Ahead of England’s second World Cup group stage game against USA, Sky Sports’ Jamie Carragher reflects on the first week of the tournament and claims Gareth Southgate’s group are better than his Golden Generation.
Are this England better than Golden Generation?
I would agree with what Kyle Walker among others have said this week. They have achieved far more than any squad that I was ever involved with.
When we talk about that Golden Generation, we think of them as great individual players, but football is a team game and we never conquered that in terms of being a great team.
We were a great set of individuals and we saw that for the club sides more than at international level whereas a lot of these lads are taking their form in the Premier League onto the international stage.
If we were called the Golden Generation, these will have to be called something pretty similar.
Shocks make England’s win more impressive
I thought it (England’s 6-2 win against Iran) was very impressive especially in the aftermath given the shocks we’ve seen over the past few days.
I know how difficult it is, the first game of a World Cup, no matter who the opposition is – and that applies even more this time as there’s been no warm-up games at all.
I think that’s why we’ve seen some teams get shocked. I think it’s been England’s best start to a tournament since 1982 in Spain. Hopefully they can now kick on again on Friday.
What I think will help England is that this tournament has come in the middle of a season, whereas usually other nations have a winter break and that helps them come the summer time.
I don’t think it’s due them being able to handle the accumulation of games as that’s the norm for all top players in Europe.
Vital Kane is 100 per cent fit
I think it would be a big concern [if Kane couldn’t play] and I don’t think that’s being too disrespectful to the other strikers in the squad as there is a big drop-off to the other players behind Kane.
Over the last five years, Kane has been a world-class striker. He was the top goalscorer in the last World Cup and he’ll be looking to do the same by getting off the mark against the US.
We all know that Kane is one of the first names on the team sheet and the back-up behind him leaves him a bit weaker.
If Kane was to miss two or three games in this tournament, it would be a huge problem so it’s vital we’ve got him back at 100 per cent fit.
Maguire and Stones are Southgate’s first-choice
I think it’s always been the case. Most people would say they’re the two best centre-backs in this country, and that’s why Gareth Southgate has always gone towards them.
It’s been a tough few months for Harry Maguire and it was more about how he dealt with the situation mentally rather than his performances on the pitch.
For England, he’s been outstanding so I felt he would pick him. He’s always been very loyal towards players who’ve done well for him over the years – certainly in tournaments – so you can understand that from Southgate.
England will be disappointed they conceded two goals against Iran – and they also hit the woodwork. But Stones and Maguire are England’s best two and Maguire also hit the bar so he showed he can be adept from set pieces going forward. They will be coming up against much better opposition.
Bellingham can be England captain
To be captain of a club the size of Borussia Dortmund at the age of 19 as a young foreign player in Germany shows you how they feel about him.
We know he’s a special talent and he already feels like one of the main players in the England team. It’s only the very special players who do that – it was the same with Michael Owen and it was the same with Wayne Rooney.
I think Bellingham and Declan Rice are going to be the mainstays in England’s midfield for the next two or three tournaments. The two of them will be vying with each other over the next couple of years to see who is the next captain of England.
When Kane eventually gives the armband up and isn’t involved in the England squad, it’ll be either Bellingham or Rice who will be captain.
No one great team – could be won by an outsider
Whenever you go into a World Cup, you always feel only two or three teams can win it, but the fact that it’s a different World Cup in the middle of a season without warm-up games… there doesn’t feel like there’s one outstanding team in this era in the same way we’ve had Spain and France before.
Italy won the Euros and then didn’t qualify for the World Cup. In 2004, Greece won the Euros and Italy won the World Cup in 2006 when no one really thought they could. I feel someone could win it who we didn’t expect would win it before the tournament.
France have the best individuals and the best squad, but they’ve had so many injuries so you feel that might eventually affect them. England are in a group of six to eight teams who on any given day could beat each other. I feel it could be really open.
Blame FIFA and Qatar for OneLove armband row
I was disappointed that Gareth and the players decided not to wear the armband but I can understand it. Ideally, you don’t want Harry Kane on a booking going into a game. Gareth Bale was in the same situation with Wales.
He actually then got booked in the game against USA, so that would’ve meant him being suspended and of course not scoring the goal. So you have to think this through and I’m not going to be too critical of the captains.
A lot of this comes down to FIFA and the country hosting this tournament, which should never have happened. I’ve made my feelings clear about that.
It’s a joke and so if we’re going to point the finger it should be at the host nation and FIFA.