It has not been a great few years for England manager Gareth Southgate. From the highlights and joys of the 2020 European Championship final, the build up to the first ever winter World Cup out in Qatar was pretty disastrous with the more recent Nations League games and a far more safety first approach to game management that simply backfired and did not work.
For those who like a flutter, World Cup betting options would have offered good odds on England opening their Group B qualification campaign with a win over Iran, and the squad duly obliged with a 6-2 victory, but even that match had its issues with two goals conceded. Confidence was high going into the United States game on Friday evening that England could build and improve on that showing, but sadly it was not to be, as a safety first approach again saw both sides play out an incredibly drab and dull goalless draw.
With the talent at England’s disposal, it clearly is not good enough for many fans and those in attendance did not hide their anger, with boo’s incredibly audible. It also will not help Southgate’s words ahead of the game, as he expressed his concerns, stating that he was ‘worried’ that England were being used as an unfair example for what referees and the Video Assistant Referee technology should be looking for – fearing it would have ramifications for his tactics.
After more recent performances many fans of the Three Lions will point out that England will have to attack better for the referees to have any impact on our potential chances for scoring – and the United States’ performance certainly will not have helped on that front.
“We’ve got to have clarity or we don’t know where we stand. What worries me is we were used in an example in the referees’ video. What we were shown, the incident in the first half (Iran and Maguire) would be a definite penalty. Maybe there’s a shirt pull (Iran’s 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. We’ve got to have that dialogue with Fifa and just make sure. Goals are going in and we don’t know whether they stand or not.”
Sadly that has been the life for all fans since VAR was first introduced and we all know it is not consistent and decisions change within games themselves, let alone across an individual round of match day fixtures, so it feels very much like looking for excuses ahead of time, as simply put, this uncertainty is absolutely not new and not unique to this edition of the World Cup.
Following his words in this interview, The Football Association confirmed they had submitted a report to Fifa looking for clarity over the inconsistencies shown, but with how Fifa have pivoted and changed plans already during the World Cup, the FA’s actions here are akin to serving coffee from a chocolate teapot.