A busy international friendly day saw strong signs from England of a solid World Cup to come but serious worries for France at the back 



Gareth Southgate

No Harry Kane? No problem. Southgate has grown fantastically into his role as England manager, and is building to the World Cup with an increasingly confident side and the confirmation at certain levels of some of the younger and inconsistent players. Jesse Lingered brought his club form into the national team to score the winner against Holland, as Southgate’s men coped brilliantly with the absence of Kane and showed some solid tactical knowledge, as well as moments of quality football. There is material to work with for a satisfying World Cup campaign.


Better every time they get on a football pitch. This time it was Joao Miranda, Philippe Coutinho, and Paulinho with the goals, with a great Douglas Costa throughout the game. Brazil have got a solid starting eleven they can rely on, a lot better than the 2014 version, and have a pool of players they can tap into and add quality to the team. The talent is, finally, immense again and they are up there with the favourites.

Cristiano Ronaldo

He knows when to score in order to win games, so a friendly for him really is a bit of a joke. But Cristiano Ronaldo never wants to lose, and his competitiveness drives his never-ending ambition. He scored two goals in three minutes in added time to give Portugal the victory over Egypt and send a message to the world: after lifting their first major trophy in 2016, the Portuguese don’t want to stop there and are hungry for more.


Luigi Di Biagio

“We are looking for the best possible solution,” said the Italian Federation Commissioner Roberto Fabbricini. In other words: Di Biagio’s spell as Italy’s national team coach is bound to end very soon. Of course, the Azzurri won’t be at the World Cup, so the friendly against Argentina was absolutely useless. But if this game and the one coming up against England were meant to boost Di Biagio’s chances of “doing a Gareth Southgate” and transitioning from caretaker to manager, the first one did not go very well.


From 2-0 up to a 3-2 defeat. In a nutshell – this very young, brilliant, talented and exciting France side has been showing us for a while now. Euro 2016 saw the same kind of pattern: all great, until the final minutes and the defeat. A friendly has a different meaning, obviously, but the trend is there. Les Bleus are potentially one of the best teams in the world, and favourites for the next World Cup: they need to start proving it on the pitch.



A common theme for host nations of major tournaments is: experience against other national teams is crucial. Not having to go through the qualifiers for the World Cup exposes the host side to much less experience and only friendlies, with the ability to deal with the pressure that doesn’t develop. Russia need a reality check ahead of the World Cup and need to get the best out of these players if they are to impress. If not it will be a very short competition for them.

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