Following a loss by 1-0 against Belgium, England will be taking on South America this Tuesday. This comes after their team being hailed as the runners-up in Group G.
According to their Manager, Gareth Southgate, they are doing what it takes to deliver a game that’s going to knock their opponent out in a manner that’s as thrilling as a soccer match can be.
Their primary aim was to win in the group match-ups and they have satisfied this objective.
He admits that much work has yet to be done, but from where they are now, it’s not an entirely bad thing. Thanks to a last-gasp goal by Harry Kane, England managed to defeat Tunisia, as well as knocking out Panama by a 6-1 lead in Game 2.
This guarantees England, together with Belgium a slot in the knockout phase with a match to still be played.
Large changes in the Kaliningrad lineups have been made by Roberto Martinez, who has served as the boss for both Belgium and Southgate teams after realizing that a second-place finish gives better chances in the knockout rounds, quotes-wise.
This can be further justified by having to avoid a draw with four out of the top 7 rank sides in the whole world. Beating Colombia would mean that England would manage to get better odds of having a match with Brazil in the Quarter Finals, if they successfully defeat either Switzerland or Sweden.
The knockout game with Belgium was deemed as one of the biggest they have played in ten years, and thus they had to make sure that the only the best players were sent to the field. Indeed, they gave it their best shot.
This was coupled with strategizing and all-out efforts, particularly during the second half of the game at Kaliningrad Stadium. Despite not knowing if their draw side would be an advantage for them, they still pressed on, thinking that their supporters may know what the most important thing is for them at the moment.
While everyone in the team is a great prospect for the next set of games, it had to be ensured that the players were given ample time to prepare themselves. Getting chosen to play against Colombia strongly implies that they are ready for the match.
After all, the key to winning games is getting the right set of players at any given time. For the moment however, Martinez is quick to stress out that they are only focusing on playing against Japan, and that predicting the outcomes for World Cup matches is difficult.
The difficulty in predicting was evident in the quick shifting of front-runners, wherein during the match in Spain and Argentina’s group, the latter was just so close to going out on top, despite a number of forecasts saying otherwise.
They are not, therefore, looking at potential matches – their focus is on the players and their individual contributions, which is after all, what makes the game become a successful one.
Kane as a world-class striker
Kane has been the frontrunner when it comes to scoring goals, with a staggering 135 total across all Tottenham-participated competitions throughout the previous 4 seasons. Not surprisingly, he has been hailed World Cup captain, with 5 goals in 2 games, effectively putting them on top of the Golden Boot chart.
Despite this, he was just on bench in the 90-minute battle versus Belgium. He wasn’t slammed for this decision, but was rather praised for it. According to Southgate, this move proved that his priority, after all, was the team.
Kane playing for 50 minutes would have been a blunder on the team, as good of a player he is. To be Colombia-ready, he needed to prime himself and not exert so much effort in earlier matches.
This allows them to “conserve” energy for the best players, at the time when they need it the most, and that is, when they are already up against the high-performing, well-established teams.
The team has to Level up
Since the game vs. Panama, the team has made eight changes with regards to their lineup. One of the most notable of these changes include not letting Kane play in their match vs. Belgium. The team decisions have been panned, leading others to question on whether this move has actually caused England to cut short their streak of wins.
Big changes from Roy Hodgson led to the England 0-0 draw to finish second in the group behind Wales, and were then beaten in the last 16 by Iceland.
Those who are pessimistic towards the changes could note that there are more changes this time around, which could cause quite a stir, having not foreseen the factors that may have led to the change.
This isn’t the first time a great number of changes have been made, with their 2016 boss, Roy Hodgson also making as many as 6 changes to the lineup in their match versus Slovakia. This caused a 0-0 draw finish, ranking behind Wales, ultimately being beaten by Iceland in the final 16 round.
This is something that Southgate wouldn’t want to repeat this time around.
Southgate was quick to defend the team, saying that everyone was up to par with how they should be playing. In what happened two years ago, they were only leading for a couple of minutes and were not the actual front-runners overall.
Throughout the recent string of matches, Southgate insists that they have been playing well and that the changes have not impacted their performance negatively. While he admits that there’s some problem with the links from one line to another, there were a lot of equally great moments when you put the focus on individual games.
While losing matches isn’t really a good thing, they would want to put the focus on the lessons that they can get instead. As a team, they would want to put the focus on the “bigger picture”, and be able to learn from their mistakes. They are, however, positive that people will get what they’re doing.
At the end of the day, there is more to the team than a single defeated match. There have been a lot of cases where these little losses ultimately paved the way for a team’s victory. After all, each match, whether win or lose, would effectively serve as a learning experience, not just for the players of the team, but their coaches as well.
Should they change plans?
The possibility of a shootout of penalties is real, should there be extra time left. This is something that the team has to realize once they reach the knockout stages.
Through the years, England has been guilty of spot-losing through penalties a couple times, with them having done so in 1990, 1998, 2006 World Cup Games, and another three times for European Championships in 1996, 2004, and 2012.
According to Southgate however, they have been devising strategies to dodge these penalties since March of this year. It took them a lot of practice and studies of matches to achieve their final plans, and hence it would not be a wise decision for them to do so at this point.
This is despite the fact that they have failed to deliver in their match versus Belgium, twice in a row. Because of this, Gareth Southgate may end up reverting to the original plan beginning round XI in the knockout stage.
Even if Ruben Loftus-Cheek is doing well in midfield, Dele Alli is going to return playing. At the moment, only John Stones remains an area of concern, following his removal during Southgate’s defeat against Belgium.
Getting the right players to play a certain match versus certain countries is of the essence if Southgate truly wishes to get their team together. They also are making it a point to reduce penalty shootouts, which could heavily damage the reputation of their team, and could even hurt their chances of going further into the competition.
For sure, they would want to be known for something much better and substantial than that of having the most number of shootout penalties among all teams. Hopefully, with a new boss, things could take a better turn.
Concern towards James Rodriguez’ performance has caused Colombia’s excitement to get to the knockout rounds to be eclipsed, due to his calf injury. He is hailed as the leading scorer in the previous world Cup, with him leaving 31 minutes into what would be a Victorious 1-0 Game against Senegal, which allowed them to top in their group.
According to Pekerman, it is an extremely concerning situation for them, given that he was extremely fit during his training phase, with the final training session of his showing absolutely no signs of injury.
His certainty to play at the moment is rather cloudy, given that players need to be cleared of all injuries and illnesses prior to playing.
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