2022-11-25 07:30:01

Englands soft centre remains Gareth Southgates biggest headache

Logo The Guardian
The Guardian
By Jacob Steinberg

There is always room for improvement. The mood in the England camp is high after their 6-2 victory over Iran on Monday, but nobody is resting on their laurels. There is an awareness that sterner tests lie in wait, starting with Fridays meeting with a speedy and inventive USA side, and much of the focus this week has been on correcting the defensive sloppiness that gifted Iran two second-half goals at the Khalifa International Stadium.

That dip in concentration has been on Gareth Southgates mind. It was a reminder not to get carried away during this tournament of shocks and it gave weight to the idea that the biggest impediment to Englands chances of winning the World Cup is their defence.

That England kept five clean sheets during Euro 2020 has been forgotten. The worries over Harry Maguires struggles for Manchester United have not been fully allayed by his performance against Iran. There was a flicker of concern when the United centre-back lost Mehdi Taremi before the Iran striker fired his first goal past Jordan Pickford, who was angry at being denied a clean sheet, and it remains to be seen whether Southgate trusts Maguire and John Stones to flourish in a back four against the very best.

Continue read on theguardian.com

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