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The Questions That Need Answering As England Face USA & Croatia

The Questions That Need Answering As England Face USA & Croatia
Thursday,November 15,2018

The last international break of the year presents multiple opportunities for Gareth Southgate’s team. First, there’s the chance for new faces, and old, to shine in tonight’s friendly against the USA, before the possibility of qualifying for the UEFA Nations League League A play-offs when they host Croatia on Saturday. There are plenty of questions that can be answered over these two games, as the Three Lions look to end a memorable year on a high. Here’s a look at some of those questions:


Can new boys take their chance? Tonight’s match against the USA at Wembley is the perfect occasion for Southgate to try out some new faces, with four uncapped players and 10 players with five or less England appearances in the squad.


Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson is set to win his first cap, and fully deserves his chance. The Cherries front man is the joint top scoring Englishman in the Premier League with six goals, and is well on his way to becoming a fine all round forward, with pace, power and a fine eye for goal. If it wasn’t for two cruciate ligament injuries in as many years, he’d arguably be a regular member in the squad by now. It also means for the first time in quite a while, Southgate has another in-form centre forward to choose from, apart from Harry Kane.


With Harry Maguire missing through injury, Brighton’s Lewis Dunk will get a chance to stake his claim. Dunk has been outstanding at centre-half for a number of years, particularly since Brighton won promotion in 2017, forming excellent partnership with Shane Duffy. Michael Keane is also back, meaning there’s plenty of competition for places at the heart of defence, with John Stones and Joe Gomez seemingly the first choice options.


The exciting Jadon Sancho is reportedly to make his full debut tonight, after the 18-year-old has made an impressive start to the season at Borussia Dortmund, scoring five with eight assists, starting eight of his 17 appearances. There’s certainly plenty of competition for places with so many stand out young players making a mark, meaning the future could well be bright for the Three Lions.


Will Rooney end on a high? There’s been much talk about Wayne Rooney being given a farewell cap despite retiring from international duty last year. He’s come in for plenty of criticism, much of which is surely unwarranted for one of England’s greatest talents. He’ll win his 120th and final cap, making him the most capped outfield player of all time, and his 53 goals is the most by any player for England. It can be argued there’s not room for sentiment in sport, but given his undeniable record breaking service for the Three Lions, and the fact England are facing Rooney’s new homeland of the USA in an otherwise low key friendly, this presents the perfect moment and perhaps an exception to the rule.



His 10 goals for Everton last season, along with netting 12 in just 21 for DC United, proves he’s still got something left to offer and it would be great to see Rooney score his 54th international goal, and you certainly wouldn’t put it past him.


What about Alli and Lingard? Regulars Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard missed the last set of fixtures in October through injury, but it has to be said that England were a better unit without them. The stalemate in Croatia and the fine 3-2 victory against Spain saw England set up in a 4-3-3 formation, different from the 3-1-4-2 that accommodated Lingard and Alli in free roles in the attacking centre of the pitch at the World Cup, and in the defeat to Spain at Wembley. Both players have underwhelmed on the whole in recent times for the Southgate’s men, while Harry Winks and Ross Barkley made the most of their opportunity last month.


Barkley excelled in the middle of the park, given a free roaming role, while Raheem Sterling managed to break his three year goal drought with a brace in Spain, playing in his familiar role out wide in an attacking three, with Marcus Rashford impressing on the other wing. After that sensational performance against the Spanish, there’s no reason for Southgate to change a winning formula going forward, and if he does, surely there’s not room for both Alli and Lingard in this current side.


Can England come out on top? England have a chance, albeit a slim shot, of topping Group 4 of League A, meaning they’ll move through to next year’s play-offs against three of the other group winners. However a Spain win against an out of sorts Croatia will end those hopes, but victory for England and a failure for Spain to do so, will result in a fine group win for Southgate and co.


Even if they miss out, the clash against Croatia is another good chance for England to face a leading side in a competitive fixture, something that has arguably hindered them heading into a major championship, given the fact qualifying has become increasingly a stroll in the park. With just one win in five since breaking English hearts in the semi-finals, Croatia have struggled with a World Cup hangover and as they showed last month, England can be a force for anyone.


Predict the action: Starting with tonight’s friendly, we’ve got Match Predictors to play for both games, where you must predict the key action by answering seven question on how you see it unfolding. This includes the match result, with England favourites with a x1 multiplier, while a Rooney goal on his farewell will score double points at x2, which i’m sure the nostalgic upon us will get a piece of. Get your predictions in and enjoy the games in style!


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