England’s doom and gloom merchants have got it all wrong

England’s doom and gloom merchants have got it all wrong after Belgium loss

  • I’ve been surprised by some of the reactions to England’s defeat by Belgium
  • There was positivity after we had thrashed Panama but we needed to rest players
  • Before the tournament, anyone would have been happy with England’s form
  • England are in good shape for their last-16 clash with Colombia on Tuesday 
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Is it really that bad? I’ve got to ask as I’ve been surprised by some of the reaction to England’s defeat against Belgium.

I understand the argument that has been put forward about losing momentum. I get it. You only have to remember what happened at Euro 2016 when Roy Hodgson made loads of changes for the final group game with Slovakia: a 0-0 draw was followed by that loss to Iceland in the last 16.

There was such positivity after we had smashed Panama that everyone wanted it to continue but I just think Gareth Southgate had to make the decision to rest players. 

Eric Dier (left) and Dele Alli show no signs of worry as they relax in the ice bath

His reaction afterwards was very telling – you could see he wasn’t upset in the slightest.

So that’s where my question comes from about this defeat being seen as bad: the way I see it, things could not have panned out much better and it’s worth just spelling out the scenario that England are facing.

If someone had said to you before the tournament that England would beat Tunisia and Panama, lose to Belgium then face Colombia and either Switzerland or Sweden to get to the semi-finals, I don’t think you would have turned it down.

England are in good shape for their last-16 clash with Colombia, a country for whom I will always have a soft spot after making my international debut against them 13 years ago in New York. We won 3-2 that day thanks to a Michael Owen hat-trick and I set one of his goals up.

Roy Hodgson made loads of changes for the final group game with Slovakia – a 0-0 draw

A similar score on Tuesday would be very nice. Colombia will be difficult opponents, particularly with players such as Juan Cuadrado and Radamel Falcao feeling they have points to prove after difficult spells in the Premier League. They have flair in attack and I also like how they defend, particularly Tottenham’s Davinson Sanchez, who is a proper centre half.

But all of our important players have had rest and, in particular, I’m looking forward to watching Jesse Lingard again. He has become a crucial part of the first XI, just as important as Harry Kane. You can see how much trust the manager has in him.

The one big decision will be who plays at left back. I like Ashley Young but I thought Danny Rose did well. When we were together at Tottenham, I used to tell Danny that he had all the tools to become England’s permanent left back. There is no doubting his class.

I also don’t think there should be any doubts about England. This tournament is wide open but England have got a glorious opportunity to do well. We can’t let one defeat cloud our view.

One decision will be who plays at left back. I like Ashley Young but Danny Rose (left) did well


Brazil are everyone’s favourites to lift the trophy but don’t underestimate a big show from Croatia. This has been a tournament when the collective has shone more than the individual and I like the way Croatia are all about the team.

It helps, of course, that they have someone like Luka Modric to provide the magic. I played with him at Tottenham for two years and I cannot remember him ever giving the ball away, even in training. He’s a little genius and a good lad, too.

Niko Kranjcar and Vedran Corluka were also part of that squad. When we used to go on away trips, everyone had a single room but Luka used to share with Vedran because the Croatians used to stick together. They used to tell us how proud they were to represent their country.

You can see from how they have performed so far that they have a club atmosphere and the further they go in the tournament, the more important that will be. I expect them to get past Denmark. After that, anything is possible.

Croatia have Luka Modric to provide the magic – he’s a little genius and a good lad, too


With the focus on events in Russia, it’s easy to lose track of what is going on at home but one big event this week was Wayne Rooney moving to DC United.

I’m sad his time in the Premier League is over. This is the record scorer for Manchester United and England, a man whose tally of 208 Premier League goals is only bettered by Alan Shearer.

Given how he has graced our game, there is something not right about him slipping away almost unnoticed. I hope it all goes well for him in America and he will have no trouble coping with the slower pace of MLS football. It’s just a shame that we won’t see him here on a weekly basis.

I thought he was going to go back to Everton and score a load of goals but it wasn’t to be.

Wayne Rooney moving to DC United is a shame as we won’t see him here on a weekly basis


There have been some glorious goals so far, not least Lionel Messi’s sublime finish against Nigeria and Jesse Lingard’s strike against Panama. But it will take something out of this world to top Nacho’s effort for Spain in their 3-3 draw with Portugal. The timing and sweetness of that shot made it a thing of beauty.

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