Does England’s Qualifying Campaign Mean They can Compete at the World Cup?

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VALLETTA, MALTA - SEPTEMBER 01: Harry Kane, Jordan Henderson and Marcus Rashford of England applaud the travelling fans after the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Malta and England at Ta'Qali National Stadium on September 1, 2017 in Valletta, Malta. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

The World Cup qualifying campaign is almost over but the question remains – do England have what it takes to compete this time around?

Year after year, the country is excited in anticipation and hope that this finally might be our year.

A host of mistakes have been made in previous years. This current side are looking doomed to repeat history again.

Can England Finally Compete at the World Cup?

Squad Selection

Tournaments can often be won before they’ve even started. Picking the right squad can give you the best opportunity to succeed at a tournament. Time and time again, England have made poor selections with tournament squads to their own detriment. It looks to be no different this time around.

England’s current number one, Joe Hart, had an awful tournament at Euro 2016. Horrible blunders firstly against Wales and then against Iceland cost England goals and the latter can be argued cost England the game. Hart was also exiled from the Manchester City side by Pep Guardiola and spent a season on loan at Torino. He was named in the worst 11 from Serie A that season. The Torino president even came out and said they didn’t expect him to make so many errors. Hart is currently on loan at West Ham where he’s conceded ten goals in the first three league games of the season.

With such damning stats, surely it was time to leave Hart out of the England team and have a look at younger goalkeeper? Jack Butland and Jordan Pickford have been outstanding for their clubs and deserve an opportunity. This, however, hasn’t been the case as manager Gareth Southgate recently said “I still see Joe as our best goalkeeper”

A quality goalkeeper is vital and Joe Hart simply isn’t that any more. The time has firmly come to take him out of the side and look at different options.

England also have the nasty habit of reverting to status when picking tournament squads. Going for the “big names” over form players is a running theme. Jack Wilshere was named in the squad for Euro 2016 despite being injured all season. Players like Theo Walcott, Daniel Sturridge and Gary Cahill are all constantly reverted back to despite always constantly being injured or being past their best in Cahill’s case.

Players like this have had multiple tournaments and never produced, so why keep sticking with them? It’s easy to pick young players during qualifying against minnows. England fail to pick the correct players for tournaments and it costs year after year.

Wrong Managerial Picks

There’s a running theme that the England manager has to be English. This thought process is outdated and stops England achieving their full potential.

The last truly successful Englishman to manage England was Terry Venables. Venables guided England to the semi-finals of Euro 96. England haven’t been to a major semi-final since then.

The last three English appointments have led to three of the most embarrassing moments in England’s history.

Steve McClaren was appointed in 2006. After an unsuccessful qualifying campaign for Euro 2008 he was dubbed “The Wally with a Brolly”.

Roy Hodgson was the next Englishman appointed, and after failing to get out of the group at the 2014 World Cup, he was in charge of England’s most humiliating tournament defeat – a 2-1 loss to Iceland at Euro 2016. It was an abject and embarrassing performance and Hodgson rightfully lost his job because of it.

Sam Allaydyce was then announced as the new manager and, after one solitary game in charge, he left the role after being caught on film advising agents how to get around FA rules.

McClaren, Hodgson and Allardyce have all left the job after horrific failures but the mentality of hiring English managers still exists. England’s most successful manager since Terry Venables was Sven-Goran Eriksson; a Swedish manager who guided England to three tournament quarter-finals in his time in charge.

None of the English managers who have been appointed have the credentials or pedigree at the top level of winning trophies or managing big names. McClaren, Hodgson or Allardyce have never won a single trophy as a manager and none of them have Champions League experience.

Gareth Southgate is now in charge and he’s the most inexperienced of the English managers to have been appointed. If the FA want to start seeing better results at tournaments, they should strongly re-consider this outdated model of hiring English managers and just hire the best man for the job.

Tactics and Formations

England have also shown a tendency to be rigid and outdated with their formations and tactics throughout the years.

Paul Scholes is considered one of England’s best talents in a generation. For Manchester United, he consistently contributed goals and assists. In an England shirt, however, he was consistently ousted to the left hand side. Scholes has admitted he played many games for United wide as well but the big difference is Manchester United were a juggernaut of English and European football and could afford these sort of gambles in the line up. England, however, were not and playing one of your most talented players out of position like that is just folly.

Roy Hodgson did similar during the 2014 World Cup by sticking Wayne Rooney on the left hand side. In the first group game against Italy, this move proved very costly as full back Leighton Baines was left horribly exposed. Rooney has always been a team player but his natural instinct is to attack.

This was another poor decision from an England manager. England lost that game 2-1 and ended up going out of the World Cup at the group stage.

Gareth Southgate hasn’t shown much improvement in this area. The current England manager has constantly fiddled with formations. Although there are some who see this as a positive, the current side still lack identity. The preferred system is still unclear.

In the recent qualifier against Malta, Southgate lined up with two holding midfielders. England ran out 4-0 winners in the end but struggled to break Malta down. The second goal didn’t come until the 86th minute of the game.

With such a negative approach against such weak opposition it’s difficult to see how England can compete against the top nations in a major tournament.

Very little improvement has been made between Hodgson’s England and Southgate’s current team. If England want to progress and start having a serious chance of winning a major tournament, then sweeping changes will be needed across all areas in order for the necessary improvements to take place.

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