Dubai: The real excitement of the FIFA World Cup will begin when the knockout round starts on Saturday and England are exactly where we all expected them to be. They are comfortably in the last 16 having negotiated a not too difficult group and are looking good, but I feel there is much more to come from them.
The fans are buzzing again after the demolition of Wales where the Three Lions played some scintillating second half football. But we cannot get too confident because there are bigger tests to come, namely Senegal on Sunday at the Al Bayt Stadium.
England enjoyed a good show against the Welsh and it has set them up nicely for the West Africans. We had a high press, played with a lot of energy and took the game to Wales. It was a similar display as the Iran match where we scored six goals. This has to be our identity going forwards. When people think of an England team, they must immediately conjure images of the front three not giving opposition defenders any time on the ball at all. A midfield that bites and a confident defence backed up by a keeper who doesn’t make any mistakes.
Of course, they won’t be able to do this every time they step out onto the pitch. You just have to take a look at the USA match. However, when we do play on the front foot we are a much better team. It looks like the side is full of belief right now and this is great to see. For a repeat of the Wales and Iran performances, Southgate must stick with Phil Foden in the side, but he must also play him in his best position which is wide left. He can do the most damage from this side with that wand of a left foot of his. He has pace, power, skill and can be our match winner.
But Southgate must stop experimenting with him down the right. He is at his explosive best in his natural position. You just have to see his weekly performances for Man City for proof. England have an embarrassment of riches in attack and I suppose it is a good problem for Southgate to have. He has so many good options in the frontline. But now that Foden was given his chance – and took it – the coach needs to stop messing around and stick to what works. Marcus Rashford on the right and Harry Kane – although he is yet to score – with Foden on the left. And if any of them are having a bad game then we can bring in Raheem Sterling or Bukayo Saka to change it around.
But against Senegal – ranked 18th in the world, the highest of any African nation – we must start with our strongest 11 possible because this is going to be a tough match. Senegal are dangerous, even without the injured Sadio Mane. They progressed from the group stage for only the second time in their history finishing second behind Netherlands in Group A. At the 2002 World Cup they made it as far as the quarter-finals and, even though they will miss key midfielder Idrissa Gueye due to suspension, they will believe they can do that again in Qatar.
It is the first time we are ever playing them and it will be vital that we match their intensity, desire and work rate otherwise we could find ourselves being bossed around and potentially leaving the tournament early.