England: Far from Crisis

While the FA has faced the embarrassment of the Sam Allardyce saga, the England team is still far from crisis.

Tuesday night’s goalless draw with Slovenia may not appear to be the best result, but it is a result that keeps England on course to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. With the draw, England are top of the group with seven points and have shifted their hardest games in the group after playing away at both Slovakia and Slovenia. Arguably England’s hardest remaining match is Scotland in June of 2017, but the Scots are far from being a side that can trouble the bigger nations. Tuesday’s 3-0 defeat to Slovakia has all but ended their hopes of qualifying for the tournament.

Getting the difficult games out of the way early means England have the flexibility of bringing in new players and working new formations. The situation involving Wayne Rooney has also come at the best time as a serious discussion about his international future can be had long before the tournament starts. Admittedly, it would be a crisis if Rooney’s international future was up in the air just months before a tournament. Now, England can fully decide whether or not it will be the youth that travel to Russia.

Qualifying for the tournament is an expectation and few will regard it as any sort of achievement. But in comparison to other nations, it is something that should be valued. Take Netherlands for example: one bad qualifying campaign in Euro 2016 has potentially cost them another tournament after they were drawn in a group with France. On Monday they lost the key game as they went down 1-0 at home to the French.

Another team to look at is Wales; after reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2016, nothing seemed to be able to stop them. But a 1-1 draw at home against Georgia on Sunday has put their World Cup hopes in jeopardy, especially given that Serbia have started the group in fine fashion, picking up seven points from the first three games. The Welsh now have a must-win fixture on November 12th when they host Serbia.

England fans will complain, but for everything bad that has happened in the last few months the team is still on course to qualify for the World Cup. There are numerous quality young players coming through and the Under-21s have qualified for yet another Under-21 Championship. What England do at the World Cup is another question. For now, the Three Lions should be thankful that they are on course.