England’s three-man defence find the perfect blend
When you look at the goal-scoring charts in this World Cup it’s hard to see England as anything other than Harry Kane.
The captain. Driving the team forward from the front. Kane has helped inspire a nation with a string of fine performances and poacher’s goals.
But it isn’t all about Kane. This new Gareth Southgate era is largely been built on a resolute but silky defence.
A back three of the converted wing back Kyle Walker, the tough but skilful John Stones and the break-out star Harry Maguire has enthused many.
Southgate first trialled this formation against Lithuania back in October 2017. Maguire was given his debut alongside Stones and Michael Keane.
At this time it was thought Keane could be a shoe-in for the tournament after making a big money move to Everton last summer.
Joe Gomez and James Tarkowski were also tested as Southgate honed the formation in the spring.
But it was Leicester City man Maguire – who had gone to watch the Euros as a fan in 2016 – that got the nod.
Maguire has been instrumental in England’s journey so far. The team have scored eight of their eleven goals from set-pieces.
He assisted Kane’s stoppage-time winner against Tunisia and notched the first goal in the quarter-final victory over Sweden.
Stones has two goals of his own from set-plays. He netted a brace over Panama that indicates how Croatia must be wary of the multi-pronged attack on Wednesday.
Whereas Maguire and Stones provide the blend of physicality and dexterity. Walker’s speed provides the suitable cover when the other two go marauding forward.
They’re both prone to striding into midfield and can provide the killer pass themselves.
Walker has developed even more under Pep Guardiola this season and has the awareness for key recovery runs whilst also being a sound ball player too.
If Croatia are solely focused on thwarting the likes of Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling then they may just be in for a rude awakening.
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