World Cup review: Day 6 - Group B gets interesting and Qatar get knocked outNov 25 | 8 min read
World Cup 2022 column: Glenn Hoddle - "Outside of Brazil and France, we've got as good a chance as anyone"
Ahead of the tournament in Qatar, BT Sport pundit Hoddle also discusses Gareth Southgate's squad selection, the Harry Kane situation and lessons to be learnt from previous tournaments as the Three Lions look to end 56 years of hurt.
On Thursday, Gareth Southgate named his England squad for the 2022 World Cup.
Much of the talk ahead of the announcement centred on whether James Maddison would be one of the 26 men included having often been frozen out of the Three Lions.
As it happened, the 25-year-old made the cut, reward for a hugely impressive start to the season in a below-par Leicester side.
Southgate has also opted for Harry Maguire and Kalvin Phillips, trusted lieutenants from previous successful tournaments despite barely featuring in 2022/23 so far.
Glenn Hoddle is a man well acquainted with the pressures of managing his country into a major tournament, guiding England to the knockout phase of the 1998 World Cup.
Speaking to BT Sport, he discusses the borderline squad selection decisions, whether England should play in a back three or four, and who he prefers as No 1, as well as addressing Antonio Conte's comments about Harry Kane.
What are your thoughts on the England squad?
I think it was pretty well expected. There were a couple of little question marks, but nothing [surprising] with the injuries that we’ve had. The big question was Maddison, whether he was going to go. I’m delighted to see that Gareth’s taken him. He’s in very, very good form.
This is a strange tournament, because it’s in the middle of a season when players are in form. They’re going to be an asset to Gareth. [The first game’s] going to come around very quickly. It’s ridiculous really, but it is almost a week to prepare [before England’s first match against Iran next Monday] and that’s it. Maddison going is a massive plus. He’s a really, really good player and should get his chance. I think he might be one who sneaks in his first XI, who knows?
[There were] a couple of big question marks whether Harry Maguire was going to go and Kalvin Phillips. [Southgate's] been bold with a couple of those decisions. Phillips is one that you never quite know with that shoulder.
He hasn’t played enough, and I think Gareth would know that is a real problem injury where you don’t know [because] you can’t test it. It’s not like the physios would’ve been saying: “I want you to slide down and take a tackle and land on that arm.” That’s a slight concern. Hopefully the boy’s OK.
He obviously doesn’t have enough match fitness, and Harry Maguire, he’s had some League Cup and European time on the pitch, but it’s a slight risk. He’s done very well for Gareth. He’s shown him some good loyalty there.
Do you think Maguire and Phillips are going because you’ve got a 26-man squad to select now instead of 23 or does it show England’s lack of depth in those positions and they probably would’ve made a 23-man squad anyway?
A little bit of both. My concern is about the defensive situation. How well we do in this tournament will be defined by how well we defend as a team.
I think we’ve got enough firepower, some midfield creativity there, whoever the keeper is – I think it will be Pickford – has got to have a good tournament. It depends on what shape [Southgate] plays as well.
I think he’ll probably go with a back four, but if it’s a back three he goes for, then he needs a bit of security. These are key questions for me for how well we will do because there are some exciting players in the squad going forward, it’s just we’ve got to get the balance right of how we defend and learn from the semi-finals when we were playing against better teams in the World Cup, and then when we got to the [Euro 2020] final last year, there were a few lessons that hopefully will be learnt that if we’re going to play a back three, don’t become too deep [and become] a back five.
They’re the things I’m hoping the squad can work at and come through and slightly readjust so that we can still be on the front foot playing that system, but I think Gareth will probably play with a back four. I would play with a back three. We don’t need to go into a five and be very deep.
We can be on the front foot in a lot of games, but against better opposition, I think that’s when we get found out a little bit defensively, how deep we go.
I played a back three for a long time, even when I was Swindon manager. Every shape, every system has got an Achilles heel. You have to work on the Achilles heel and know how to deal with that, and [the work] with the ball outweighs [the work] you’ve got to do defensively, so it’s about getting that balance right.
I’m hoping that there’s been a lot of things learnt in that system. If not, I think that’s why we’ve gone to a four. I’m not too worried about going into the tournament with not too much form from the Nations League. This is tournament football, this is different, this is about getting it right now at this moment in time.
How well we do in this tournament will be defined by how well defend as a team
- Glenn Hoddle
England haven't won their last six games, but the last two tournaments have obviously been a success. Do you think that success works in favour of the likes of Maguire and Phillips, who aren’t in form themselves but know what they’ve done at this level and in these tournaments for England?
Yes, I think that [success] gives you that quiet confidence. I think there is a group of players that will work together and like being in each other’s company. That’s one of the big things.
As an ex-England manager and an ex-England player, sometimes when you get a group of players together, it’s hard to get that club feeling, but I think Gareth and his staff, and with the age group of the players, I think they’ve done really well. They’ve got that feeling and they’ve got that trust.
Gareth has gone back and trusted a lot of different players that have done well for him and rightly so in many ways.
This team now can draw a line under the season, however you’re playing at the moment, however your club’s playing, it doesn’t matter. You’re going there as almost Club England, and I think there’s a lot of confidence there among these young lads.
What do you think the mood music is like around Southgate? It seems like, for the first time in his England tenure, he’s coming under a bit of pressure. Do you think that will create a different atmosphere going into this tournament?
I think there’s pressure anyway. There’s internal pressure when you’re England manager whatever. That would’ve been there in Russia and obviously in the Euros at home. That pressure of having a home tournament is enough anyway.
Because it’s in Qatar in the middle of a [season], it’s come at a good time for us. Normally [at international tournaments], we’re absolutely shattered from a long, hard Premier League season. It’s a fact.
The other leagues are not as strenuous, not as tough as the Premier League, so our lads will be fresher than they’ve ever been [going] to any World Cup. We’ve got to be positive about that.
What did you make of Antonio Conte’s comments about Harry Kane having to come off against Nottingham Forest because of fatigue? That seemed to be a bit of a strange one at this time of the year. It’s obviously been a condensed season so far, but most people would have been surprised that he was fatigued in November.
I can only go by what I’ve seen – I’ve seen Harry in the last two or three games – and he has looked a little bit fatigued, although he’s still put in good performances.
I covered the game for BT Sport in Marseille and he looked a little bit leggy, but he still contributed to the game in a really positive way. He looked leggy against Liverpool – wasn’t at his best – but he scored a terrific goal and he was affecting the game in a positive way, so I can understand what [Conte’s] saying, but I think it goes like this.
Sterling’s been the same. He’s not been at his sharpest, and that’s where I think the only club that really can get away with that is Man City because their squad goes so deep and suddenly Foden gets a rest and Grealish comes in, or Grealish is rested.
Harry will [now] be with different people, [in] different scenarios with the coaches. That might be a nice little rest for him mentally. In an ideal world, if Richarlison and Kulusevski had been fit for the last month, Harry would’ve been rested for the League Cup, but Harry’s Harry, he’ll come through that. The mentality approach will be different for the World Cup and he’ll be back to his very best.
Lastly, what constitutes success for England at this tournament?
I don’t know what success will be or not. France have not had great results going into this tournament, but like England, you draw a line under [that], particularly in the middle of the season. Yeah, [France are] missing some key players [like N'Golo Kante and Paul Pogba], but they’re very strong and Brazil look strong. They look very solid defensively.
Outside those two [nations], we’ve got as good a chance as Argentina, Belgium, anyone. There’s no reason we can’t go to the final and all the way. We’re capable of that. This is a really open World Cup. There’s no really hot favourite. Brazil and France are the favourites, but they’re not white-hot favourites where you think: “They’re a cut above everyone else.”
If [England] was a racehorse, you look at the form, we came fourth in the World Cup, second in the Euros. You’d be backing that horse, wouldn’t you? You’d be saying: “I fancy its chances, it’s ready to win.” Let’s look at it that way.