Harry Redkanpp was in Dublin today to launch AIB’s new series, The Toughest Rivalry.
blessing in disguise

''If I'm Gareth Southgate, I'd have thought: 'Yes, we've got beaten'"

Harry Redknapp believes losing to Belgium was a great result for England as it put them on the easier side of the World Cup draw.

HARRY REDKNAPP BELIEVES England’s group stage loss to Belgium was a positive result and feels Gareth Southgate’s side would have been secretly happy with the outcome.

The defeat meant England have avoided some of the pre-tournament favourites including Brazil and France in their run to the semi-final.

“I didn’t see us going that far,” Redknapp said in Dublin today, when asked about England’s run to the semi-final of the World Cup.

“I was sure we’d come out of the group, that was a certainty. But then it was the luck of the draw. The big game was the Belgium game. I think getting the result against Belgium at the end of the day was a great result for us, because it put us in the half of the group that was in the much better group to be in than the other half. Belgium ended up with Brazil and France.”

He continued: “I said before the game, the winners of this game will be the losers. Whoever wins the game is going to end up in the worst group. You can’t say it publicly and both managers still probably wouldn’t admit it, I don’t care whether they do or not. As a manager, you’d have gone home that night, if I’m Gareth Southgate, I’d have though ‘yes, we’ve got beaten but now look at our group, look where we go from here, look at the path forward’. And if I’m Martinez, I’d be thinking ‘bloody hell, we’ve won the game, but now look where we are.’”

Redknapp, himself once strongly linked with the England job, praised the work done by Gareth Southgate since he took over from Sam Allardyce at the start of qualification.

I’m probably more pleased with him because he’s a really nice fella. He’s got the best out of the group so far, but we haven’t had massive tests of yet. Tonight will be a bigger test than we’ve had so far.”

And with two world-class stars, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitić, Redknapp feels Croatia could have the upperhand in midfield.

“They’re going to control the game. We’re not set up really [to defend] unless we change. Jesse Lingard and Delle Alli are not going to be players that are defensive-minded. They’re going to have to get around Rakitic and Modric when we haven’t got the ball — they’re going to have to do that side of it.

Henderson can’t just do it on his own in there. He’s going to need [help]. That’s going to be important… Their defensive qualities wouldn’t be so great either. We can cause them problems. Dele Alli I think is an amazing talent. He hasn’t shown his best form in the World Cup so far, but I think he’s an amazing player. I know he scored last game, but there’s a big game waiting for him, it could be tonight.”

It is 52 years since England secured their first and only World Cup triumph to date, and Redknapp believes the current group emulating the heroes of ’66 is not beyond the realm of possibility.

“There wasn’t an outstanding team in the tournament before a ball was kicked. I thought it was an open tournament this year, with seven, eight, maybe 10 teams that could win it. Even Croatia, to be fair, I thought they were genuine contenders, because it was so open. Nothing has changed my opinion. France were a lot of people’s tip at the start. They are in the final and the team to beat.

“There’s every chance [England can win the World Cup]. I think we’re going to make the final and anything can happen then, it’s a toss-up. Tonight will be tough, but I think we’ll get through. If it goes to extra-time we’ll be stronger than them. They’ll run out of legs a bit. They’ve had extra-times and we’ll be maybe a bit fresher than them.

“And we’ve a bit of a stronger squad, we can bring subs on that are stronger than theirs.”


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