On England vs Senegal
What did you think of the England performance last night?
I thought it was a bit of a shaky start. England looked nervous to begin with and looked like they were trying to work out Senegal. Once they did that, they started to realise how they could hurt Senegal. I thought that Senegal started the game well but as the first half progressed, they didn’t know whether to stick or twist, whether to press England or drop off and England exploited that indecision by scoring two very good goals on the counter attack.
In the end, we ran out easy winners. If you look at the tournament so far, it's been great. People have said that we haven’t really played anyone yet, but you can only beat what is in front of you and we’re on a good run. The big test comes against France, but the way England are playing in the tournament reminds me of the run the team had at the last World Cup.
I thought we played with a good tempo and with confidence. Once we went in front, we controlled the match comfortably.
Southgate made a few changes. Do you think that this is that tactical blueprint he will use moving forward against France or do you expect him to continue to tweak his team?
He’ll be thinking about how he can improve and he’ll be looking at what France has. Senegal played with a lot of energy, but looking at them, before the game and during it, they didn’t offer a goal threat. You thought if they were going to score it would have to come from an individual mistake.
France offers a different threat. In Mbappe, on current form, I would mark him as the best player in the world. England will have to stop him and, I think Kyle Walker is probably the best option we have in dealing with Mbappe’s pace because he is very quick.
Dembele is also very direct and tricky. He’s as good as any of the top wide forwards in the world, but sometimes he looks like a pub player. He hasn’t been consistent for Barcelona or when playing for France. You know he can produce moments of magic though, so Luke Shaw will have his work cut out against him.
Giroud knows what he’s up against in terms of our centre halves. He won’t be worried about facing them, but I feel like Stones and Maguire can deal with him because of his lack of pace.
Gareth will be very wary of France’s threat on the counter attack. He’ll be worried about Mbappe exploiting any space to run in behind or between John Stones and Kyle Walker. Kyle Walker is a very quick player, but he’s recovering from an injury and will be coming up against an elite opponent. From a positional POV, he will need to be almost perfect because if he isn’t Mbappe will hurt England and it’s good night.
I think it will be a very tactical game. Defensively, I don’t think France are the best. I think Hernandez is great going forward but not the best when he needs to defend, so you could see Saka getting a lot of joy on that right hand side if he plays.
I think Rice will need to do a job on Griezmann. He will be dangerous picking up the ball and running in behind.
England are going to need some big performances from Jordan Pickford in goal and the defenders in front of him. There’s so many brilliant attacking players on the park that this game turns into a match that will be won by the team with the best defence on the day.
Some people say that Southgate likes to control matches, others say he is too cautious - is the truth somewhere in the middle and, after another winning performance, do people need to trust him to make the right decisions?
People need to get off Gareth’s back. People will always talk about the players that are left out - last night it was Rashford. You want the manager to pick players on form. A lot of people have spoken about Rashford and Foden and both of them have performed well.
As a manager, when you shuffle the pack and make changes, players can come in and keep shirts. I think that is something that Foden has done. At previous World Cup’s, managers have changed things on a game-by-game basis and got results. I think Southgate’s flexibility is a good thing. All the fans will have an eleven in their head that they feel should be starting.
I think the obvious debate is who plays between Saka and Rashford. Saka played against Senegal and popped up with a goal, so you have to say that Gareth got that decision right. The difference between the two is that Saka is better defensively, he has played as a wing back over the years and he knows how to defend. He works hard and I think he is the perfect fit for what Gareth Southgate is looking for on the right of the pitch. Rashford doesn’t work as hard off the ball and Gareth likes players who put a shift in.
Foden has played his way into the team and I don’t think he comes out. He will play against France.
Harry Kane registered his first goals last night. How do you rate the England captains performances at the tournament so far? Do you think now the floodgates can open for Harry and his goals?
It normally happens with strikers. Once one goal goes in and they get off the mark, they can’t stop scoring. I hope that is the case with Harry Kane because if England are going to go all the way, we will need his goals.
Harry Kane is a very unselfish football player. He is so important to the team and you know that if is given an opportunity, nine times out of ten he will take it.
I don’t agree with all the talk about him feeling tired. I was accused of the same thing for fifteen years - he isn’t tired, it’s his body language. Unfortunately, Harry has that body language and it's easy to point the finger at him if he isn’t performing in a game and say that he’s tired. Harry Kane is super fit. He’s a big presence and a leader for England.
Harry links the play beautifully. People complain about him not being in the box enough, but he’s always dropped deep throughout his career and he’s scored plenty of goals throughout it. I don’t think he’s done a lot wrong in an England shirt and I think it's completely wrong when people blame his lack of presence in the box when England lose.
Now he’s off the mark, hopefully he will go on a run.
Did you see anything in the England performance that concerns you going into this match against France, who are obviously a much more challenging opponent than Senegal?
I expect France to come out of the blocks quickly. They seem to score a goal and sit back a little, but I do think that they look vulnerable at the back. England will need to start the game much quicker than they did against Senegal. They can’t afford to wait and figure out what France can do in the game or present them with any opportunities because with the quality that they have, they will take them.
It would take a massive effort for England to come back from being two or three down against France, so we will be cautious, but we need to be at it from the first whistle. I think England have been guilty of trying to work teams out in games rather than trusting their ability, they should be looking to take the game to any opponent.
There has obviously been a lot of talk about Bellingham, Foden, Saka. Is there anyone else that you would like to single out from this England team that deserves a bit of praise after the performance last night?
All the players look like they are full of confidence, you can see that with the way they receive the ball. Jude Bellingham did very well on the first couple of goals, but I actually thought that he was quite quiet during that first twenty minutes.
Jordan Henderson. I know that he isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but he never lets you down. I think he is a far better passer of the ball than people give him credit for. He has got a wonderful range of passing and he also has a brilliant engine, which we saw last night when he got on the end of Bellingham’s cut back.
He’s confident. He’s a great leader on the pitch and is always communicating with his team mates. He does get a fair amount of stick, there are always question marks about his inclusion whenever he plays, but I think he is a presence on the field.
Gareth Southgate likes leaders on the pitch and Henderson is certainly one of them. I was really pleased to see him score and I would like to see him get into those areas more often because we know he has the quality.
He’s also a very intelligent player. He is a selfless player that reads the game well and covers a lot of ground, dropping into areas where he can help the team when he is needed.
I agree with you. I feel like some of the criticism that comes his way is crazy. I think it’s mainly because of his reputation for being a solid player and because England have other options that could go in there that are a bit more attacking.
Listen, if Jurgen Klopp trusts him that says it all. He has been unbelievable for Liverpool and other players in the team look up to him. This is a guy that has been there and won it, he’s been around for a long time and he has won everything. I think players like Bellingham bounce off his energy.
Foden, Bellingham And Saka Other Individual Players
Ian Wright paid you a nice compliment last night, when discussing Phil Foden and the way that he turns and moves, keeping his head up, driving past players. How important do you think the Manchester City man will be if England are to have a successful World Cup.
He’s very important (if England are going to progress in the tournament). He can play in numerous roles. He offers that tactical versatility to Gareth - he can play behind the striker, he could even play as a false nine.
He’ll be feeling incredibly confident at the moment. He’s coming into this tournament after some wonderful displays for Manchester City. When you cross that white line playing for England, you have to be confident. You have to believe in your ability to impact the game and, if you don’t have that, then you shouldn’t be playing. He has that in spades.
When he didn’t start the first game, we all worried because we know how good he is. Since he came into the team he has been outstanding and he has to be one of the first names on the team sheet when we play France.
There are so many strengths to his game.Vision, pace, technique - he has a wonderful left foot - the lad has the lot.
Another young player that is exploding on the international stage is Jude Bellingham. I read this morning that Jamie Carragher compared him to Paul Gascoigne, specifically at Italia 90 where he was arguably the best player at the tournament. As someone that played with him, what do you make of the comparison?
I think that is a big comparison (comparing Bellingham to Gascoigne). I think Bellingham has come to life in games at this tournament. Against Senegal, it took him twenty minutes to find his rhythm and then he set up two of the goals, which people notice.
I wouldn’t say that he has been exceptional at the tournament. You can’t deny his talent. Can I see him reaching the top of the game? Potentially. When Gazza came on the scene, he was sensational. He had unbelievable ability and belief in himself.
I think Jude is a different character. He has the same smile and confidence of Gazza, which is nice to see. At the moment, he is playing well for Dortmund and has arguably been England’s best player over the last year. We need to give him credit for the maturity he has shown and how he is handling the spotlight at the moment.
Gazza played like he was playing in the yard with his mates. He didn’t respect any other player or team. He’d walk into an international tournament and treat it like it was the
League Cup - it was just another game to him. At the World Cup in 1990, he didn’t even know any of the opposition players! He didn’t know who they were. He didn’t even watch the other matches, his focus was on what he could do. He believed that he was the best player in the world and he just wanted the ball.
I think Jude Bellingham is heading in the right direction, but he isn’t in Gazza’s class at the minute. I think we should judge him in the years to come. When Jude is in his late twenties, we’ll be able to really know. From the first kick of the tournament in 1990, everybody could see that Gazza was going to be the man. Jude is gradually growing into the tournament and he has had spells in games where you think, “wow”. Gazza was constant on the pitch and he was a constant irritation off the pitch (laughs)! I roomed with Gazza throughout that tournament and I had about three hours sleep! I think whoever is rooming with Jude, if they even share rooms these days, will get a lot more sleep than I did, put it that way!
On Bellingham, a lot of talk is now centred around the clubs that will try and sign him. Do you expect him to join a Premier League club in the summer and where do you think he will choose?
I’m sure that he will want to come and play in the Premier League. Eventually he will get disillusioned with Dortmund because they are always the bridesmaid. They are a great team to watch, but never seem to be able to compete with Bayern and win anything, or at least they haven’t for a while.
Dortmund always sell their best players. Sancho left, who, being honest, hasn't done it since he signed for Manchester United. Haaland has gone into City - whoever shines in that team usually gets sold.
If he is going to come to England he needs to pick the right team. He’s already established himself at Dortmund at a young age and won’t want to go to a club where he isn’t playing every week. I think the best thing for him could be to play for a couple more seasons in Germany and add to his game and football education. He’s playing for a big club and getting picked for England. He’s 19, so there isn’t any need for him to rush.
I wish I had joined Marseille earlier in my career. You learn so much about football and life when you play abroad. I wish that more English players would go and play in different leagues, even if it’s on loan.
It is becoming more common for younger players to join clubs in Europe where there is a faster progression into the first team, where there are more opportunities. If you’re an older player that isn’t playing, go and play abroad and test yourself. When you finish your football career, you don’t want to say I made 200 appearances for five clubs. You should be looking at playing 600-700 games. I don’t get it when certain players move from club A to club B and swap one bench for another. Of course, there are financial incentives, but the most important thing for any player should be to play.
We know that Jude’s price tag will be very high, so there are only a handful of clubs that can realistically sign him.
I don’t want Bellingham to experience what is happening with Jadon Sancho at Manchester United. Sometimes these moves don’t work out. I saw that Sancho hasn’t travelled to Spain with the rest of the United team for their mini pre-season - you have to worry about his future at the club. Maybe United could give Dortmund a call and do a swap deal, because the Sancho we’ve seen at United isn’t the same player as the one they signed from Dortmund.
It is crazy how Sancho hasn’t done it after such a big move…
It’s a different league with different pressure. He’s had some great players to work with at United. I don’t understand how he hasn't learned anything from the likes of Fernandes or Ronaldo. Maybe he lacks a bit of maturity. Ten Hag has brought in Antony and he has used a couple of youngsters over Sancho in Elanga and Garnacho. Sometimes the grass isn’t always greener. I think if he had stayed and kept playing for Dortmund he wouldn’t have missed the World Cup - his game was perfect for the Bundesliga.
Harry Maguire was a player that a lot of people said shouldn’t be starting at this tournament for England. He has played and, on the whole bar a couple of iffy moments during the first game and against Senegal passing the ball, he has performed well. Do you think his performances justify the faith that Gareth Southgate has shown in the player?
Harry Maguire rarely lets Gareth Southgate down. He had a sticky patch before the tournament in the Nation’s League matches and, to be honest, I was worried about him and England going into this World Cup. Maguire has definitely suffered since ten Hag has gone into United because he plays a high tempo, pressing game and Harry’s never been blessed with outstanding pace. Playing in a higher line, he found it hard. I suspect that ten Hag would be looking to move him on and I don’t think he has a future at Manchester United under him.
Certain players suit certain tactical options and managers. Whether England plays with three centre backs or two, we don’t really press teams that high and Harry doesn’t get exploited as much with balls in behind. Playing under Gareth for England suits him. I feel like there is a lack of pace between Maguire and Stones that could get exploited against France. I think that could be the one weakness within our team.
A lot of people are expecting him to make a mistake and have been waiting for that to happen. For a kid who has had a lot of knock-backs, he looks very confident. Fair play to him for the way he has responded to the criticism that he has faced from fans and media. It’s not easy to hear your name booed after it gets read out, it's hard to switch that off. If Maguire says that he doesn’t hear that, I don’t believe him.
In 86 and 90, we didn’t have a clue what was being said or going on at home, but this group of players will be aware of everything that is being said.
I think he deserves credit…
He does. It’s not easy to play football for your country when you’re getting hammered by the media and fans. He’s faced up to every challenge and it takes a brave man to do that. Fair play to him.
On the other side of the coin, one player that hasn’t featured is Leicester’s James Maddison. There was a lot of noise around his inclusion because of his Leicester form - do you think that he can make an impact at this World Cup or do you think it will be hard for him to get onto the pitch ahead of Southgate’s preferred subs like Grealish and Rashford?
I think it will be really tough for him. Grealish is ahead of him. Mason Mount is ahead of him. Henderson has come into the team in the three. Rashford of course. I think he is way down the list.
He’s played well for Leicester. I like what he has offered when he played on the right of their midfield.
I think if he is to have an impact, then you have to look at his delivery from setpieces. He has so much talent. Some people question his work rate without the ball. If you look at the players Gareth picks, they all work very hard.
Unfortunately, in England there is a lack of trust for flair players. We never have (trust in them) and we never will. We like guys that work hard. England has produced some amazingly talented technicians on the ball who would get a hundred caps if they played for France or Spain.
There has always been a conservatism from England around flair players. Unfortunately for Maddison, I don’t think we will see him bar a cameo role.
On the point about not trusting flair players to do it in an England shirt, why do you think that is? Is it a cultural thing?
It’s definitely cultural. We rave about other players in other countries, but seem to overlook some of our own. I think we’re producing really talented, attacking players. When I played for Marseille, Platini said to me, “If you were French, I’d pick you in my team”. Under Graham Taylor, I struggled to get in the England team and my teammates were amazed (Chris was part of a Marseille team that won three consecutive titles between 1990-1992).
The fans love flair players but the coaches don’t. Coaches will only pick a flair player if they can also do the other parts of the game, track back, keeping your discipline. You needed to be an all-action footballer, certainly to get into the England team under Graham Taylor. I did find it annoying that I had to go to France for my game to be appreciated.
Looking back over the years, English flair players have always been questioned about doing the uglier side of the game. Watch Mbappe without the ball. What does he offer without the ball? His job in that team is about one thing - making things happen at the other end of the pitch and, if you’ve got a player that can make the difference and score you those goals, happy days.
When I played for Sheffield Wednesday, Carlton Palmer, who was another player that used to get a lot of stick playing for England, was brilliant to play with. He used to say, “I’ll get the ball back and give it to you. I’ll run all day for you because I know that you can win us the game.”
I had that in France and I had that with Terry Venables during my last season at Tottenham. You can’t imagine Gareth Southgate saying to Foden or Saka, play like Mbappe. Stay up the pitch, let the other guys do your defending and wait for the opportunity to come to life. Don’t chase and harry people, save your energy and be ready to do your stuff at the top end of the pitch. I bet that never happens in an England team talk.
When I signed for Marseille, they told me that you can have a free role, we don’t want you to defend. They said that they had paid a lot of money for me and wanted me at the other end of the pitch. I’d never experienced anything like that before and just laughed - I didn’t think they were being serious, but they were being deadly serious.
I think you can always accommodate attacking players in a team and give them a free role if you balance your team in the right way, but the English attitude needs to change. If Neymar was wearing an England shirt he’d get hammered. If Mbappe didn’t track back he’d be called lazy.
I think Grealish is the perfect example of England not completely trusting a flair player. You can see why he isn’t starting for Gareth because he likes all his players to offer something off the ball, but I think every team needs players like this, but in England there is a reluctance to play with them or bed them into a team.
If you look back over the years, flair players haven’t been given that many caps by England. The England teams I played in played a 442, I was wide so I had to work hard up and down the pitch. It was impossible to pick up the ball 80 yards from goal and run the length of the pitch, but that was what we were expected to do. England have never played to their strengths in that regard. We’ve never looked to build a team around our attacking players.
Do you think that the reluctance from England teams in the past to embrace attacking players has contributed to England’s failure to deliver on the biggest stages?
Yeah. Look at the international teams that win trophies. Germany didn’t have an outstanding flair player when they won it in 90, but they had Voller and Kinsmann and obviously Matthaus.
Zidane and Platini. These players were allowed to express themselves. I feel like England has prioritised graft first. Historically, other countries have always done it better (integrating attacking players) than England.
On England At The World Cup
This team looks to have the perfect blend of youth and experience, with players that have won a lot of major trophies. How do you think that this crop compares to England teams of the past?
I think this is a great group of players. You can see that they all get on really well. Team spirit is really important. I’m sure there will be some players that are frustrated by their lack of game time, but they will look back on being there and part of it as a huge honour.
The group fights for each other and confidence looks high. I really believe that for England, the tournament starts now. Looking back at 1990, when we got into knock-outs and played Belgium, we knew it would be hard, but the threat of elimination focusses everyone’s minds and in many ways, the knockout games are easier to play because you know what is at stake.
We felt that we could win it in 1990. We were confident. All of the matches we played were very close, but we got over the line. You need to think that you can win it if you’re going to achieve anything in a tournament. It’s not a case of being cocky or arrogant.
You were part of some great England teams, reaching the quarter-finals in 1986 and the semi-finals in 1990. Do you think that this group of players can go all the way - what does Gareth Southgate need to do?
He needs to get the best out of his attacking players. The likes of Foden, Saka, Kane. To be fair, they haven’t let him down so far.
You also need to look at each opponent. I think Gareth Southgate would be daft not to. I know some managers in the past have said that they don’t worry about what the opposition can do, but if you want to ignore Mbappe, Dembele and Giroud, then that is a little bit disrespectful and you’re asking to be punished.
Gareth will be weary of what France can do. They will create chances, we have to hope that they don’t take them or when England get up the other end of the pitch, we can hurt them. This game will be decided by margins and the team that can muster the best performance from their back four and goalie will win.
France will be worried about keeping our attacking players at bay. On the day, it's all about taking the chance. I think we’re in for a classic.
There'll be a lot of respect shown. France won’t go onto the pitch thinking they have one foot in the semi-final and we’ll show them the same level of respect. So the first challenge is to beat France.
England vs France
You mentioned earlier that you would like to see England match France. I assume that means playing on the front foot with a back four?
I think it would be daft of Gareth Southgate to go with a back five. I think England should match them. Luke Shaw and Kyle Walker have massive responsibility. I don’t think there is a lot between the two teams in the midfield. Griezmann is dangerous, but so is Bellingham.
We’ll need to get our wide forwards in the game attacking the French full backs to have any chance.
France have been heavily backed and look like the best team at the tournament so far, they certainly have the best player in Mbappe. I think that this could go all the way to a penalty shoot-out and if that happens, the pressure becomes greater for England.
As someone that played in France, winning three titles, what do you think the feeling will be like in France as they face England. Will the team and the fans be worried about facing England? If we are going to beat them, is there an area in the team that England should target?
The French will be feeling very confident. People can confuse confidence with arrogance, but the French aren’t like that. In fact, I used to think they were quite soft when I played over there - mummy’s boys.
They are world champions who have seen it and done it. They know what to do. They’ll be expecting a tough, physical game. Mbappe is on fire. Giroud’s just become their leading goalscorer. You don’t know what you’re going to get from Dembele, he could easily be the best player on the park and, if he isn’t performing, Deschamps can turn to Coman who is a very good player. This is a great French squad even though they are missing some key players like Pogba, Kante and Benzema. It is full of talent.
Looking back at my time in Marseille, six or seven of the players were regulars in the French team including Deschamps. They were always quietly confident and they didn’t fear anyone - they were looking to stamp their authority on the game and this team will believe that they are the best team at the tournament. They’ll go into this match thinking they can beat us and they won’t be scared. They’ll respect us, but they won’t be frightened.
I think we can get at them on setpieces with the quality that we have. I also think we can target Lloris who has been a bit hit and miss, I think his distribution with the ball at his feet isn’t great and that is an area we should be looking to exploit. If you put him under pressure when he’s on the ball, he’ll make mistakes.
I don’t think they have the best defence, they can be got at. They are not the most solid team in the tournament and we know that Varane has struggled at times in the Premier League. The wingbacks like to go forward, but they leave spaces that England can exploit. What gets this French team out of jail is the players they have going forward. France’s strength is in attack and if they drop in and ask England to break them down, that could backfire on them.
If France really goes for England, I can see them scoring a couple of goals at a minimum.
It will be a very tactical affair. This is really where the tournament starts for England and it's a massive test. We haven’t played anyone close to France’s level so far and it's a great opportunity to see how good we really are on Saturday night.
On Callum Wilson
Callum Wislon is a completely different player to Harry Kane. If England are winning against France and they are piling the pressure on, Wilson would be a good option to bring into the game because he can get in behind the French defence and hurt them with his pace.
On The Prospect Of penalties
We always build up penalties in England because of our history. Whenever the word penalties is mentioned, people are worried. From 1990 onwards, we’ve experienced heartache. They’ll be players on the pitch that will say “I’ll take a penalty” but it's easier said than done. I’ve got massive respect for anyone that steps up and takes a penalty at a major finals.
Lloris and Pickford are quite well matched when it comes to penalties. I wouldn’t say one player has an edge over the other or both were outstanding penalty savers.
If it were to go to penalties, you need a little bit of luck. A lot of England players will have the memories of what happened at the Euros, so that creates more pressure for them than France.
I don’t want to go over old wounds, but you stepped up, took one and missed in the 1990 semi-final. If it were to go to penalties, what would your advice to the players be?
I would say to them, get into the changing room and don’t take one (laughs)! I was never a penalty taker, but I put my hand up and, being honest, not a lot of the lads put their hands up or wanted to take one. I enjoyed the match and I felt like I had played well - I was confident.
We didn’t practise them and, I don’t think it makes an awful lot of difference if you do practise them because you can never recreate the moment in training. It’s impossible to cultivate that pressure. For example, there was a lot of talk about Saka never missing a penalty in training during the Euro’s, which is why he was on the list to take one in the final.
People talk about the walk. I can’t remember anything about the walk, I just put the ball down and took it. Originally I was going to place it, but when Stuart Pearce missed I thought I would hit it as hard as I can and if the keeper gets a hand to it, it'll go in.
If Saka and Rashford step up a game, fair play to them. It is a unique situation and we all know what our record is like in penalty shootouts. If it went that far and we got through it, what a confidence boost that would be. I hope it doesn’t go to penalties, but there’s a fair chance it will because both sides could cancel each other out.
As someone that experienced the heartache of losing in a major finals on penalties, and as someone who was brave enough to step up and take one - what would your words of advice be to this group of players with the prospect of taking a pen?
Can you give me a score prediction for Saturday night Chris?
I can see France scoring. I think there are going to be goals in the game. England 3-2.
LORD PING, THE ONLINE CASINO FOR OPINIONATED PLAYERS!
Disclaimer: Opinion content is provided by experienced journalists and are not the views of Lord Ping