Trevor Steven: England have raised the bar of expectation but must add game-management to their armoury

 
Trevor Steven
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England (Source: Getty)

This will go down as a very successful World Cup for England. They set new standards for preparation, raised the bar of expectation again and established great foundations to build on.

I have faith in Gareth Southgate and the management to find ways to improve, but I have one problem: England haven’t fully got to grips with playing international football.

By that I mean being able to keep the ball and slow the play down when needed. Game management. It’s not all about getting forward.

Read more: What World Cup? Why England can dream of glory at Euro 2020

Too often when we were 1-0 up, as in Wednesday night’s semi-final against Croatia, we weren’t able to steer that situation to a win. We gave the ball away far too much and were then forced to chase after it. You could see the warning signs earlier in the tournament.

The team still plays a very English style of football. You can play that way in the qualifying games and get through, but when you get to a World Cup or a European Championship you need something else. You can’t win trophies like that.

Possession is still a great issue for English football. It’s not about having more possession but retaining it; quality not quantity. We just lacked a bit of know-how.

England aren’t far away, though. It has been a rapid rise under Southgate and there is no need to go back to the drawing board altogether – just consolidate and develop our patterns of play.

I really think we have the players to succeed and a plethora of young talent coming through, some of whom are benefiting from playing abroad in places like the Bundesliga.

Football moves in cycles and Germany are a case in point. They were in the doldrums but found a formula that worked and it culminated in winning the 2014 World Cup.

They then lost some momentum, coach Joachim Low made the mistake of omitting Leroy Sane from his squad and they had a miserable time in Russia this summer.

Southgate has got his player selection spot on so far. We just have to make sure we get the game-plan right in order to bring the best out of the resources we now have.

Not much was expected of England at this World Cup but they surprised us and set new standards for themselves.

That comes with a new pressure – they will be expected to reach semi-finals from now on – and they will have to live with that, but this experience will have been a brilliant learning curve for the players and manager.

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