WORLD CUP 2018

World Cup: Southgate should rest England players, stay fresh, says Gary Neville

England striker Harry Kane takes part in a training session on June 27, 2018.
England striker Harry Kane takes part in a training session on June 27, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

ST PETERSBURG • Former England right-back Gary Neville has said that it is wise to make "three or four changes" in today's top-spot decider against Belgium to avoid fatigue in the latter stages of the World Cup.

The 43-year-old was speaking ahead of Gareth Southgate's pre-match conference yesterday, when the England manager was expected to announce he will rest players for the clash.

England and Belgium are both locked on six points each in Group G after winning their fixtures against Tunisia and Panama and, having already qualified for the round of 16, the former Manchester United defender feels it is important to keep the squad fresh.

"I've seen England teams blow up at the quarter-final stage where they have run out of legs, where they have not been able to see the job through," Neville, who won 85 international caps, told Sky Sports.

"I felt strongly that if we made more use of the squad, we would have felt the effect of that later in the tournament."

He also noted the importance of trusting the squad to perform against Belgium so that the players are ready if called upon during the knockout rounds.

"From an England view, it's important to give the squad faith and trust," Neville added.

  • GROUP G PERMUTATIONS

  • THE GAMES

    England v Belgium

    Singtel TV Ch141 & StarHub Ch222, tomorrow, 2am

  • Panama v Tunisia

    Ch142 & Ch223, tomorrow, 2am

  • ENGLAND

    Qualified for last 16.

    Need to win or draw with a better Fifa fair play record than Belgium to top group. England currently have two yellow cards compared to the Belgians' three.

  • BELGIUM

    Qualified for last 16.

    Need to win or draw with a better disciplinary record.

  • TUNISIA AND PANAMA

    Eliminated.

"It's conceivable that we will need (Eric) Dier at some point in the tournament, so why not give him a run-out? It's conceivable we would need to play another centre-forward and it's important that they play well."

Both teams are perhaps better connected than any two countries at the World Cup because of the sheer number of players with Premier League experience.

Only six of Belgium's 23-man squad have not played in England's Premier League but, if the teams are holding back in Kaliningrad it will not be out of politeness.

The winners of the match, and therefore the group, are likely to face a trickier path through the knockout stages, with tougher opponents like Brazil - should they qualify after yesterday's matches - potentially waiting in the quarter-finals.

But England defender Gary Cahill has warned his team not to get ahead of themselves.

"The discussions have been to go and win the game and that's the truth," he said.

"You can't look too far ahead. We were looking in the Euros (in 2016) at playing France in the stadium and it was going to be a fantastic occasion, and then it never got to that. You cannot look too far down the line."

Striker Harry Kane, who is in red-hot form, is seeking to continue his charge towards winning the tournament's Golden Boot. He sits top of the charts on five goals.

Cahill added that should England ring the changes, Kane should not be on the bench.

 

"We want to obviously keep him fit but we're not talking about a 60-game season here," he said.

"We're talking about a handful of games. He's in good form, he's banging the goals in. Again, we're talking about momentum. Ultimately, the manager will decide."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2018, with the headline 'Southgate should rest players, stay fresh: Neville'. Print Edition | Subscribe