Alan Shearer selects his England starting XI v Tunisia
Newcastle legend makes a couple of big World Cup calls…
The two games against Nigeria and Costa Rica will have given Gareth Southgate some selection headaches, which can only be a positive, as there were encouraging signs in both games.
When you look at how Gareth has rotated the ‘keepers, I think it’s obvious Jordan Pickford will start in goal, with Butland and Pope the reserves in that order.
There will be three across the back, with Kyle Walker on the right-hand side of the three, and his Man City team-mate John Stones in there as well.
The third spot is less easy to call, with Harry Maguire and Gary Cahill both in the running. I didn’t think Maguire’s distribution was that good against Costa Rica, and Gary Cahill got the goal against Nigeria and will always be a threat from set pieces.
Cahill also has greater experience, and in what is a young squad, that will also count in his favour and he could just edge it now.
When it comes to the left-sided wing-back, Gareth has another big decision to make, between Ashley Young and Danny Rose.
I would favour Rose. He’s naturally left-footed, and speaking from a striker’s selfish point of view, it’s easier to judge your run when a left-footer is whipping the ball into the box, or down the line, rather than when a right-footer like Young is having to turn back inside.
Rose is the more natural defender as well, and the good game against Costa Rica could have seen him get the nod.
On the right-hand side it looks as if Kieran Trippier has the made the spot his, and although Trent Alexander-Arnold has had an incredible season, making his England debut and the Champions League final, I think that’s the correct call.
The Liverpool man is one for the future, and if he’s called up here he won’t let anyone down, but Trippier is the right man to start here, although it’s another nice dilemma for Gareth to have.
We shouldn’t be on the back foot against Tunisia, and also with three at the back, there shouldn’t be any need to have two holding midfielders.
There’s so little between Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson, so only judging on Henderson being captain last night, I think he could be the one to start in the middle of the park.
Gareth has hinted that in the first two games he will only play one in the middle, Henderson has had an excellent season for Liverpool, plays with plenty of energy, he played well in the Champions League, and did what he had to do against Costa Rica.
Moving into the forward positions, this is where it gets interesting but let’s start with the easy one, Harry Kane. I don’t think there’s any doubt he will start! The final three spots are harder to call.
I’ve gone into a major tournament on the back of a manager giving me huge support and confidence. Terry Venables told me a month ahead of Euro ’96 that I would be starting the first game, even though I’d gone nearly two years without scoring for England.
That was brilliant man management, and I think Gareth may have done something similar with Raheem Sterling and told him the number 10 spot is his, which should give him the freedom to go out and perform.
But make no mistake, he does now have to go and deliver on the pitch, because his goal-scoring record for England just isn’t good enough for a guy with his ability.
He does play with energy and has the pace to get in behind defenders, and defenders always hate playing against pace, so I do think he will just edge it ahead of Marcus Rashford. But Rashford has put huge pressure on Sterling with his performance on Thursday night.
Watching the Man United forward against Costa Rica, what struck me most was how comfortable he looked, compared to the FA Cup Final.
He looked confused that day, but at Elland Road, he played with freedom and confidence, and of course, scored a terrific goal. If Sterling doesn’t play well, Gareth has a player who could take his place.
Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard complete the line-up. Ruben Loftus-Cheek brings something different to the squad, and played well against Costa Rica, but Alli came on and created the goal for Welbeck, and Lingard is another with the pace to scare defenders.
Pacey squad a plus
A few months ago Gareth may not have had the options he now has, and it’s a great problem for him, but I’m still not getting carried away!
We have a very youthful, very energetic, and pacey group of players, and with that, you will always have a chance.
We got two decent results against Nigeria and Costa Rica, the latter looked poor but a lot of that was down to how well England played, how they went after them and pressed them.
I’ve not changed my opinion on how far this side can go, but in knock-out football you just never know.
They look a vibrant group of players, the build-up has gone well, and the squad is fit and confident, so there are lots of positives, but, and it’s a huge but, it’s very different when the tournament starts.
Take England on the road
I’ve been saying it for a long time now, there is absolutely no reason why England games shouldn’t be played around the country.
The atmosphere at Elland Road was superb, and it would be the same at St James’s Park, Old Trafford, Anfield, wherever, you’d get a full house.
38,000 at Elland Road made twice the noise of 70,000 at Wembley, and it also gives fans a chance to see England, as the vast majority of people can’t get to Wembley easily.
When Wembley was being rebuilt I played for England at the Stadium of Light, and there was a brilliant atmosphere, despite it being Sunderland, even I got a great reception!
I do hope this is something the FA continue to do, take England games around the country.