England could benefit from timing of Qatar World Cup, says Beckham

By Sports Desk June 16, 2022

David Beckham says the timing of the World Cup in Qatar could provide England with an advantage as Gareth Southgate's men look to end a 56-year wait for major tournament success.

The Three Lions reached the semi-finals in Russia four years ago and lost on penalties to Italy in last year's Euro 2020 final.

A poor June resulted in a pair of defeats to Hungary sandwiching draws with Germany and Italy in the Nations League, but England are still tipped among the favourites for World Cup glory.

Beckham featured in three World Cups during a glittering international career that saw him win 115 caps, but success evaded the England sides he played in.

But with England kicking off their Group B campaign against Iran on November 21, Beckham says the timing of the tournament could suit Southgate's team.

"Personally I feel, for our team, it's a huge opportunity," he told former England and Manchester United team-mate Gary Neville on The Overlap podcast. 

"Like you said, we never did use it [fatigue] as an excuse [in previous tournaments], but truth be told, we came to the end of a gruelling season in the Premier League – the toughest league in the world, and you are tired, you do want a rest.

"You don't have that time to recover from a tough season. But these players are coming into this tournament at a time where they're at their peak, they're in the middle of their season, there's no reason and no excuse for them not to be at the top of their game.

"For our players, this is a huge opportunity. We have a young team, an exciting team, we have a manager that has been with these players for a long time.

"I really love watching this England team play, they're exciting, they play with passion, they play like they want to be there. It's something that, as an England fan, that's what you want to see.

"All of a sudden, our fans have come together behind this team again. For a moment, I'd say the fans – I wouldn't say they fell out of love with the national team, but there was a disconnect. 

"[Now] there's a connection. And I think Gareth's done an incredible job with this team."

Beckham also hailed the current Three Lions side as particularly likeable, praising the likes of Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling for their off-field efforts to engage with fans on racism and other social issues.

"There's an excitement within this team," he continued. "I talk about these players, and they're more than just footballers. 

"What I love about this generation of players, particularly in England, is with the power they have on the field, they're trying to make change off the field.

"I see the work that Marcus has done, I see the work Raheem and other players have done, the good that they're doing outside the game is exceptional, using their platform to help other people and make change. 

"The fact they are now helping other people and helping educate people on racism, the stuff they go through every single day, they are making change and that's why I love this group of players and this generation."

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    Les Bleus meet Poland in a last-16 clash in Doha that will see Lloris equal Lilian Thuram's record of 142 caps for France.

    It represents a landmark moment for the Tottenham goalkeeper, who made his international debut against Uruguay 14 years ago, but he was quick to train his focus on securing victory for his country at Al Thumama Stadium.

    "It's quite something and I am very honoured to reach that figure and that number of caps, but it's a day before a last-16 game, so that [the record] is of course secondary," he said.

    "The World Cup is the most important thing and I am 100 per cent focused on tomorrow's game. It's going to be a battle and we will all need to be 100 per cent focused.

    "I will appreciate reaching that record once the tournament is over."

    The main threat to Lloris' hopes of celebrating his achievement with a clean sheet is Poland striker Robert Lewandowski. The Barcelona star finally broke his World Cup duck in the group stage and appears to be growing into the tournament.

    Lloris added: "Lewandowski is one of the best number nines in the world and has been for some time now. He's an important player for Poland but we are facing a team that defends well, that works hard, and then you have Lewandowski up front and he is clinical.

    "Also, they have Wojciech Szczesny, who has played a magical tournament in goal.

    "Poland deserve to be here. We have been trying to analyse their matches to see what type of game we will be facing. There's also a mental element that comes in at this stage so we will have to be ready."

    The knockout phase could see matches decided by penalty shoot-outs and, although Lloris will do his homework, the 35-year-old concedes it may come down to luck.

    "We have all the tools at our disposal to analyse penalty taking but there is always a bit of chance," he said. "You can study what has happened before and then the penalty taker does the opposite of what you're expecting.

    "You can prepare but there's always an element of instinct that comes into play. If the penalty is well taken you have little chance of saving it."

    It was a shoot-out that accounted for France at the European Championship last year, Les Bleus going down 5-4 to Switzerland after a pulsating 3-3 last-16 draw in Bucharest.

    That was a painful afternoon for the world champions and coach Didier Deschamps was not keen to spend too long reminiscing.

    "We don't talk about the past," he said. "I don't think it's worth it, especially a match that we've lost. Now we are facing another round of 16 game but it's not the same opponent.

    "We try to approach each match in a similar way. The group phase games were all difficult and now we have the best 16 teams in the world, even if you might not think so on paper. The games are getting tougher and we are going to have to be at our best."

  • 'A warning signal' - Dani Alves cautions Brazil against World Cup complacency after shock Cameroon loss 'A warning signal' - Dani Alves cautions Brazil against World Cup complacency after shock Cameroon loss

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    The Selecao fielded a much-changed side in their final Group G match, with progression to the last 16 already secured.

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    Once every four years players from across the globe get a chance to perform on the world stage and force their way into the football zeitgeist.

    Whether it is a young midfielder from Ghana who has been battling injuries the past couple of seasons, or a mercurial Dutch forward trying to push his way out of the Eredivisie, it is the perfect launchpad to alter the course of a player's career.

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    Cody Gakpo, the Netherlands

    Cody Gakpo has perhaps been the breakout star of the tournament, finding the back of the net in all three of the Netherlands' group matches.

    Having spent his entire career with PSV, the 23-year-old six-foot-four forward took a huge step forward in the 2021-22 season when he shattered his best goal return, following up his 11 goals in the 2020-21 campaign with 21 last time out.

    While those in the Netherlands set-up were waiting to see if he could replicate his terrific 12 months, he has taken another leap, with 12 goals and 14 assists in 19 combined Eredivisie and Europa League contests this term.

    There were rumours in the most recent transfer window that Leeds United were among the clubs looking to lure Gakpo away from PSV for a fee in the range of €30million, but he opted to reject their contract offer in the hope of landing at one of Europe's biggest clubs.

    That bet on himself has proven to be a masterstroke, with his performances on the Qatar stage well and truly putting him on the radar of Champions League sides including Real Madrid, Liverpool and Bayern Munich, per Dutch journalist Marco Timmer.

    He became the first player from any European nation since 2002 to score in each group match, while he also became only the second player to put his side 1-0 up in all three group fixtures.

    Enzo Fernandez, Argentina

    Just over six months ago, Enzo Fernandez was playing for River Plate back in Argentina, but just half a season after arriving at Benfica for a deal worth up to €18m, the attacking midfielder could be moving on to greener pastures.

    Fernandez, 21, broke into the Argentina squad while still with River Plate, but did not receive his senior debut until September 24 this year.

    His lead-up to the World Cup was strong enough to book his ticket to Qatar, and after coming off the bench in Argentina's first group-stage loss to Saudi Arabia, he came on and scored against Mexico, forcing his way into the starting XI before contributing an assist against Poland.

    His rapid rise has not gone unnoticed, and Marca is reporting Benfica have slapped a €100m fee on their new star if any team wants to pry him away while his contract still has another four seasons locked in.

    Real Madrid are one side said to be accepting of that figure, with Marca claiming they now view him as an alternative option to Borussia Dortmund and England prodigy Jude Bellingham.

    Mohammed Kudus, Ghana

    Ajax's Mohammed Kudus had begun to break out at the club level this season heading into the World Cup.

    The 22-year-old central midfielder scored four goals – including one each against Liverpool and Napoli – while adding two assists in six Champions League fixtures.

    After being awarded his first senior international cap for Ghana back in 2019, he was spotted at Danish side Nordsjaelland and brought over to Ajax for a €9m fee in 2020.

    He missed extended stretches of both the 2020-21 and 2021-22 campaigns through injuries, and still has not been used as a guaranteed starter this season, but his emergence on the World Cup stage has been undeniable.

    Against South Korea, Kudus delivered Ghana their only win of the group as he found the back of the net twice in a 3-2 triumph, and it was a performance that is said to have caught the eye of European powerhouses.

    Fichajes named Liverpool, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain as interested parties, and Sports Illustrated believe his price will be around £90m.

     

    Harry Souttar, Australia

    Australia have now qualified for five World Cups in a row, but after not winning a game at both the 2014 and 2018 editions, they had centre-back Harry Souttar to thank for finally taking three points against Tunisia.

    Souttar, 24, stands at a towering six-foot-six and showed off an impressive ability to cover ground in a hurry when he was called upon for a potentially game-saving, last-man challenge to defend Australia's 1-0 lead.

    It was one of the most spectacular defensive efforts of the tournament so far and one that will go down in Australian football folklore, and it is even more significant when taking into account his recent history.

    Tipped as a potential £20m transfer target late in 2021, Souttar then tore his ACL and missed 12 months of action, returning to the field in time to get three games under his belt with Stoke City before jetting off to the World Cup.

    While he could be forgiven for needing time to work his way into form, he has instead started all three group games and been the Socceroos' top performer, including his stellar efforts in a second clean sheet against Denmark to help his side through to the knockout stage.

    Clearly back to the player he was before his injury – at least – Souttar's showings on the world stage have been the kind that can take a career to a new level.

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