only one of those teams (Italy) is what you’d describe as a world footballing power. As much as I don’t want to sound like a grumpy git, I think the remaining World Cup qualifiers may be not as straightforward as we’d all like to think. We’ll see: the next game is against Brazil in February but if Neymar or Hulk (another player who ‘doesn’t do well against English teams’) are on form then it might not be pleasant viewing.
Tonight’s game is the last World Cup qualifier this year: the next one is in San Marino in March and although England have a three point lead and a superior goal difference, it’s important to remember that we’ve played one more game than our nearest rivals – and that Montenegro’s game in hand is against San Marino next month, the same night we have a friendly against Sweden.
In that context, avoiding defeat in Warsaw tonight is vital. The good news is that in our eight games in Poland since July 1966, we’ve only lost once – the traumatic defeat in June 1973. Even though I was only eight, I knew it was an important game: some of my school friends came round just before kick off to ask me if I wanted to go outside to play on my bike: I remember leaning out of the front room window at my parents’ house and telling them I wasn’t coming out because I was going to watch the football.
In retrospect, I should’ve gone out.
The bad news is that we’ve only won three of our trips to Poland, but although our hosts are probably a second tier side in terms of European national football, they aren’t exactly mugs either: they’ve only lost three of their last 20 games at home but that includes a surprising defeat to the Czechs in the European Championships last summer that ended Polish hopes of qualification from the group stage.
The current Polish squad are a cosmopolitan lot: they play in ten different countries although the majority of them are based at home or in the Bundesliga: current leading goalscorer Robert Lewandowski plays for Borussia Dortmund, as does influential midfielder Jakub Blaszczykowski, but the latter will be missing tonight due to injury. Although there”s a lot experience within the Polish side, goals have been in short supply: they’ve only scored more than two goals in one of their matches in the last year and that was against Andorra. The only player based in England is Tomasz Kuszczak (currently of Brighton) although he’ll probably start the game on the bench.
The lack of Polish goals is actually a good thing for England: we’ve only been shut out once in the last 20 games (Italy in the quarter finals of the European Championship) and we’ve scored in four of the last the five games in Poland so one might be enough. I’m expecting Roy Hodgson to pick his strongest (and most experienced) team to start this evening, with Steven Gerrard replacing Wayne Rooney as captain and Ashley ‘Pottymouth’ Cole to return at left back. Theo Walcott won’t play any part this evening after he was clattered by Aldo Simoncini on Friday evening.
To return to the main theme, not losing tonight is crucial but coming away with a point wouldn’t necessarily be the end of the world either, especially if Montenegro are unable to win in Ukraine tonight – and that game starts an hour before ours, so we should have at least some idea how that’s going when the teams take the field tonight.
Are you interested in getting all of the latest football betting odds for upcoming fixtures? Make sure you check out bwin.com today and take advantage of their fantastic odds!
Itâ€™s back to the World Cup after a month or so off, so a quick recap on the overall position: weâ€™re level on points with Montenegro and Poland but have an inferior goal difference to the Montenegrins. After San Marino we have to play Poland in Warsaw next Tuesday: for those of us that have reached a certain age, playing Poland in the World Cup is a bitter sweet experience that ranges from the realisation that Bobby Mooreâ€™s international career was over to the joy of Gary Linekerâ€™s hat trick in Mexico more or less saving Sir Bobby Robsonâ€™s job.
Montenegro donâ€™t play tonight, but they have a tough looking trip to Ukraine on Tuesday, so this eveningâ€™s game is a good time to play the worst team in the world â€“ thatâ€™s official: along with Bhutan and the Turks and Caicos Islands, San Marino are mired at the bottom of the FIFA rankings. It might also be a good time for England to find their shooting boots, as weâ€™ve not scored more than three goals at Wembley since September 2010.
To be honest, Roy Hodgson couldâ€™ve picked a squad from the Football League that could probably beat San Marino. All but one member of their current squad play in the Sammarinese league: the exception is midfielder Mirko Palazzi, who plays for Rimini in the Italian equivalent of League 2. Most capped player is defender Damiano Vannucci and the main goalscoring threat is Andy Selva, who has bagged eight goals in 55 games since 1998 and has the honour of scoring the only goal in the only game San Marino have ever won: a 1-0 victory over Liechtenstein in 2004.
Thereâ€™s not much to report from the England squad before the game other than Frank Lampard and Ryan Bertrand will be missing and there was a press fuelled debate about who should be captain before Wayne Rooney was given the job, but other than that this game is a good opportunity to make a statement. Both the Polish and the Dutch have reached double figures against San Marino recently and in the context of having to score as many goals as possible to ensure a first place finish, thatâ€™s tonightâ€™s priority.
Result: England 5, San Marino 0. Considering San Marino had lost five of their last six games by more than five goals, I don’t see how this can be seen as anything other than a reasonable result. It took over 35 minutes to break the deadlock and although England ran out easy winners in the end, since 2007 only Moldova, Northern Ireland and Cyprus have beaten San Marino by scoring fewer goals. The other worrying aspect of the game – apart from Clive Tyldesley not knowing that Jakub Blaszczykowski is injured and won’t be playing for Poland next week – was that England lost Theo Walcott after ten minutes following a collision with Aldo Simoncini.
Thomas Rooney takes a look at Jonjo Shelvey’s promotion into the senior team.
England captain Steven Gerrard believes that his Liverpool teammate Jonjo Shelvey has a bright international career ahead of him.
Shelvey was called-up from the under-21 squad to the senior team on Monday, a decision that surprised a few as he has not yet really cemented his place in the starting eleven for the Reds. However, Gerrard seemed to be very pleased that he was given the call from Roy Hodgson.
“I am delighted for Jonjo. He has been improving all the time since he arrived at Liverpool and has grown into a good footballer with good vision who can create and score goals.
“He also listens which means he will only get better with more games and experience.”
The call-up for the young Liverpool man has received a fair bit of criticism, with many saying that he is still unproven and does not deserve a chance at international level.Â This case does have a point as well, as the former Charlton man has not exactly set the world alight on Merseyside, despite a couple of good performances in the Europa League this season.
However, Shelvey does have a great deal of potential and could really start to shine after this call-up to the national side. If you popped to a forum on www.PlayBaccarat.com and asked who he was, people might come up short, but why not give him a go?
At 20-years-old, this is the best time to give players such as Shelvey a chance to work with England. Many people forget that getting a call-up does not mean that you are going to play. The squad has over 20 players in it, and you can only use 14 throughout 90 minutes.
But, when a couple of injuries come along like they have done, then it is the perfect opportunity to give youngsters the experience of working with the national side â€“ so when you really do need to call upon them in the future, they know what to expect and will not be overwhelmed by the occasion.
It was never going to be a decision that pleased everybody, but Hodgson has a long term plan with England and is starting to build for the future. Giving players such as Shelvey the chance to be involved around the set-up of the team can only benefit them.
I’m trying to think of how far back the record of PR disasters surrounding England players, managers and the FA actually goes: it’s a long way and might even start as far back as the Alf Ramsay era. Ramsey was famous for his curt manner with the press and although we’re separated by five decades and an almost unimaginable leap in technology, I’m almost certain that to some extent the anti-England agenda that occasionally manifests itself in the mainstream press dates from that time.
In the last week, we’ve seen what can happen when both managers and players attempt to communicate information and opinions in an informal atmosphere. Although Roy Hodgson was giving an honest answer to a reasonable question about Rio Ferdinand’s international future when he took a tube train to the Emirates to watch Arsenal play Olympiakos in the Champions League, it’s fair to say that either a political answer or keeping schtum altogether would’ve been better options. I happen to agree with him: I think this might be the last time Ferdinand gets mentioned Â in this blog as a player. Rio Ferdinand is too old and unfit to play for England but could make a decent coach somewhere along the line.
On the other hand, exactly what Ashley Cole was hoping to achieve when he tweeted about the FA in the wake of the John Terry case is beyond me. At first I thought his ‘foul mouth rant’ was a joke: but then I saw the ‘verified’ symbol next to his handle. In a way, referring to the FA as ‘a bunch of twats’ is a simple case of it takes one to know several. Having been ‘encouraged’ Â to be a bit more media friendly in the summer and being only two caps short of a century of international appearances, you’d have thought that Cole would’ve been smart enough to realise that keeping quiet would’ve been the best option under the circumstances, especially as there are still questions about the captaincy going forward.
However, apart from possibly in the context of wearing expensive clothes, the words ‘Ashley Cole’ and ‘smart’ seem never to be destined to be used in the same sentence again. I wrote what I thought of John Terry hereÂ and I’ve got no problem with including Ashley Cole in the description of some contemporary football players in the fourth paragraph.
I’m pleased that the FA seem to have indicated that Cole won’t play against San Marino at the weekend, but that’s not really a punishment. He’s just lucky he wasn’t around in when Ramsay was boss.
He wouldn’t have played for England again.
I’ll be back later in the week when I’ll attempt to concentrate on the two forthcoming games. But it’s only Tuesday afternoon: plenty of time for tweeting.