CHRIS SUTTON: Only four players are nailed on to start for England in World Cup opener against Iran

Only a half-dozen countries can win the World Cup this year, and England are one of them. But do you still trust them to perform?

The 4-0 home defeat by Hungary in June was the first time that England fans have turned on Gareth Southgate, with boos ringing out at Molineux and chants of ‘you’re getting sacked in the morning’.

After that humiliation, Southgate will know he needs a performance — you can’t go into a World Cup having lost 4-0 to Hungary, then defeated by Italy and Germany with two flat performances. We often get carried away heading into World Cups but I don’t think anyone’s going to be feeling optimistic if the performances aren’t there in the next four days.

Can it get much lower than Hungary? Well, if we aren’t up to it against Italy and Germany then we might be about to find out.

There were people who lost faith for the first time after June’s matches, but let’s get one thing straight: for all the negativity around Southgate after Hungary, this is a man who not so long ago took us to a Euros final and a World Cup semi-final. You can’t win as England manager — you beat Germany 2-0 at a Euros and hear, ‘It’s a poor Germany team’.

You get to a World Cup semi-final and ‘they had an easy draw’. This is a guy who has achieved really great things for England, he hasn’t quite got over the line but we can’t judge him just on what happened in June. We were a penalty shootout against Italy away from calling Southgate an absolute genius and the best manager since Sir Alf Ramsey.

The biggest issue for him is that with two months to go until Qatar, we’re all still so uncertain about who the best 11 players are and what the best formation is.

How many players can you say confidently are nailed down for a starting spot? Southgate loves Jordan Pickford, Harry Kane is nailed down, Declan Rice is nailed down, Raheem Sterling too. But other than that? He loves Mason Mount, but there have to be questions over the Chelsea man’s position in the team with his performances this season, and with so much talent going forward he can’t rest on his laurels.

These two games against Italy and Germany are really important for us all to feel the faith again in Southgate. The way they play in Milan tomorrow night and at Wembley on Monday is more important than the results. It’s about demonstrating flow, a style of play where we all have confidence in this England team.

It’s about stripping things back — does three at the back actually work in terms of us getting the ball into Kane and Sterling? Are there partnerships, combinations and patterns of play forming? There has to be something there in these games where we’re all sitting there thinking, ‘Wow, it looks like it’s going to click’, and the confidence will run from there.

England have struggled for goals recently, scoring only once in their four Nations League games in June, but lack of good attacking performances is a bigger worry.

There are so many options in wide areas and Southgate’s probably confused himself as much as anything. It’s really difficult for him with so few players in form.

There’s a lack of continuity, playing with different front lines and personnel. The one constant is going to be Kane and then you need players around him to suit his style of play. Sterling will be a certain starter, whether it’s 3-5-2, 3-4-3 or 4-2-3-1. We know Kane likes to drop deep and find runners in behind, and Sterling can do that. It’s really interesting when you think of the options we have going forward, and no surprise that Southgate can’t land on a set starting XI.

Mount has played various roles for England, Phil Foden has had a good start to the season at Manchester City, Foden’s team-mate Jack Grealish has been OK, and Bukayo Saka’s been excellent at Arsenal. Of all the options, Saka seems the one on current form who deserves an opportunity to start.

It’s a big week for Mount and Jarrod Bowen, with the likes of James Maddison, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho all in far superior club form but not in this squad. Southgate always seems to find a place for Mount in his team but he’s not daft, he knows that it all comes down to winning the World Cup. As an England fan I’d like to know more of the starting XI by now, but with so many players out of form or injured it’s created a massive conundrum for Southgate.

While I do think we’re one of the teams that can lift the World Cup in Qatar, I still rank France, Spain, Brazil and Argentina ahead of us. But if it does click, and it’s a big if with England at the moment, we have players capable of hurting anyone. Based on recent performances you wouldn’t expect that to happen, so we need to turn that around — starting this week against formidable opposition.

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  • 43 минуты назад 03.10.2022Sport
    Real Madrid president Florentino Perez insists football needs the European Super League

    Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has warned football fans that the sport is ‘sick’, as he continues to promote the European Super League.

    The 75-year-old was the chairman for the proposed ESL in 2021 which, due to backlash from fans all over Europe, was scrapped.

    But at Madrid’s recent annual general meeting, Perez seemed to reinstate his desire to see the competition formed in the near future.

    Speaking at the club’s AGM on Sunday, Perez said: ‘To fix a problem, you have to first recognise that you have a problem. Our sport is sick. It is losing its leadership as a global sport.

    ‘We mustn’t be confused by the impact of Real Madrid’s European Cup run when we were involved in seven games of the highest intensity and interest.

    ‘That was the result of the draw, and of the quality and greatness of our team. It was a spectacle that helped bring excitement back to the viewers.

    ‘That’s why we believe European competitions must change, to offer fans top-level games year-round between the strongest teams, with the best players competing.’

    Perez made reference to tennis, noting that recently-retired Roger Federer has regularly faced fellow elite players Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

    ‘In tennis, Nadal and Federer have played 40 times in 15 years. Nadal and Djokovic have played 59 matches in 16 years,’ Perez added, quoted by ESPN.

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    It’s true that Los Blancos have only come up against the Merseyside club nine times in their history – with five of those encounters coming since their Group Stage match in 2014.

    He continued: ‘We were top in all sports, and now we’ve fallen to 13th. We’ve been overtaken by 12 clubs from American sports. They must be doing something very well in the United States and very badly in Europe.

    ‘Football is losing the global entertainment battle against other sports and other platforms. We need a professional, modern, transparent management, not based on old structures designed in the last century.

    ‘Recently the chairman of the European Clubs’ Association [Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi] said – talking about the Super League – that Real Madrid are afraid of the competition. Maybe the president of the ECA has to be reminded who Real Madrid are. Competition is in our DNA.’

    Perez’s statements fall in-line with the recent suggestions made by Chelsea owner Todd Boehly, who claimed European football has a lot to learn from American sports.

    The Blues’ new co-controlling owner, who also owns shares of Los Angeles teams the Dodgers in Major League Baseball and the Lakers in the NBA, told a New York conference he has already floated the idea with Premier League counterparts.

    ‘Ultimately I hope the Premier League takes a little bit of a lesson from American sports,’ said Boehly. ‘And really starts to figure out, why don’t we do a tournament with the bottom four sports teams, why isn’t there an All-Star game?

    ‘People are talking about more money for the pyramid, in the MLB All-Star game this year we made 200 million dollars from a Monday and a Tuesday.’

  • 43 минуты назад 03.10.2022Sport
    World Cup 2022: Football fans in Qatar can’t watch matches on TV

    Football fans who have paid out huge sums for hotel rooms, apartments and villas at the Qatar World Cup face arriving to find no live TV coverage of the tournament there.

    That Mail on Sunday understands that a number of hotels in Doha have decided not to screen games, having been told they will have to pay host broadcaster BeIN Sports around 100,000 Qatari riyals (£24,000) for every restaurant or bar which shows them.

    The cost of making games available in rooms remains unclear, though hoteliers describe those fees to be unviable, too, with no flat rate per establishment. The costs are also thought to be affecting proprietors of rented villas and apartments.

    Hotels rooms are beyond the budget of many fans travelling to Doha, where even rudimentary metal cabins will cost a minimum of £176 per night.

    But fans who have paid out £400-a-night will be dismayed to find no in-room broadcasts and no games screened in restaurants and bars.

    Ashley Brown from the Football Supporters Association (FSA)’s ‘Free Lions’ team, which is working to help fans who want to get to the tournament, said: ‘This will be seen as another added frustration for the loyal fans travelling to Qatar for the World Cup.

    ‘With entertainment options already limited, watching matches on TV with fellow fans from around the world should be one of the tournament highlights.

    ‘Fans now face the possibility of rented villas, apartments, hotel rooms and other accommodation where they cannot watch games.’

    The Mail on Sunday also understands that the Qatari state is giving serious consideration to allowing the country’s 60 licensed hotels to serve alcohol for 17 hours a day during the World Cup – from 10am to 3am – and to drop the price.

    This is a significant change in a country where licensed premises currently don’t sell alcohol before 7pm, with even tighter restrictions on Fridays, a day of prayer.

    Government officials have circulated a note to licensed establishments suggesting the extension of hours and also canvassing opinion on a temporary lower alcohol price cap.

    The state sets the price of alcohol, which is typically costs £12-£15 a pint. Despite the circular, it is widely thought that the Qatari state has a £7- £8 price in mind and will simply impose it.

    With few accommodation sites expected to screen games, fans are being encouraged to use the official FIFA Fan Zone at Doha’s seafront Al Bidda Park, where alcohol will be served from 6.30pm to 1am.

    But there are concerns that that 40,000 capacity may not be adequate, with one million visitors expected in Qatar and few alternatives for the many not at a game.

    Alcohol is available from 10am to 5am at the 15,000 capacity Glastonbury-style Arcadia fan site, which has DJs.

    But the daily cost of entry there is expected to be an eye-watering £75. There will be no alcohol at the vast ‘cabin villages’ which are still under construction.

    BeIN Sports said it could not disclose commercial arrangements with hotel and accommodation providers. But it indicated that it had to recoup some of the huge fees for tournament broadcasting rights, as well as its investment in production and technical facilities.

    The broadcaster said that hotels and other establishments in Doha would earn unprecedented foot-fall and financial rewards from broadcasting games. It pointed out that host broadcasters had imposed charges at previous other World Cups and tournaments.

    It is thought that BeIN, like others broadcast rights holders, has an obligation to make some games free-to-air.

  • 43 минуты назад 03.10.2022Sport
    John Terry leads praise for Erling Haaland after he scored his THIRD hat-trick of the season

    Chelsea legend John Terry believes Erling Haaland could one day be regarded as the Premier League’s greatest ever player.

    The Norwegian hitman scored his third hat-trick in just eight appearances, as Manchester City smashed their local rivals Manchester United at the Etihad on Sunday.

    After taking his tally to 14 goals, Haaland became the centre of attention once again amongst former players and pundits, who each took to social media to heap praise on the striker.

    Terry told beIN SPORTS: ‘He could be the greatest ever in the Premier League, couldn’t he?’

    ‘You’re trying to compare him with somebody, I’ve never seen a player so young have that desire to score the goals he’s scored. He is just relentless.’

    Fellow ex-England centre-half Rio Ferdinand quipped that Haaland is treating the Premier League defenders with ‘no respect’ after his scintillating start to the season.

    After Man City’s 6-3 demolition of United, Ferdinand posted to Twitter: ‘Absolutely dismantled… gulf between the 2 sides in Manchester! We showed some fight 2nd half or City took foot of the gas.

    ‘By the way, Haaland is treating these CB’s in the Premier League with no respect.’

    Meanwhile, Gary Lineker tweeted ironically: ‘Once Erling Haaland settles in he’ll be really good.’

    And former Manchester City star Joey Barton lauded the striker’s goal-poaching instincts, praising team-mate Kevin De Bruyne once again for his exceptional playmaking.

    He said: ‘Wow. De Bruyne’s ball but Haaland is a true predator in that box. Phenomenal.’

    Haaland now has as many Premier League hat-tricks as Manchester United legend Cristiano Ronaldo, who stayed put on Erik ten Hag’s bench throughout the derby.

  • 43 минуты назад 03.10.2022Sport
    Christopher Nkunku ‘has signed a pre-contract agreement with Chelsea’

    Leipzig star Christopher Nkunku has reportedly signed a pre-contractual agreement with Chelsea after having a secret medical with the Blues last month.

    The French midfielder has emerged as Chelsea’s next top transfer target already despite a busy summer outlay of £272million that saw them bring in the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Raheem Sterling and Wesley Fofana.

    And while Nkunku would not arrived until next summer, the Blues have a deal in place for him to join Stamford Bridge, according to the Athletic, with owner Todd Boehly happy to pay his full release clause of £53m now to ensure they steal a march on their rivals.

    Last week Sportsmail revealed that Nkunku had undergone medical tests in Frankfurt in September ahead of a possible move to Chelsea alongside a a Blues orthopedist.

    And as the Blues look to speed up the deal – which they hope to have in place for next season – they now have an agreement with the player, with the report claiming they have overcome a challenge from their English rivals by moving quickly.

    The 24-year-old enjoyed a superb campaign last season as he scored 35 goals and set up 20 more in 52 appearances in all competitions during a sensational term for RB Leipzig on his way to being named Bundesliga player of the year.

    His form saw him rewarded with a new two-year extension that keeps him at Leipzig until 2026 – but crucially it included a release clause of £52.8m, which Chelsea have now pounced on.

    The eight-cap France star has continued his impressive displays in this campaign – scoring six goals and setting up another in 11 games so far.

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    He brought in Marc Cucurella, Kalidou Koulibaly, as well as Fofana, Aubameyang, and Sterling to make a real statement of his intentions.

    He’s also rung the changes in the board room – ousting director Marina Granovskaia and long-term chairman Bruce Buck, with the American chief now seeking a new sporting director that can assist him on securing the biggest deals.

  • 44 минуты назад 03.10.2022Sport
    Chelsea loanee Ethan Ampadu sets Serie A record for FASTEST penalty conceded in the league’s history

    Chelsea loanee Ethan Ampadu set the record for the fastest penalty conceded in Serie A history, after fouling Lazio’s Ciro Immobile within 39 seconds on Sunday.

    The Welshman spent last season with fellow Italian outfit Venezia before joining Spezia on loan this summer, as he continues to ply his trade away from Stamford Bridge.

    However, things did not go to plan for the young defender on Sunday night after he picked up an unwanted record for an early foul in their Serie A clash.

    He gave away the fastest penalty in Serie A history after diving in on Lazio’s Immobile within the first minute of the match.

    The 22-year-old picked up a yellow card for his troubles before being subbed off after 66 minutes during the game at the Stadio Olimpico.

    To the Welshman’s delight, the Italian forward missed the resulting spot-kick, but that wasn’t able to prevent Spezia from a 4-0 drubbing away from home – after goals from Mattia Zaccagni, Alessio Romagnoli and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.

    The rash challenge saw Ampadu’s tackle surpass the 42 seconds it took for Napoli hero Marek Hamsik to be fouled by AC Milan’s Mattia De Sciglio in 2015.

    After breaking into the Chelsea first-team in 2017, Ampadu has had a number of loan spells as he continues his development away from Stamford Bridge.

    He made 25 appearances in the Premier League for Sheffield United before joining Venezia last season. He became a core part of their defensive unit but wasn’t able to prevent their relegation.

    It was the third outing for the Welshman in Luca Gotti’s side, who currently sit 12th in the league having narrowly avoided relegation last season.

  • 44 минуты назад 03.10.2022Sport
    Erling Haaland becomes the 14th player to score a perfect 10/10 rating in L’Equipe HISTORY

    Erling Haaland joined an elite list of footballing royalty after he was awarded a 10 out of 10 rating from L’Equipe for his brilliant hat-trick and two assists in Manchester City’s dominant 6-3 win over bitter rivals Man United.

    The Norwegian striker has become only the 14th player in history to get the notoriously rare score from the French paper for his heroics in the Manchester derby.

    The 22-year-old joins the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Robert Lewandowski, as well as Lionel Messi – who has earned the honour twice – in getting perfect marks.

    Haaland was the centre of attention on Sunday, given it was his first game against Manchester United – a fixture he picked out as one he was most looking forward to playing in after joining City.

    He was right to do so, given how much freedom City were given to run riot at the Etihad against their bitter rivals.

    Phil Foden broke the deadlock with a superb finish early on before Haaland doubled the lead with a towering header from a corner shortly after.

    Haaland then doubled his own tally not long after that, getting his studs onto a brilliant through ball from Kevin De Bruyne to leave United scrambling.

    Foden then got his brace minutes before the break, with Haaland setting him up before they both completed their hat-tricks in the second half – seeing Haaland once again set up the England international for his third.

    Even more impressively, it is Haaland’s third successive hat-trick at home for City, making him the first player in Premier League history to do so.

    Speaking to Sky Sports after the game, the striker said: ‘Yeah, not bad! We scored six goals! What can I say. It’s amazing.

    ‘To win at home, score six goals, it’s nice.

    ‘You can feel it all the time. You can see the passes we give each other. We always want to go forward and to attack.

    ‘It’s what I love about the team. In the end, it’s amazing. There is nothing more to say.’

    And his efforts have been recognised far and wide with L’Equipe giving him the best possible score.

    French publication L’Equipe are notoriously picky when it comes to player performances and do not give high marks to players too easily – often severely punishing players with dreadfully low scores if they do not meet par.

    But they could not find any fault with Haaland as he, and Foden, walked away with the match ball on Sunday afternoon.

    Messi is the only player in history to have achieved the rating twice, getting it against Arsenal in 2010 and again against Bayer Leverkusen two years later.

    Alban Lafont was the most recent player to have been awarded a 10/10 before Haaland, with the Frenchman becoming the third goalkeeper in history for getting the score for his efforts against PSG last season.

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Sport CHRIS SUTTON: Only four players are nailed on to start for England in World Cup opener against Iran