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By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer
England face a threat as their path to qualification for Euro 2020 continues to seem bit more than a formality – but it won’t come from some of the groups that they will face to next summer’s showpiece on the route.
Their opponents Group A could have been handpicked to get a passage by manager Gareth Southgate and the Football Association.
There’s a danger in cleaning aside impotent opposition with monotonous regularity that lies.
While Kosovo are up in St Mary’s on Tuesday at Southampton, bulgaria were disregarded 4-0 at Wembley. The Czech Republic have been beaten 5-0 at Wembley while Montenegro were outclassed.
Not precisely glorified friendlies but hardly testing events either.
England have now gone awry at every one of their past 42 Euro and World Cup qualifying games, winning 33 and drawing on nine.
A decade with no defeat qualifying is enormously impressive but the flipside of that is that the fat lot of good it’s done England when it has really mattered.
England’s run to the 2018 World Cup semi-final was a glorious sense shock, although the perceived victory has to be analyzed by the fact that they were defeated on the three occasions they met a side of serious caliber, namely Belgium double and Croatia in the previous four.
The World Cups of 2014 and 2010, along with the debacle of Euro 2016, supposed the Russian odyssey was an exception rather than the rule.
Even the make-up of Group A now means England are presented with the possibility of facing their most taxing competitive tests for 2 years – 12 months if we count on the inaugural Uefa Nations League weight loss loss to the Netherlands – once the significant action gets under way following summer.
The notion of England not qualifying is a non-starter. This isn’t arrogance but a statement of truth. It’s clear any Southgate assembles out of his squad should be good enough to ensure their place at Euro 2020 using the minimal of fuss.
It means there is truly a situation for Southgate getting his group to get Euro 2020 at the qualifiers using a policy of rotation. There are loads of promising candidates.
This was a selection by Southgate, passing on the claims of set Mason Mount for starting locations, preferring Jordan Henderson and Declan Rice as his eponymous men and Chelsea’s Ross Barkley further ahead out of Leicester and Chelsea City’s James Maddison.
Southgate opted for Atletico Madrid’s Kieran Trippier’s experience over Liverpool child Trent Alexander-Arnold at right-back – despite the latter form throughout the last 12 months.
The coverage cannot be criticised granted a victory that compelled England to crack sweat but there is a fantastic case for sprucing up England with youthful blood in St Mary’s on Tuesday.
It would not be a case of carrying Kosovo simply giving a flavor of the action to the youthful brigade of England for what might await summer when sterner assessments come, they’ll have to prepare them.
Much experimentation, even more solid common sense in readiness for the acid evaluations.
While the addition of Alexander-Arnold would hardly weakens the side of England leicester City’s Ben Chilwell will arrive in for hung Danny Rose in left-back.
Mount won his first cap as a substitute and there is a case for really playing with him or Maddison instead of the insurance policy of both Rice and Henderson. They can offer you Ross Barkley a viable alternative and serious competition, not as replacements for the future but surely as competitions.
The fantastic news for Southgate and England is that the present squad looks without endangering the package, like it might endure a fair amount of spinning.
England captain Harry Kane, using a hat-trick here to carry his England tally and go over 1966 World Cup final hero Sir Geoff Hurst from goalscorers’ all-time list, and Raheem Sterling are irreplaceable.
Kane, admittedly helped by a supply of penalties, and is building a body of work with England.
He contributes to the front in every regard, his tireless work a touchstone for this modern England, although his venture with Sterling progressively looks like a telepathic fit. Southgate has.
Southgate also has space for manoeuvre elsewhere which barely strips his starting XI of caliber.
In defence, Alexander-Arnold is a downgrade on Trippier from the absence of injured Aaron Wan-Bissaka and dropped Kyle Walker, while these midfield choices contain Tottenham’s Harry Winks.
The 19-year-old Jadon Sancho of borussia Dortmund has demonstrated that he resides smoothly at this level. He’ll enjoy more chances and the competitive stage.
England wouldn’t be belittling Kosovo or any of the potential competitions by shuffling their own bunch in qualifying. It would be an instance of seeing the larger picture.
It is an old concern – however it may be the beginning of Euro 2020, when confronted with the sort of forensic assessments that the best teams run, before we find out just how great this England team is and just how much progress has been made since they came up short in the semi-finals in the World Cup and the Uefa Nations League.
England have been here. This time they have to be ready for when the interrogation begins.
Read more: totalsporty.com/mlb-tips/
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