Journalists from around the world have a great deal of admiration for Gareth Southgate's side and English football, as Telegraph Sport discovered when we spoke to them ahead of Saturday's World Cup quarter-final with France.
Ezequiel Fernández Moores, football columnist for La Nación
Anybody who has been to an Argentina game in Qatar will have heard the song: “The one who doesn’t jump is an Englishman, the one who doesn’t jump is an Englishman, the one who doesn’t jump is an Englishman”. It is chanted by the fans continuously and they jump as they sing it. What are they saying? We are not English.
Of course the Falklands have something to do with it, but it’s also about sporting rivalry. Every time Argentina and England have played against each other in World Cups, the expectations are bigger. Playing against England is not just another match.
If you asked the Argentines in Doha about who they would like to play in the final, it is very clear we want to face England. To win the World Cup and to win it over England would be a total victory. In Argentina, some think that in Mexico in 1986 it was more important beating England than winning the final. To win the final here in Qatar against England would be the perfect World Cup. And if Lionel Messi did it with another ‘Hand of God’, it would be even celebrated, without a doubt. Of course, with Var, that trick would be impossible, but it would be celebrated.
Having said that, I must add that it’s not only the desire to play an eventual World Cup final against England but also the challenge of meeting this English side. We see that England have very good strikers: quantity, quality… and very good football. There’s a lot of respect regarding English football and this England team.
Of course, there are people who claim that the Premier League is just about money and millionaires, and foreign money of any colour, of any nationality, of any origin. But we all know that this opinion is biased because we know that the English federation or English football have decided to invest money on their players’ training, and the talent, the mixture – when I say mixture, I mean immigrant players, descendants of immigrants, foreigners who bring their talent – the mixture helps.
So, yes, I would say that in Argentina there’s a lot of respect for the English selection, and it’s quality and quantity of attack is revered. They are not so strong in defence, but England has scored more goals than anyone else, and not conceded many.
You are a very feared rival, yet one sought after by Argentine football.
Leonardo Bertozzi, journalist for ESPN Brasil
Brazil has five World Cups and England has one, at home. So Brazilians look at England as underachievers in the international scene. And they say, well, you invented it but we are the ones that won it, the pais de futbol – home of football. Brazilians see the English national team as less of a threat compared to our rivals Argentina, or a national team like France, who have beaten Brazil in several World Cups.
Most Brazilians, of course, remember the 2002 World Cup. England had a great generation and Brazil managed to win even with 10 players on the field. I’m not sure if there was a shot on target after the sending off of Ronaldinho? So they believed England choked 20 years ago when they had a chance to beat Brazil when they were vulnerable.
Harry Kane would be amazing starting up front for Brazil, even if Richarlison is having a great World Cup. Kane is a great forward because he can score goals, he can create, he can link up with the other players.
Who else? It may seem strange, as he’s not starting for England, but I believe that we don’t have a full-back with the characteristics of Trent Alexander-Arnold. We are used to full-backs just like him, who like to get forward. In our history, we have had players like Cafu and Maicon and Dani Alves, who is still in the team but he doesn’t have pace like he did before. On the other side, we had Roberto Carlos and Marcelo and all those amazing players. Now, we have more defensive full-backs, so I believe that Brazilians would fall in love with a player like him.
I don’t know if Jude Bellingham would get into Tite’s team, because Brazil plays with only one defensive midfielder and that’s Casemiro and he is an elite player, he would never be dropped, you know? And I wouldn’t trade any of the other Brazilian players I’m afraid.
If we’re talking starting players, it’s Harry Kane and I think Brazil would do very well with Alexander-Arnold.
Marcus Alves, Lisbon-based football journalist
Don’t take it personally, England, but, as you might know, Cristiano Ronaldo has been keeping the Portuguese media busy and stealing all the headlines during this World Cup. The fuss he has caused since day one of training camp has been such that there’s simply not enough TV time or words on papers to talk much about other teams. It doesn’t mean, however, that local fans haven’t found a way to appreciate what England have been doing in Qatar. They have.
And that’s, in part, because somehow they identify themselves with their peers from the other side of the Channel.
For some time, they saw in Gareth Southgate a more cheerful version of coach Fernando Santos. Someone who is actually able to have a laugh but, like his Portuguese counterpart, couldn’t get the best out of a golden generation.
Fortunately, it feels like Southgate has changed – and so has Santos! – and we can only thank him for that, after all, we can now watch Jude Bellingham perform at the biggest stages. He has been by far the most-talked about name from England and described in Portugal as “a punk player in a time when football is so methodical.”
When England take on France on Saturday, everyone will be supporting England. And that’s not because Eric Dier can speak perfect Portuguese. Or because – and again don’t take it personally – the Three Lions will be the weaker team there. But simply because it’s France on the other side. That says it all. So… see you in the semi-finals?
Dani Gil, Spanish football journalist
The feeling in Spain is this: when talking about England, you have to separate the players and their great talent from the ability and ambition of their manager.
England are seen as a strong team, with plenty of firepower. Harry Kane has scored only one goal but so what? When you have Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford, Jack Grealish and Mason Mount there are so many options.
Our question marks, though, are about Gareth Southgate. The team has bursts of good play, moments where they express their full footballing repertoire, but Southgate is seen as playing with a style that lacks ambition. His England are boring at times, as they were in periods against Senegal, and that is largely down to the manager.
England’s perceived weakness in Spain is their defence. Although Harry Maguire is having a good World Cup, France represents a big step up.
The great shame of this World Cup is that it is missing the essence of English football: your fans. Qatar is not the natural stage for the passion and intensity of your supporters. It’s what Spanish fans most admire about the English.
Stefan Bienkowski, German football expert
While Germans may not be quite willing to admit they’ve adopted England as their World Cup team, there’s no denying that the country is getting behind Jude Bellingham’s rise to prominence in Gareth Southgate’s side.
The German press were certainly left purring after Harry Kane and Phil Foden lavished the Bundesliga star with praise following his performance against Senegal. “After England’s victory over Senegal the whole country – oh wait, the whole football world – is cheering for 19-year-old Jude Bellingham,” wrote Sven Haist in Süddeutsche Zeitung, beneath the headline: “He shoots up like the skyscrapers of Doha”.
This is just as evident through Borussia Dortmund who, like much of German football, have turned their nose up at the Qatar World Cup but have also wasted no time in posting as much content as they can about their star midfielder. Peppered amongst updates from their mid-season tour of Vietnam are photos of Bellingham relaxing in a pool and celebrating Sunday night’s win with England.
Indeed, this World Cup has unearthed a new-found appreciation for the English game in Germany, where Hansi Flick’s lacklustre side were almost dragged kicking and screaming to the knock-out rounds by English-born and trained Jamal Musiala. Resulting in Flick singling out the Bayern Munich prospect as perhaps the only player in his squad that made it through the tournament with pass marks. In Germany’s absence Bellingham has been left as the most prominent ambassador for the Bundesliga.
Like the former Chelsea youth prospect, Bellingham’s agility and remarkable technical ability has come to represent everything German football seems to be lacking at the moment. Which is exactly why the German FA have already begun implementing new policies at youth level to introduce more “street football” into the curriculum. Bellingham isn’t just a star. He’s also a shining example of where Germany needs to go.
By Pierre-Etienne Minonzio, England reporter for L'Équipe
Yes, the rainbow armband didn’t work out, but we thought that Harry Kane and the English FA were so much more courageous than the French team. It was awful with France. In September, we sent the message that yes, we are like England, the Dutch and Germany and we will wear the armband. I even spoke to the Dutchman who had the idea and he told me that he had the full support of England and France.
So what happened? The president of the French FA, Noël le Graët, said that we can’t impose our values on other people. And guess what? He’s close to Gianni Infantino. Quelle surprise.
Even though England abandoned the idea – and what a shame, because if Harry Kane enters the pitch and gets a yellow card then that’s an image that will last forever – they did at least get close to wearing it. It would have been such a powerful moment but we understand. In L'Équipe we thought of a different plan – give the armband to Aaron Ramsdale and then immediately substitute him.
Gareth Southgate has fostered a courageous squad with a conscience. English players say yes, I want to improve as a player but also as a man. Just look at Jack Grealish with his celebration for the fan with cerebral palsy. Let me tell you this – no Frenchman says that! They just want to be good players and win.