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Admittedly late… What to take from England’s qualifiers

So England finally stumbled over the line to yet another major tournament and already the media and public are getting out of their collective prams about their chances. Admittedly, there has been a little more realism than normal but still a worrying percentage of people are getting all nationalistically driven to believe England have some kind of chance – quoting Chelsea’s Champions League victory or Greece’s European win as some kind of marker.

These misconceptions aren’t new things, but both Chelsea and Greece had a lot more going for them when entering the tournament than England do now – Greece were extremely well drilled and players all hit top form at once but had a settled group. Chelsea still had some fading top quality players and had a nuclear slice of luck on their side throughout their run in – England have neither of these and I hardly see England making their own luck considering the amount they would need to overcome their quality deficit. The way England performed against Montenegro and Poland was hardly that based on skill and technical ability that has kept them so far away from the top nations for years but a Premier League based game of pace and direct running, something that the best defenses will snuff out quicker than you’d imagine. Much has been made of how offensively they set up and played but when you have to win your final two games against supposedly weaker opposition; how much of an option do you have?

Andros Townsend’s performances epitomised the nature of England’s game and the wonderment with which people saw his game – he ran in straight lines fast, that was it. Admittedly, Townsend produced a great deal more of a final product than many wingers have done in the past for England but this is quite a revelation for Townsend compared to his hit and miss – occasionally greedy – performances for Tottenham. The typical overly unnecessary and unwarranted pressure will be piled on Townsend but the matter of fact remains he has had two impressive, yes, but quite simple performances for England so it’s far from time to get carried away about him.

On the whole, England were lucky against Poland, the number of chances they handed to Robert Lewandowski could’ve ended rather more clinically on another day and this current English back line doesn’t seem capable of handling top quality forwards as Zlatan Ibrahimovic exhibited with his demolition of England all too recently. Lewandowski fluffed a couple of clear-cut chances that may have just proved it was England’s day and they scrambled away to Brazil without the agonising process of qualifiers that now look all the more daunting considering the sides left in their and both Cristiano Ronaldo and Franck Ribery awaiting the draw later this month – what a disappointment it would be for a World Cup without two of the top players around, as Ibrahimovic and Sweden also await the draw.

Finally, if anything can really be taken from England’s qualification from what was considered an easy group and the huffing and puffing they messed around with in the process, it is this; there is no need to take players who are peaked or past it to this world cup, take a couple of the seniors – Gerrard and Cole and fill the rest with the players who could win trophies in the next two or three major tournaments. With this in mind, my suggested squad of 23 would be as follows:

Goalkeepers: Butland (1st choice), Forster, Hart

Defence: Clyne, Walker, Caulker, Jones, Smalling, Cole, Shaw, Wisdom

Midfielders: Gerrard, Chalobah, Carroll, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Barkley, Redmond, Morrison, Wilshere

Strikers: Sturridge, Rooney, Ings, Hooper

Written before the Chile and Germany matches, another review will be approaching in the light of those performances.

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