Full disclosure: I’m still a Dele Alli fan.
He’s a big game player with bottle, a reflex player who sees a lot, who is very dynamic and fast, exceptionally good at playing the ball first time. That’s why I prefer to see him a bit further forward, closer to his mate Harry.
However, Dele’s very athletic and can sprint from the halfway line to the edge of the box as fast as any footballer I’ve seen since Kaka, the sublime Brazilian.
And I’m not comparing Dele to Kaka, except to say that Kaka, like Dele, was lightning.
But Kaka was lightning while running with the ball, which is not really Dele’s particular forte.
This week Dele told us that pass-and-move is easy. He said, “There’s a lot of great players in this squad. When you’re playing with great players, it’s not too hard to play with them.”
He also said, “When you’re playing with players like that, it’s sort of a natural thing.”
My guess: Dele wasn’t afraid of Real Madrid or Juventus and I don’t think he’s scared of Costa Rica or Tunisia now.
Keylor Navas, Costa Rica’s exceptionally agile goalkeeper, doesn’t need to read this article. He already knows all about Dele.
Against Nigeria, Southgate chose both Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli, with Raheem Sterling down the middle as well, behind Kane, or with Kane pushed a bit wide.
I thought that formation was bold but silly.
First half, it worked very well and we scored two goals.
Cahill headed in a Trippier corner. Then Raheem thought about shooting, passed square to the skipper and Kane drilled it home for 2-0.
When Southgate practiced that formation in training, I’m sure he liked what he saw, got excited by the speed and penetration of Dele, Raheem and Jesse, and decided to go with it. And we won the first half 2-0.
Second half, when Nigeria switched to match our formation, we stuttered and they bossed the rest of the game and scored and could have won.
Raheem Sterling was 19 in Brazil. Being stocky,tenacious and fast, and very good at protecting the ball in tight spaces, Raheem was our best footballer in a catastrophic tournament.
Since then he’s grown up a lot and won the title with Manchester City. But he still needs to improve his final ball and finishing.
I thought our best player against Nigeria was Eric Dier, whose positional savvy is turning him into an invisible wall, like Gilberto.
When England attack, Southgate wants variations, diagonal support runs and quick inter-passing that yanks defenders around and opens up gaps.
Tonight he’s starting Jack Butland in goal, even though Jordan Pickford, his No.1, looks more reliable. Many say: the England keeper should wake up every day knowing he is England’s goalkeeper.
Belgium play Panama three hours before we play Tunisia and we should not assume that the talented Belgians will walk that game.
In Brazil four years ago Costa Rica started by beating Uruguay 3-1 and then they beat Italy 1-0 and then they drew 0-0 with us after we’d been eliminated by losing to both of the teams they’d just defeated.
So 2014 was the most pitiful World Cup in England’s history.
Are England any good now?
Can we win one game this time round? Can we win a game with a squad containing no player who has ever won a World Cup game?
My advice to England is simple: beat Tunisia. Make sure you beat Tunisia. That is your job. Stop talking about winning the World Cup.
Memo to Dele and Engerland: Concentrate on beating Tunisia. Forget Nigeria and Costa Rica and focus on Tunisia.