Ian Abrahams in Russia: Ian’s England verdict
Broadcaster Ian Abrahams is teaming up with Marathonbet for the duration of the 2018 World Cup to cast his eye over all the action on the pitch in Russia.
Here are Ian’s thoughts on how England are shaping up ahead of their opening game against Tunisia.
Read his predictions for this weekend’s games here.
The one thing that’s really encouraging from an England point of view is no-one let themselves down in those two games.
The likes of Rashford, Rose and Henderson all performed well which means everyone is still in contention. That will give Gareth plenty of food for thought.
The danger now is everyone’s expectations have probably crept up again a little too much after a decent set of friendly results, but England are in a good place going in to the game with Tunisia.
I’ve been really impressed with the way Gareth has handled both qualification and the build-up to the tournament. His appointment might have been a bit of a happy accident, but he’s a very articulate man and a great figurehead for a young side.
He’s come through the system and if you look at the success other international teams have enjoyed over the last decade, following that model makes sense going forward.
Look at the success of Spain and Germany in bringing through generations of players. It’s increasingly rare for leftfield players, like a Vardy, to break in at the last minute. Most come up through the U21s and age groups below – which makes someone like Gareth the ideal fit.
The mood in the camp
Gareth’s media day was inspired. He’s a big NFL fan and that set-up had a real American feel to it, different to any other tournament with England that I can remember. It generated a really open, welcoming atmosphere around the camp.
That can only be a good thing in helping forge trust between the players and the media.
Long may it continue.
The lost art of defending
England’s weak point is in defence, but I don’t think they are alone in that at this tournament.
Football has changed massively over the last few years. There’s so much more focus on attacking play. Just look at the likes of Man City and Liverpool this season and how they set up.
No-one will be talking about great defensive play at this World Cup. When a talented Brazil side can ship seven goals in a semi-final, that just shows you how things have changed.
I remember speaking with Gary Cahill a while back about his experiences of playing in those high tempo games. Obviously, they are a nightmare for any defender but great for the neutral, and teams are getting better all the time at exploiting any sign of defensive weakness.
There will definitely be plenty of goals at this World Cup.
This is a great stage for Kane to prove himself.
I’ve been lucky enough to watch Harry at several England youth tournaments down the years and he’s always had that insatiable appetite for scoring.
He would have been frustrated not to have got off the mark at a major international tournament in Euro 2016, but that just means he’ll be desperate to get that monkey off his back here.
Looking at England’s group you also can’t dismiss his chances of winning the Golden Boot if he scores a hatful in the first few games.
Let’s be honest – it’s a gimmee of a draw for England. They should comfortably make the last 16 considering the opposition in the group. I’ve watched a bit of Panama and it’s hard to describe how poor they are.
The big question will come after that – will it really be any different for England this time around when things get a little harder?
I can genuinely see England surprising a few people in this tournament, especially if Kane is fully firing.
It won’t be easy, but a run to the semi-finals isn’t completely out the question if everything clicks into place.
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