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Gareth Southgate: Should England manager make changes?


England confirmed their place in the World Cup last 16 with the emphatic 6-1 win over Panama in Nizhny Novgorod – and will be joined by Belgium from Group G.

The two sides meet in the final group game in Kaliningrad on Thursday to decide who will top the table, with the result mapping out their subsequent routes through Russia.

It is not a dead rubber – but will England manager Gareth Southgate be tempted to make wholesale changes after opening the World Cup campaign with wins against Tunisia and Panama?

Should Gareth Southgate stick?

Striker Marcus Rashford (left) is one option for Southgate against Belgium

There is an unquestionable temptation to rotate an England team that has played two games in searing heat in Volgograd and Nizhny Novogorod and has also picked up knocks along the way.

England, however, are picking up momentum and confidence from those two opening victories so Southgate might risk disturbing those key elements should he shuffle his pack.

And momentum is a key factor in tournament football. History is littered with teams who have picked up momentum continuously throughout World Cups and Euros and charted a path to glory.

England also have a rhythm about their play that should only increase with selection consistency. These players are at home with each other and important details like England’s set-pieces, such a rich source so far here in Russia, are superbly grooved.

The biggest decision Southgate may have to make is over Harry Kane, who has emerged as England’s most significant figure, an inspirational captain who is currently the tournament’s leading goalscorer with five goals.

Kane is England’s talisman and he is highly unlikely to want to sit out the game with Belgium given its importance and also his desire, stated openly with great confidence before the game with Tunisia, to claim the Golden Boot as the World Cup’s top marksman.

He also only played 63 minutes against Panama in the taxing temperatures, removed and replaced by Jamie Vardy after completing his hat-trick, so it is highly unlikely Kane will be jaded or feeling the pace.

 

 


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