sport news IAN LADYMAN: England have dodged the Qatar chaos... now they can cash in trends now
A sense of quite beautiful chaos has descended on the World Cup and, happily, England have been nowhere near it.
Germany, Belgium, Uruguay and Denmark have gone home. Spain almost went, too.
It was tempting to think of England — all tucked up in their expensive beds by the sea — on Thursday night as Germany and Spain played heart-attack football in Group E. It was tempting, too, to think of all those who would have chased Gareth Southgate from his posting before this increasingly engaging tournament had even begun.
England have managed to dodge the chaos that has swarmed Qatar in recent days
Germany are among the big sides already out of the competition after the group stages
To them, Southgate and his team are too boring, too pragmatic, just too damned steady to be worthy of real affection.
Yet while the German defence — typified by the far-too-smart-for-his-own-good Antonio Rudiger — were being unpicked by Costa Rica (ranked 31 in the world) on Thursday, Spain were being embarrassed by Japan (ranked 24). Luis Enrique’s team began this tournament by hammering Costa Rica 7-0. Yet at around 11.20pm local time eight days later, they were failing to qualify.
It’s this kind of excitement that we all want from a World Cup. We just don’t want it to happen to us, to our team. When it comes to drama of that proportion, you can keep it. Or at least save it for the back end of this competition.
The German defence was typified by the far-too-smart-for-his-own-good Antonio Rudiger
England have been lucky so far at Qatar 2022. They were lucky when the draw for the groups was made back in April. They were then lucky when Wales somehow beat a superior Ukraine side in the play-off to make up the numbers in Group B. Ukraine would have been tougher opposition here than Rob Page’s deeply disappointing Wales team.
England were lucky Iran froze on day one. Iran were not that bad from then on. They were then lucky not to lose against the USA.
Nevertheless, England are in the last 16 unscathed. They have taken neither physical nor emotional damage on board and that is important. They are one of only five teams from 32 to have not lost a game. They are the tournament’s joint-top scorers. If England have been given a straightforward racing line to the last 16 then they have made the most of it. What else can