England manager Gareth Southgate is poised to ring the changes as his team chases victory against Wales today to ensure qualification as World Cup Group B winners.
Southgate picked the same starting line-up for last week’s games against Iran and the United States, but is expected to bring in fresh faces for today’s final group game against the Welsh.
A win for England at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha will guarantee that Southgate’s men finish on top of Group B heading into the last 16. England were booed off the field after their 0-0 draw with the United States last Friday after a sluggish performance that was in stark contrast to their rampant 6-2 opening win over Iran.
It has led to a growing clamour for new faces, notably Manchester City’s Phil Foden, to be brought into the starting line-up, while some have even suggested captain Harry Kane could be rested as he recovers from a minor foot knock. “We’ve got to balance freshness with stability and that’s always the decision you make when you’re picking a team,” Southgate told a news conference yesterday.
“We’ve got a chance to win the group with a positive result. There’s a lot resting on the game for both teams.”
England could still qualify for the knockout rounds with a draw or even a narrow loss, but Southgate had his team would be chosen with victory in mind. “We’re going to pick a team that we believe can win the game,” said. “That’s our priority always.”
Asked about Kane’s fitness, he added: “He’s fine in terms of the knock he has.
“He’s trained well, the whole group. We’ve got to this point with pretty much everyone available to select from which is a great position to be in.”
Although hinting that he was set to change the starting lineup, Southgate emphasised that fans were unlikely to see a repeat of England’s final group game at the 2018 World Cup when they made eight changes and lost to Belgium.
“We’re at a major tournament. It’s not about giving caps out. We’re here to try and go as far as we possibly can,” he said.
Southgate meanwhile brushed off pre-tournament comments from Welsh striker Kieffer Moore, who was widely quoted as saying he “couldn’t wait” to eliminate England from the tournament. “He’s entitled to say whatever he wants leading into a game,” Southgate said. “I’d be amazed if he didn’t feel that way. “But it’s pointless us focusing on what was said before the game; we’ve got to go on the pitch and play well.”
England’s coach Gareth Southgate (centre) takes part in a training session at Al Wakrah SC Stadium in Al Wakra yesterday, on the eve of the Qatar 2022 World Cup match against Wales. (AFP)