Tonight at 7.45pm on ITV, England play Slovenia in their penultimate World Cup Qualifier. The team only need 2 points from the last two qualifiers to finish top of Group F. The fans and Gareth Southgate want it accomplished tonight.
Southgate proclaimed “They have to win the game.” He continued “With their position in the group, and Slovakia’s second game being against Malta which you’d expect them to win, Slovenia need to win which makes them a dangerous opponent.”
Currently leading Group F by 5 points, having won 6 and drawn 2. One England draw was vs. Slovenia. It was a truly uninspiring and desperate display by Gareth Southgate’s men.
Why it is a must win game?
The Three Lions can’t fall into the trap of believing this is an easy game. Slovenia are third in Group F and are looking to leapfrog Slovakia to a qualifying spot. Slovenia have a great defensive record during the campaign so far, only conceding 4 goals, including the previous clean sheet playing England. England have to therefore attack from the outset and impose their will on Slovenia. It would be a mistake to allow Slovenia to settle into a groove.
In reality a team like England need to be destroying sides like Slovenia if they have any hope of going far in Russia next year. They have all the talent going for them, Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Jack Butland, MARCUS RASHFORD and even frigging Jordan Henderson. The examples I have just given are all youthful players admittedly, but it doesn’t matter, talent is talent. Just ask Graham Taylor….
Slovenia respectively don’t have the same sort of talent in their squad. They have one player, in goalkeeper Jan Oblak, who plays for a “big” team (Athletico Madrid). There are a few players who play in mid tier top league teams in France and Italy, however I doubt they’ll set the world alight.
Helping the Scottish
One interesting reason that I believe England need to win, is because it can assist Scotland. I know, I know. We hate the Scottish. Really however it is always a lot more interesting in these competitions seeing how the little engine that could fare against the top teams and players of the world. It’s also truly great to see as many UK teams as possible in the fight for glory.
If England beat Slovenia and Scotland beat Slovakia tonight, then they jump straight up to second. All Scotland have to do then is draw with Slovenia on Sunday and the double bubble Qualifying dream is in full swing.
No Dele, No Welly
Dele Alli is suspended. During England’s 2-1 win over Slovakia in September, Dele gave an offensive gesture to either the referee or to Kyle Walker. Therefore England are without one of their most consistent performers and a great playmaker in the number 10 role. Who will fill the void to link of with Harry Kane from midfield? Jordan Henderson? Raheem Sterling? Marcus Rashford? Unfortunately I don’t believe that these players will give Kane the service he needs to keep banging them in. Sterling and Rashford will be on the wings and they are not exactly known for great crossing ability, while Jordan Henderson, well he’s Jordan Henderson.
More Heart Needed
England need to show they have depth and heart, while potentially helping out another home nation. They need to show that without Alli and without the newly retired Rooney, that they have the ability to push on when their most inspiring players aren’t on the pitch. The Three Lions also have to show how much they want this, how much it means to them and give back pride to the national team. As fans have suffered long enough watching England get dumped out of every competition due to horrific team morale. We want to see an invigorated and inspiring team performance.
Important to mention also, is that we fans need to get behind them. Stop the negativity of “It’ll never change, they always fuck us” and cheer them on when they look lacklustre. Let’s give the team a reason to be excited to play in front of us and to show us what they can do. For too long the players have feared the backlash of the press and the fans. Let’s give them confidence and in turn they will show us what they can really do. This generation of English footballers, looks like one of the most exciting yet, let’s now back them, even when they’re down.
I do think England will win tonight, but it will be close. 1-0.