Is it just Outcome Bias after his two goals that saw Marcus Rashford lauded? Plus, thoughts on England, Gareth Southgate and more.
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Was Marcus Rashford all that v Wales?
OK, so I imagine the clamour for Rashford may have calmed down a tad since the other night, but can I ask, was anyone else not that impressed with his performance?
I’m not trolling, and I’m happy to be corrected.
Clearly, his free kick was wonderful. I’m not an idiot. But his second goal was pretty crap goalkeeping and I wonder if he’d have scored against someone not bang average. Obviously, that early chance Kane gave him which he didn’t score lingers in my mind too.
But my overriding memory of the game is watching him lose possession – repeatedly.
Either making passes which didn’t get to where they should, or being tackled when he tried to dribble.
Does anyone have any stats to help me out? I’d love to stand corrected. But I think I watched a different game than everyone else because all I’ve heard since that game is that he’s wonderful.
I’m reminded of World Cup 2018 when my friend and I argued about the usefulness of Henderson who he said only passed backwards and sideways and offered nothing. We had a £10 bet because I knew Henderson was class and did a f**k of a lot more than that – and I won by a large margin. Now my friend can accept that Henderson is much better than he thought.
So, I’m here wondering – am I wrong about Rashford? Or is everyone else? Is he the second coming, or is he a guy that kicked the ball amazingly well once and then scored again, but offered nothing else all game.
It’s potentially somewhere in the middle, but would love to see some stats to help me out.
Nick P. Burnley FC. (yes, I did Google for the stats but couldn’t find anything…)
(It’s a mixed bag, Nick. He dribbled past more players than anybody else but lost the ball with a poor touch more than anybody else. Some claim the data is on his side – Ed)
England have just qualified for the second round of the World Cup, top of the group, with two wins and a draw and nine goals. Are Badwolf and Anon sure that they actually like football?
Fortune might favour the brave Gareth
To be clear, as an England fan, I don’t hate Gareth and I don’t want England to lose. I actually want us to win the World Cup. So what’s my beef with Gareth?
I don’t think anyone would view Southgate as a top manager – certainly, no major club in Europe would take him – but the bar for an International manager is far lower. Is he worse than Martinez who has destroyed the Belgium Golden Generation; Van Gaal who is doing his best to stop the Dutch, or even Deschamps who has actually won something but is shockingly inept on most levels (and also wouldn’t get a top European job).
France has won despite Deschamps because they have had an amazing talent pool over a long time, culminating in a world-beating squad.
England are now in a similar position.
I was pleasantly surprised by the setup for both Iran and Wales, and after the USA drudge match where Southgate sucked the oxygen out of the room, it is clear to most that England should probably focus on our strengths (attacking) instead of our weaknesses (defending).
This is where the rubber hits the road – England playing on the front foot (first 5 mins vs Italy, Germany recently, etc, etc) with some version of 4-3-3 are a very dangerous proposition, and as an England fan, great to watch. That version of England has every chance of beating France and winning the World Cup. A defensive double pivoted back five, hoofing it long to Kane will get ripped apart.
If Gareth plays to our strengths by playing attacking football with our best players on the pitch (not some b/s clamour, but our best players playing in a system that works), very few fans will complain. Mourinho ball that has already failed twice under pressure…not so much.
That’s it really – a pretty low bar – but in international football, it might be enough.
Response to the Southgate haters
I’ll level with you. I’d like to see England be a bit bolder and would prefer if the likes of Rashford started over Sterling (as I just don’t think he’s very good and watching him now playing for the team I support is even worse) and have Bellingham pushed further forward but I’m not a football manager and Southgate whether you like it or not clearly is.
Your email stating that we get easy runs and lose the first good team we play is pretty much England’s MO for the last 40+ years. We always do this and normally with better players than we have now.
Your email made me think of the last England ‘team’ that I thought could potentially really do some damage at a tournament compared to the team that beat Wales on Wednesday night and player for player there is no comparison between them.
I’ll give you Argentina v England (France 98) v England v Wales (Qatar 22)
Out of the two teams the only player I’d pick to replace anybody from France 98 is Foden over Anderton (and Anderton had a pretty decent scoring record for England).
So in essence a team that IMO is streets ahead of the current England team lost to the very first decent team they played (admittedly an Argentina team much better than the current team). It’s just what we do.
The fact that England hadn’t even won a knockout game in so long is testament to the camaraderie and team spirit that Southgate has fostered. He might not be the man to take them to an actual win but he’s for sure set the foundation for them to actually go on and really challenge for a tournament win.
I’d say that Southgate has also made the England team likeable again. Idiot fans racially abusing a young guy for missing a penalty are always going to be idiots and Mount gets a weirdly huge amount of opprobrium for being…Mason Mount, Even Harry Maguire seems to be having a small redemption arc and there really isn’t anybody out there who jumps out as being able to slot in and replace him at the moment.
Regarding Mason Mount. It really is strange that people can’t see what he brings to the England team. Leads the press and works tirelessly. There is a reason that managers such as Lampard, Potter, Southgate and Tuchel play him in pretty much every single game.
If you’re watching, enjoy the games
It’s called bias
Anon wrote in with two comments that tickled me. First, England should replace Southgate with someone who understands the big occasion. Presumably from what came before, he thinks an England attack made up of Kane, Sterling, Foden, Rashford, Grealish, and Wilson should blow teams away 6-2 more than once a tournament.
Maybe this is Anon’s first World Cup, but my memory shows that teams that play defensive, conservative football (with one big result tossed in for good measure) tend to win the thing. And Southgate seems like exactly the sort of European manager who tends to win the thing as well. This leads me to the idea that the aforementioned attackers are elite.
Personally I think it reveals a bit of bias based on your nationalism and watching the Premier League being told it’s the best. Instead of saying that I don’t think your attackers rank with the elite sides in this tournament (Brazil and France), let me show you. With the likes of Pulisic, McKennie, Musah, Weah, and Adams, the US should have taken their chances against England, and blown them away. Other than our defense with our top two center backs injured, we are better to a man than England.
We were intimidated by their names when we should have taken the game to them because they were wobbling. And why aren’t Reyna and Aaronson starting? What is Berhalter thinking not starting two of his best players? Even with Pulisic out, a team with them (Aaronson in for Pulisic who can come off the bench and Reyna on in place of Weah) we should be slight favorites to beat a sub-standard Dutch team (at least without the ultra-conservative Berhalter at the wheel).
Do you see what I’ve done Anon? I’ve shown you my bias based on watching these players week in week out leading up to this World Cup and leapt to a conclusion very few people would agree with. I happen to believe this US team is better than this English team, but it’s too biased to say in polite company such as the Mailbox, so I avoid it. So Anon, next time maybe be more subtle without revealing your biases completely and you can point back to vague emails a few weeks from now saying “I told you so” instead of looking back years from now wondering how you could be such an eejit.
Wales punching well above their weight
It’s interesting to see the Welsh fans’ perspective on the World Cup. As a Scot, I’ve watched with great envy as they have been able to enjoy their recent success. It’s a shame that, after finally qualifying for the World Cup, the tournament was a bit of an anti-climax. It is similar to how Scottish fans felt in the Euros last year (although we did have that famous 0-0 victory over England).
I’d take issue with Mikey’s comments about Wales’s population though. He says that pundits shouldn’t be mentioning this as a relevant factor, when it actually makes their achievements all the more impressive. Saying that Trinidad and Tobago have qualified for World Cups is completely irrelevant. They qualified from a different confederation. They would have roughly 0% chance of making it through the European qualifiers.
Then to talk about Uruguay and Croatia, probably the two biggest outliers in the whole of World football is not a realistic comparison. We can’t all be Uruguay and Croatia. I also doubt that Croatia or Uruguay also excel in a different team sport. The Welsh rugby team hasn’t been great this year, but they were good enough to win the 6 nations last year. To do that and produce a football team able to qualify for 3 major tournaments is no mean feat.
Going with the 3.2 million figure, there are 33 countries in Europe with a bigger population than Wales. 18 countries are triple the size or more. And Wales made it into the top 13 for the World Cup. As far as I can see Iceland and Slovenia are the only countries in Europe with a smaller population than Wales to have qualified for the World Cup. Perhaps Page isn’t the man for the job (although he’s done a great job in getting there) but the Welsh achievements given their population is something to be immensely proud of and definitely should not be dismissed.
Mike, LFC, London
Wales are not Macclesfield though
Wales are ranked 19th in the FIFA rankings. They are absolutely not a Macclesfield. They’re Southampton.
On that expanded World Cup
Re the expanded 48 team 2026 World Cup. Have they actually announced the full format yet? Are we *sure* it will be twelve groups of four, then an extra knock out “round of 32”? I can understand the criticism of that with the whole 3rd place qualifiers thing, etc etc.
But what if – and apologies if I’ve missed an announcement of the format and this turns out to be completely irrelevant – it’s *eight groups of six*, then straight to the usual last 16 knock outs? Each team plays at least five games (good for “expanding the game”), but only two from each qualify. Crazy competition for the qualifying spots, probably loads of drama.
Or possibly not, I haven’t thought that hard about it. And the clubs will hate it, obviously. Anyway, over to you.
Laurie Carver in Bournemouth, Bristol City fan
(They have announced the format – Ed)
…Mike, LFC, London mail this morning is absolute nonsense and everything that’s wrong with the world today. Who cares about the quality of the product, let’s ruin it so that more people can play.
The WC is perfect in its current guise. How would having Iraq or Jamaica or Scotland getting knocked out in the first round make it better?? If teams from Africa or Asia or South America were better they’d qualify, as it is we have the cream of the crop, and Qatar, of every federation.
But maybe you’re right, maybe we should have a whole world tournament and we can give every country a World Cup for taking part, because wouldn’t that be nice. Pathetic.
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