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Posted at: Jul 13, 2018, 1:52 AM; last updated: Jul 13, 2018, 1:52 AM (IST)

Despite progress, much work remains

Despite progress, much work remains
England coach Gareth Southgate consoles forward Harry Kane after the loss. AFP

Moscow, July 12

England’s first run to the World Cup semifinals in 28 years represented real progress and provided cheer to their long-suffering supporters, but there remain clear shortcomings for manager Gareth Southgate to address when the emotion fades. The 2-1 extra-time defeat to Croatia exposed the limitations of Southgate’s inexperienced side, weaknesses that were evident at other times in the tournament, but were often masked by the euphoria of unexpected success.

For all the talk of a new, modern, passing style of football, England found it difficult to play out from the back and keep possession in midfield, when put under real pressure. Had they come up against France in Sunday’s final, a team which managed nullify world-class creative talent like Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard in their semifinal, that limitation would probably have been exposed even more emphatically.

Southgate tried to compensate for the lack of a real creative midfield player by designing a formation that focused on attacking down the flanks and then using withdrawn forwards for the more intricate play near goal. At times in the tournament it worked very well but against the best opposition they faced, England sorely missed a player capable of dictating the tempo in midfield. Solving that problem will not be easy — there was no such player available to Southgate and there is no sign at the moment of an ‘English Luka Modric’ emerging in the Premier League. Other tactical ideas will, therefore, need to be explored. Yet England are no longer the team who collapsed in defeat to Iceland two years ago and they are better than the side which could not get out of the group stage in Brazil four years ago. — Reuters


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