England crashed out of the 2018 World Cup to Croatia last Wednesday evening, in a tournament which brought back some sporting national pride but left us wondering ‘What if..?’
Jordan Pickford – 8
The only blemish on his World Cup debut was conceding the goal to Adnan Januzaj against Belgium in the third group game in group G. Pickford is not the tallest goalkeeper in the world at 1.85m, and was just off the former Manchester United player’s late effort and was criticised for the ‘mistake’, I think it is harsh to call it that but I guess people need something to complain about. On the positive side, Pickford was stunning in England first ever World Cup penalty shoot-out and his solid shot-stopping and passing range was excellent. There certainly is no doubt in England’s number one after this tournament.
John Stones – 7
Stones started the tournament with his customary passing from the back and trusting his ability, it was a great sight to see although maybe scaring a few fans in the process. He grabbed two goals against Panama which was a highlight but was at fault for Croatia’s extra time winner in the semi-final which certainly put a dampener on his tournament. Overall Stones can be happy with his contribution and aim to be a more consistent figure for the Manchester City back line and develop his skills as a leader, next season.
Harry Maguire – 9
The standout man in the English defence, Maguire announced himself on the international stage and made himself a household name after his great consistency, solid defence and great arial presence. Maguire will certainly attract big money moves to big clubs that include Manchester United, who have been rumoured this morning to table a bid for the former Sheffield United player. Maguire was calm in possession and was England’s greatest threat in the air, therefore set-pieces and especially corners he was even more dangerous and effective. It certainly will not be his last international tournament and maybe a move is on the horizon.
Kyle Walker – 6
Playing out of position in a major tournament is no easy feat, and Walker who traditionally is a right back was assigned the role of right centre back and although his pace solved some of the experience issues, his positioning caused him to give away a silly penalty against Tunisia and furthermore was caught out in the Croatia game. Although his passing was a solid utility to the english defence as they positively continued to build and pass around the back which was great to see, although giving some fans heart attacks in the process. He look more comfortable at centre back than actual central defenders like Phil Jones but Pep Guardiola certainly will not be playing there in the future for Manchester City next season.
Ashley Young – 6
We nearly had Ashley Young as the left-wing back of England lifting the World Cup….that would have been mental and a sight to see! I was surprised Young was given the nod in front of Rose but as usual Young gave the role plenty of effort but did not have any stand-out games or moments but was a decent option and utility. Maybe Young needed Fellaini? Maybe then football would have come home!
Kieran Trippier – 9
I was initially sceptical of the idea that Kieran Trippier should be the right-wing back for England at a World Cup but he has well and truly been a stand out performer and changed my opinion on him. Once again he was England’s biggest creator as he created 5 chances in the Columbia game and many against Tunisia and Panama. Trippier has proven to be a solid commodity at not only defending but attacking with his delivery and set-piece speciality and his crucial penalty which swayed the momentum in the shoot-out was exceptional. He created the most chances in the tournament ahead of world-class players such as Neymar etc. To top off the tournament he scored a scintillating free-kick against Croatia but ultimately fell short but has certainly raised his stock and the man from Bury is certainly the first name on everyone’s England team sheet!
Danny Rose – 6
Rose was second choice to Ashley Young at the left-wing back role and when he appeared he appeared to be a shadow of the 16/17 Spurs left back and this obviously could be to do with his injuries and comments about Tottenham during the season but for such a sort after left back, I did expect more from him. With the left back position in world football being a fairly weak position it could have been a good opportunity to put himself in the conversation.
Jordan Henderson – 7
Henderson’s performances at this World Cup have surprised me as I thought we was going to be exploited more in the central midfield role while only being assisted by Lingard and Alli but Southgate constructed the formation to give Henderson as much protection as possible. Henderson played very well in England’s games but found himself ‘found out’ and ‘out of his depth’ opposite the great midfielder that is Luka Modric, who even by his exceptionally high standards is having a great tournament fresh off his Champions League triumph for Real Madrid over Henderson’s Liverpool in May.
Jesse Lingard – 7
JLingz, what a man! Lingard is one of the compelling reasons why I enjoyed watching England this summer, as not only is he a player for my favourite team but he plays with his personality on show and that represents energy, movement and cheeky bits of flair. His passing was something of note whereby he was comfortably averaged above 90% in all his appearances and outshone, the more accomplished and accepted, Dele Alli, which included a stunning goal against Panama. Lingard was an indispensable for the Three Lions and proved a key link between the midfield and attack, I would not have made that prediction (would anyone have) 12 months ago, so it is great to see! His tireless running all tournament maybe caught up on him by the Croatia game but apart from that he was very good indeed, plenty to be proud about for the United player.
Dele Alli – 5
The most overrated English player in the starting eleven? Yes. Dele Alli is a good player but took a step backwards last season and for me was lucky to start for England this tournaments, the lack of depth and competition in that role does not help as maybe that would push the former MK Dons player on. From game 1, Alli did not look match fit and the running of Lingard, Sterling and Henderson did cover for the spurs star. Alli is no doubt ,a very talented individual but was overshadowed by the emergence of Jesse Lingard. Compare their career’s 12 months ago to now, Lingard has come on leaps and bounds while Alli has treaded water.
Eric Dier – 5
Dier since the 2016 European Championships in France, has taken a step back for me and his substitute involvement for me was pointless and an emphasis on the lack of depth England have in the central midfield department. I could have put a wardrobe in central midfield and it would offer me the same qualities. Wooden, Slow, turning circle of a bus.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek – 6
He did not get enough game time for me, as a 6’3 physical attacking midfielder he could have been used more effectively by Southgate instead of bringing on Vardy. I am glad that Loftus-Cheek has broken into the England side but will need to keep working to cement his space and challenge Lingard and Alli for that starting eleven position. I assume he will at some point need to permanently move away from Chelsea to progress and I think he should this summer to obtain at least 30+ appearances and proves his quality in the Premier League for the second season in a row.
Fabian Delph – 5
Delph appeared a few times during the campaign and offered not a lot to the England side apart from his versatility to do a job at left-wing back and maybe the inclusion of a better passer of the ball such as Jack Wilshere or Jonjo Shelvey would have given Southgate a better option, especially in the Croatia game. Delph flew back for the birth of his child and to be honest, that was his most talked about action over the tournament.
Harry Kane – 7
Harry Kane got the job done and led the line fantastically for England and won the Golden Boot, however part of me is just thinking ‘I would have put my house on Harry taking one of those 2 golden opportunity against Croatia, it would have put England up 2-0 and one foot in the World Cup Final’, but we all know what happened after. It is tough to put blame on Kane but if it was a player such as the heavily criticised Raheem Sterling, he would have been hung out to dry by the media for not passing, in that moment. Kane converted 3/3 penalties in normal time, one in the shoot-out and an injury-time winner against Tunisia. Furthermore he appeared to lead the line against Columbia on basically one leg and held up the ball phenomenally. However with only one goal in his final 4 more competitive games, Kane has his critics. A matter of what if..
Raheem Sterling – 6
Raheem receives a very harsh reputation due to the media onslaught and to be truthful we all know why it happens. It would not happen to Harry Kane, it would not happen to Frank Lampard etc. To consistently ridicule the man for living his life, the reason is racism. He could save a family from a burning building and the headline would be ‘Raheem Sterling out at 1am’. Double Standards.
Onto Raheem’s performances as a supporting striker to Harry Kane, he showed plenty of effort but the final product and lack of conviction showed especially against Sweden whereby a goal would have done his confidence the world of good. His final third decision-making again was not great but he influenced the ‘press’ with Jesse Lingard very well and his pace caused teams to have a deep defensive line, creating space for players such as Lingard and Alli to operate.
Marcus Rashford – 6
Started only against Belgium whereby it was his poorest performance in an England shirt and missed a great chance to level the cores against the fellow semifinalists. However, his bigger impacts came off the bench whereby he frightened and stretched defence’s late in games and was a main reason why England got the deserved winner against Tunisia in their opener. Surely will not be his final international tournament appearance but will want to be a starter before the 2020 European Championship. He gave England an option on the wing but did not look as threatening through the middle, is this due to Mourinho’s reluctance to play him there?
Jamie Vardy – 5
Vardy at 31 has played his final World Cup and maybe able to squeeze himself into the 2020 European championship spot but as his pace fades and injuries catch up with him maybe it is time to divert away from the Leicester City forward. Vardy only offered the opportunity to chase long balls over the top and that limited England’s tactics. Although Vardy has the great story and does possess quality it is not enough to be a valuable back up to Harry Kane.
Gareth Southgate – 7
He rekindled the support of the England national side and restored some national pride in the tournament and brought people all over the country together, that is certainly not an easy job. We all know the positives of this World Cup, whereby we reached our first semi final since 1990 and it was amazing to even have the chance of a World Cup final! However the two issues I have are the game management in both the Columbia and Croatia games, against Colombia the lack of substitutions around the 60-70th minute led to the Columbian’s being able to take control in the last ten minutes and force and equalizer and the tie was in the balance until we won on penalties. Furthermore, against Croatia from the second half onwards England looked a shadow of themselves (first half) and the game as we all know slipped away. I feel that key subs, which definitely include Ruben Loftus-Cheek would have altered the result and the way we lost the game in extra time. However, what a great ride we’ve had and Southgate, although not everyone’s number one choice for the job has proven he is on the right road for success and I look forward to the side’s performance in the 2020 European championships.
p.s It’s coming home
+ I did not mention all the players, just the one’s that needed to be commented on. Thanks for reading!