Gareth Southgate is worried that England being used as an example at a pre-World Cup referee meeting could cloud judgement in awarding penalties to his side.
England were denied what looked like a clear spot-kick when Harry Maguire was grabbed by Rouzbeh Cheshmi early on in their 6-2 win over Iran on Monday.
The VAR decided not to intervene but later alerted the referee to a tug on a shirt in the England box which resulted in Mehdi Taremi scoring a last-gasp penalty, while a similar offence resulted in a spot-kick in Argentina’s shock defeat to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.
FIFA referees committee chairman Pierluigi Collina had singled out England during a pre-tournament briefing – also open to the media – showing a clip of Kalvin Phillips blocking to create space in the box for Maguire to score in England’s 5-0 World Cup qualifying win over Albania last year.
The Italian said such a goal would be disallowed at the World Cup and Southgate has been left with concerns by the potential ramifications of England being the team highlighted ahead of the finals.
“What worries me is we were used in an example in the referee’s video,” he said after the Iran win.
“What we were shown, the incident in the first half (with Maguire), we were told that would be a definite penalty.
“We’ve got to have that dialogue with FIFA and just make sure… we want clarity, otherwise, we don’t know where we stand.
“Goals are going in and we don’t know whether they stand or not. The bit that worries me is we were the example we were shown.
“Maybe there’s a shirt pull (for the Iran penalty) – we’ve got to be better on that – but I’m a bit worried we were the example shown, and then to get a decision as happened in the first half, we need some clarification really as to how it’s going to be.”
Southgate will be hoping similar issues do not occur in Friday’s clash with the United States as they look to make it successive wins in Group B.
England’s players are maturing on the big stage and, with nine of the starting XI against Iran having started the Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy, Southgate believes their collective experience could be key.
“They’ve got experience of big games,” he said of a squad which had 820 caps between them heading to Qatar – the second-most in England’s World Cup history.
“To have experience they can refer to but also the rest of the group, we talked about a lot of the big nights they’ve been through which haven’t all been straightforward, the setbacks and big wins we’ve had.
“Those guys going into a game, they’ve been through things like this, it breeds confidence in the group and you do need caps on the pitch as well. It’s different… a lot of these guys have been through a lot of experience.”
Jude Bellingham was the man to open the scoring at the Khalifa International Stadium, his towering header laying down the marker for a fine individual display.
The 19-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder became England’s second-youngest goalscorer in World Cup history and Southgate was delighted with his contribution.
“He is such a mature boy on and off the pitch,” he said of Bellingham.
“We’re really pleased with him and it’s a really nice start for him as well.
“I think his evolution with us has been ideal for this tournament.
“He had the Euros with us, he got a feel of it, he sort of dipped his toes. He’s in good form with his club.
“He’s added goals this season with his club, and to have that additional runner from midfield is a great asset for us.”
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