Chris Sutton: Only four players set to start England’s World Cup opener against Iran

Only six countries can win the World Cup this year, and England is one of them. But do you still trust their performance?

The 4-0 defeat at home to Hungary in June was the first time England fans had turned on Gareth Southgate, with Molyneux booed and chants of ‘You’ll be sent off in the morning’.

After this humiliation, Southgate will know he needs a performance – you can’t play in the World Cup having lost 4-0 to Hungary, then been defeated by Italy and Germany in flat-screen shows. We often get carried away heading to the World Cup, but I don’t think anyone would be optimistic if the performances weren’t there in the next four days.

England fans lost some faith in the team after a disappointing Nations League campaign

England need to find the shape that made them reach the Euro 2020 final last year

England need to find the shape that made them reach the Euro 2020 final last year

Could it become much less than Hungary? Well, if we can’t take on Italy and Germany, we may be about to find out.

There were people who lost faith for the first time after the June games, but let’s fix one thing: for all the negativity surrounding Southgate after Hungary, not so long ago this guy led us to the Euro final and a World Cup semi-final. -ultimate. You can’t win as England coach – you beat Germany 2-0 at Euros and you hear, ‘It’s a poor Germany team’.

You’d reach the World Cup semi-finals and they had an easy draw. This is a guy who has achieved really great things for England, he hasn’t quite crossed the line, but we can’t judge him just based on what happened in June. We were in the penalty shootout against Italy far from calling Southgate an absolute genius and the best coach since Sir Alf Ramsey.

The biggest problem for him is that with two months left in Qatar, we are all still not sure who the top 11 players are and what the best formation is.

How many players can you say with confidence that they were named at the starting point? Southgate loves Jordan Pickford, Harry Kane Mesmer, Declan Rice Mesmer, Raheem Sterling too. But instead? He loves Mason Mount, but there must be questions about the Chelsea man’s place in the squad with his performances this season, and with so much talent going forward, he can’t rest on his laurels.

Gareth Southgate should use this week's matches to train his top 11 for the World Cup

Gareth Southgate should use this week’s matches to train his top 11 for the World Cup

Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling will definitely be in the starting line-up for the Iran match

Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling will definitely be in the starting line-up for the Iran match

Those two games against Italy and Germany are really important for all of us to feel confident again at Southgate. The way they play in Milan tomorrow night and at Wembley on Monday is more important than the results. It’s about showing the flow, the style of play as we all trust this English team.

It’s about stripping things back – does three really work behind in terms of getting us the ball at Kane and Sterling? Are there partnerships, groups, and patterns to shape play? There has to be something about these games where we all sit and think, “Cool, looks like he’s going to click,” and the confidence will continue from there.

England have struggled for goals recently, scoring just once in four Nations League matches in June, but the lack of good attacking performance is a bigger concern.

There are many options in wide areas and Southgate may confuse himself as much as anything else. It’s really tough for him with so few players on the level.

There is a lack of continuity, playing with different frontlines and individuals. The only constant is Kane and then you need players around him to suit his playing style. Sterling is going to have a certain start, whether it’s 3-5-2, 3-4-3 or 4-2-3-1. We know Kane loves to go deep and find racers in the back, and Sterling can do just that. It’s really interesting when you consider the options we have going forward, and it’s no surprise that Southgate can’t land on the XI starting set.

Declan Rice is another player because he is Southgate's favorite to play in midfield

Declan Rice is another player because he is Southgate’s favorite to play in midfield

Eleventh for Chris Sutton to face Italy

(3-4-1-2): Ramsdale; Walker, Tomori, Stones; James, Rice; Bellingham, Chilwell; Foden. Kane, Stirling.

Mount played various roles with England, Phil Foden had a good start to the season in Manchester City, Foden’s teammate Jack Grealish did well, and Bukayo Saka was fantastic at Arsenal. Of all the options, Saka seems to be the one in current form that deserves a chance to start.

It’s a great week for Mount and Jarrod Bowen, with James Madison, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho all having very superior performances but not on this team. Southgate always seems to find a place for Mount in his squad, but he’s not silly, he knows it’s all about winning the World Cup. As an England fan, I’d like to know more about the starting line-up now, but with so many players out there or getting injured, it created a huge mystery for Southgate.

While I think we are one of the teams that can lift the World Cup in Qatar, I still put France, Spain, Brazil and Argentina ahead. But if that’s the case, and that’s a big deal with England at the moment, we have players who can hurt anyone. Based on recent performances, you don’t expect that to happen, so we need to change that – starting this week against massive opposition.

Jordan Pickford, currently injured, has secured the No. 1 shirt under Southgate

Jordan Pickford, currently injured, has secured the No. 1 shirt under Southgate

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