Paul Merson picks his England XI to face Croatia, clarifies why Gareth Southgate’s team cannot be taken in by their opponents’ poor form, and hints Jude Bellingham to celebrity.
‘The Magic Man’, who went to two finals championships with England in the 1990s, informs Sky Sports why England must approach their opening game with a back three, using a’cup final’ against Scotland coming up after their clash with Croatia.
I have watched enough of this previous few games to see we’ve not got anybody who’s prepared to run without the ball. Sterling will do that, we need that. If we do not run with no ball, I don’t see how we’re going to do anything. He’s not been in great shape, but he runs with no ball and that is the one shining light I’ve seen in the last few games, nobody is really ready to run with no ball.
I don’t think we’re good enough at the back, you have seen that at the last few games and that is average teams, ordinary teams. Romania aren’t even going to the tournament, and it was harder to not qualify than to arrive. They moved a bit too readily; people will say that is not our appropriate team, but this really is a game where you can not afford to lose you’ve got to be somewhat cagey and have that insurance in the back.
Walker provides you that together with his speed, and you have then got two out-and-out full-backs who will bomb forward. That’s just another two assaulting options, you then say to the three in the rear, you shield, and you have got Rice as an insurance plan to quit getting caught on the counter, and you allow the others go and assault and find a win for all of us. We must play three at the back, a lot of times they’ve been opened in the previous few friendlies.
Maguire’s experienced in his organisation. This is a hard tournament to win, you put Brazil and Argentina inside, and it’s the World Cup. Who can win the World Cup out Europe? You may only say both. This is a tough tournament. You can not lose your first game, then you’re up against it, especially using Scotland coming up next where you know you’re going to need to pull up every sock to beat them because it is their cup final.