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DANNY MURPHY: England won’t stumble as group favourites in Qatar

DANNY MURPHY: England won’t stumble as group favourites in Qatar… if I was picking the team Kieran Trippier, James Ward-Prowse and Jadon Sancho would be left out… but Marcus Rashford would make the cut 

  • England should take advantage of the option of taking a larger 26-man squad
  • Gareth Southgate could take a few younger players who will not affect morale
  • Some very good players will miss out on selection for the World Cup in Qatar

England’s players will be delighted with the World Cup draw. At one time, we were vulnerable to shock results but not anymore.

Under Gareth Southgate, we don’t tend to slip up in matches when we’re favourites. Though Iran and USA are better than Tunisia and Panama, who England faced at the last World Cup, we don’t have to fear them.

Even the last group game against Scotland, Wales or Ukraine brings anticipation. I suspect Southgate and his staff would want Ukraine from a football point of view because we defeated them 4-0 at Euro 2020.But the players may prefer Scotland or Wales. They will know a lot of the opposition personally, which always gets the juices flowing. There is an extra incentive facing Scotland again after they got a 0-0 draw at Wembley last summer.

England don’t tend to slip up in matches when they’re favourites under Gareth Southgate

England play on the first day, against Iran, and a lot of players will welcome the quick start. They’ll have been in Premier League action the week before so the usual prolonged World Cup build-up won’t be there. They’ll be ready to go from the off.

France or Argentina will be potential quarter-final opponents but Southgate is right. There is no point in looking too far ahead. The priority is to deal with the group and then see what happens next.

Attention will now turn to who will make the squad. Southgate prefers to pick only 23 players but if FIFA allow 26 in the squad, England should take advantage.

Trent Alexander-Arnold is a guaranteed a squad place despite his brilliant form at Liverpool

Trent Alexander-Arnold is a guaranteed a squad place despite his brilliant form at Liverpool

The remarkable strength in depth at right back could once again dominate the build-up. I’m not convinced Trent Alexander-Arnold is a guaranteed pick despite his brilliant form at Liverpool — but he would definitely be in my squad.

In the first game, Iran will be defensively minded so England need as much creativity on the pitch as possible. Alexander-Arnold can make the difference with his brilliant passing and set-pieces.

I can understand Southgate is worried how a larger group can impact on morale because more players wouldn’t be involved. So it may help Southgate to take a few younger players who will bring energy to training but not be too disturbed if they aren’t involved on every match day.

I’d include Aston Villa’s young midfielder Jacob Ramsey as a wildcard. England have secure, defensively-minded midfielders in Kalvin Phillips, Jordan Henderson and Declan Rice. For balance, they can afford to add the likes of Jude Bellingham, Conor Gallagher and Ramsey, who have creativity.

England will need the likes of Marcus Rashford to get in behind defences with speed and skill

England will need the likes of Marcus Rashford to get in behind defences with speed and skill

Some very good players will be left out because of the talent pool England possesses. In my selection, there is no room for Kieran Trippier, James Ward-Prowse or Jadon Sancho.

I would take Marcus Rashford though. Phil Foden and Jack Grealish are fine ball-players but we will also need runners who can get in behind defences with speed and skill. Rashford is better suited to that role than Sancho.

It’s interesting that during a time of uncertainty for Chelsea, they are leaving a legacy with England. Reece James, Ben Chilwell, Mason Mount, Gallagher, Tammy Abraham, Marc Guehi, Fikayo Timori and Declan Rice — all past or present Chelsea — are contenders for Qatar.

Friday’s draw really whetted my appetite for the World Cup. There are some great match-ups, Spain-Germany, Portugal-Uruguay and Argentina-Mexico among them.

Another bonus was seeing my good mate Jermaine Jenas overseeing the draw for a massive global audience.

Jermaine was a team-mate at Tottenham and someone who has worked hard to build a great new career after injury curtailed his playing days.

I remember when he told me a few years ago he was going to give media presenting a go. I’m not surprised how well he’s done because I know what he’s capable of when he puts his mind to it.

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