Dhe England national football team are making it easy for their fans not to look forward to the already controversial World Cup, which begins in less than two months in Qatar. Last Friday, the team lost 1-0 to Italy in Milan, so they have not won five international matches in a row and are already certain to be relegated from Nations League group A3 before the last game.
When Germany performs at London’s Wembley Stadium this Monday evening (8.45 p.m. in the FAZ live ticker for the Nations League and on RTL), the English are all about repairing their badly battered self-confidence. As good as it gets.
The game against the DFB-Elf is also England’s last test before the World Cup and therefore all the more important because coach Gareth Southgate hasn’t seen much in the past few games that would make it easier for him to choose his final tournament squad. England has not won any of the five Nations League games played so far and lost three, including a 4-0 loss to Hungary.
The last time an English national team was in such bad shape was in 2014, when they were eliminated in the group stage of the World Cup in Brazil. It is particularly frightening how harmless the English have been in recent encounters: they did not score a single goal from open play, in the first leg against Germany in early June Harry Kane converted only a penalty. The Three Lions lost their teeth.
The defeat in Milan is all the more serious when you consider that the Italians didn’t even qualify for the upcoming World Cup. The two countries met in the final at the European Championships in summer 2021 – with Italy coming out on top – but since then England have stagnated rather than build on what had been achieved. In any case, the team has not presented itself as a favorite to win the tournament, which one actually wants to be, for months.
Southgate nevertheless struggled to take positives from the defeat in Milan, calling his side’s performance a “step in the right direction”, albeit unintentionally cynical after the previous debacle against Hungary. The BBC praised Southgate in an analysis for not publicly pillorying his players: “But England’s performance has been so poor, so worrying for the World Cup that criticism after this recent defeat is unavoidable and deserved. Not good enough.”
The Guardian newspaper said the national team had never looked so “weak” and “disjointed” in the six years since Southgate took office. And the online sports portal The Athletic warned that fans at home may not have opened many doors on their advent calendars by the time the English team has to leave Qatar.
In general, Southgate is also increasingly coming under criticism. His merits are undisputed: he took over England at a difficult time and led the team to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup and to the final of the 2021 European Championship. While he may not be viewed as a tactical genius by the general public, under his leadership the perception of the team in the country has improved noticeably. But after the end of the game against Italy on Friday, whistles and boos could be heard again from the fans who had traveled with them. Her anger is primarily directed at the coach, who, in her opinion, did not just make the right decisions when putting together the squad for the games against Italy and Germany.
For example, many take issue with the nomination of Harry Maguire. The central defender has lost his place at Manchester United under new coach Erik ten Hag. He was last brought on as a substitute against Arsenal with ten minutes left after watching three Premier League games in a row from the bench. Maguire is set for Southgate, however, and against Italy he played in the back three from the start.
Maguire has been an integral part of teams that have performed so well in recent tournaments – and for Southgate those achievements are reason enough to stick with him despite his slump in form. Earlier this year, Southgate defended his loyalty to well-deserved internationals when he said you can’t win the World Cup by only bringing in-form but internationally inexperienced players.
The 90 minutes against Germany is England’s last chance to lift spirits before their first World Cup group game against Iran on November 21. 90 minutes in which Southgate has to find clues to his preferred formation and formation, because at the moment there seem to be more questions than answers.
#Coach #Southgate #pressure #English #triplets