England are better than Golden Generation - and Southgate won't make same error

mirror.co.uk, 24 November 2022, 19:56
England walked past Iran with a superb performance in their World Cup opener - but Gareth Southgate may still want to change his lineup for the clash against USA

The biggest compliment I could give Gareth Southgate's current England side is that they already edge the Golden Generation.

On paper, you'd say: 'Definitely not'. The likes of Rooney, Rio, Gerrard, Lampard, Terry and Ashley Cole were outstanding players. Better players. Legends. But as a team - with the emphasis on team - this England side has already gone further, to a major tournament final.

The Golden Generation were individual warriors but as a team their major tournament failures against top nations left them scarred. Think Portugal in 2006, Germany in 2010, Italy knocking us out of Euro2012 and even Iceland dumping us out of Euro 2016 in the last 16.

Southgate's current England boys have no fear. They have a better cohesion and a better fluidity.

We only beat Iran but I don't think I've ever seen an England side pass the ball and play football that expansive and free-flowing before. Have you? In the last World Cup we played Panama and hit them for six too but we didn't play, move the ball or show as much focus as we did against the Iranians this week.

You only have to look at Argentina losing to Saudi Arabia and Germany being embarrassed by Japan to know that every team has to be respected in this competition. Of course, optimism back home will now be sky high after that. We are a country of extremes.

But I feel good about us facing the USA. I'd perhaps just use Kyle Walker as the right-sided centre-back and drop Mason Mount to the bench so that we can deal with the speed of the USA attack. This will also be a match where our wing-backs will need discipline to stop their wingers who play high - Christian Pulisic and Tim Weah - from getting in behind. But we will cope.

What will the score be between England and USA? Let us know your predictions in the comments below.

I'd still play Harry Kane up front because even at 75-80percent fit, he is still the best striker in the world. And if he has trained then his ankle injury clearly isn't as serious as it seemed. So we have every reason to feel confident without being complacent going into this.

Even from club level, I know that it's impossible not to get carried away. When I was at Crystal Palace we knew we were at our most vulnerable after a win. I remember, for example, when we beat Man City, scoring three at the Etihad (I may have scored a half decent goal that day!).

Three days later on Boxing Day, Cardiff held us to a goalless draw at home.

And I've seen in certain places a similar over-confidence. We've gone from having the worst national team, and questions about whether "negative" Gareth should go - to suggestions we are now the best team in the world! We never have a happy medium.

But Gareth knows how to find it.

People might think: 'We've just won 6-2 playing great football! Why change anything??'

But this is why the golden generation didn't win anything. They put all the best players on the pitch without adapting the team they were playing. If we go out all guns blazing against the USA we will be picked off. Gareth knows that and I suspect the players know that.

I also know from experience that when you play for Gareth he and his team are terrific at blocking out all the outside noise - both negative and positive. They'll be focused and ready to go.

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