Peter Crouch has urged Gareth Southgate not to tamper with his line-up for the final Group G game against Belgium at the World Cup, as he suggests past experience should serve as a warning for the England manager.
Crouch played for England at the 2006 and 2010 World Cup finals and he believes Southgate would make a mistake if he rests a host of star names for the Belgium game ahead of a last-16 match next Monday or Tuesday.
“England are in a great place at the moment, they are flying high on confidence and everyone is daring to believe they can go a long way in the competition, so big changes to the team for this Belgium game would be a big gamble,” Crouch told Yahoo Sport.
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“I look at what Roy Hodgson did when he was England manager at Euro 2016 and he changed the team up for the final group game in readiness for the last-16 match against Iceland and it backfired horribly – we lost that match, so we should learn from that now.
“Maybe there is an argument to give Marcus Rashford a game or give the back up keeper a match, but I wouldn’t be happy if I was Harry Kane and I was left out of this game when after scoring five goals in the first two matches of this World Cup.
“The rumours suggest Jamie Vardy will play in place of Kane against Belgium, but footballers are used to playing every four or five days now and I don’t think it would be a risk to play a strong team against Belgium and try and win the group.
“Southgate has been impeccable in the way he has handled this World Cup so far. His team selections and substitutions have been spot on and he has handled the media so well up to now, so why try to change what is working?”
Stoke striker Crouch admits it is hard not to get swept away on the wave of emotion rising behind England after their wins against Tunisia and Panama fired them into the knock-out stages of the World Cup with a game to spare in Group G, as he concedes he is now viewing things from a perspective of a fan.
“I have been part of an England squad that won their first two games at a World Cup, but we were not as impressive as this team were against Tunisia and Panama when we achieved that in 2006,” reflects Crouch, who scored against Trinidad and Tobago in the World Cup finals 12 years ago.
“With those performances in mind, I can see why people are getting excited about a young England team that are playing some great football because if I’m being honest, I’m getting excited myself and thinking we could go a long way this time.
“It is amazing how quickly we got from saying we have no chance to thinking we are going to win the World Cup, but that is an English thing I guess. I’m doing it now so I know how the fans felt when I was in the England squad.”
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