Hmmm…Bit of a funny one, that. Gareth Southgate’s mob played well in a tetchy win over Tunisia, hit Panama for six and then cleverly threw the final match against Belgium.
It’s arguable that nine points out of an available nine trumps six points out of an available nine, sure. But only a true naïf would think like that. Or a Belgian.
England are through to the knockout stage and it’s now time to relax, reflect and unfairly criticise the players.
To evaluate performances from ‘the lads’ out in Russia so far, we’ve come up with an extremely clever ratings system. We’ll rate ‘the boys’ using the following excellent pint based method that we’ll help explain using footballing Rons:
FULL PINT- Brilliant, wonderful, exceptional... Cristiano Ronaldo.
PINT HALF FULL- Decent, impressive, good… Ronald Koeman.
PINT HALF EMPTY - Mediocre, uninspired, forgettable… Ronnie Johnsen.
DREGS - Awful, dreadful, terrible… Ron Atkinson the co-commentator.
Make sense? Sure it does! You’re not Phil Neville, you’ve got this.
Jordan Pickford - PINT HALF EMPTY
No clean sheets, three goals conceded and no notable saves made. Yet it’s not been a disastrous start for the Everton stopper necessarily. He’s tidy with his plates of meat and we’re all fairly confident he’ll be England’s number one for some time, right? Yet we can’t help but think that, like Neil Armstrong back in July 1969, Jordan Pickford might not know it but he’s never that far from a clanger.
Kyle Walker - PINT HALF EMPTY
A frighteningly quick full back, it’s understandable why the former Sheff United man is slightly miffed at being played at centre back. Then again, it’s his fault for being so good at it. He handled Panama with consummate ease, missed the third match entirely and picked up a yellow in the first game against Tunisia. Oh yeah, and gave away a needlessly daft penalty in that as well. A mixed bag thus far. England need him to focus against Colombia.
Danny Rose - PINT HALF FULL
If we were one of Danny Rose’s teammates we’d take a marker pen to the back of his shirt and make him be an impressive and marauding left back in a shirt with the word Rosé written on it. Because we’re absolute bant-tastic legends like that. Rose/Rosé did well in his cameo against Panama and from the start in the third outing. Albeit he was arguably to blame somewhat for Adnan Januzaj’s goal (but only a wee bit).
Trent Alexander-Arnold - PINT HALF FULL
Only the fourth teenager to ever start for The Three Lions at a World Cup, Liverpool’s syllable-heavy right back equipped himself well against a second-string Belgian side. Although there were a few defensive lapses along the way. Apparently he’s David Beckham now too, given his utter dominance of England’s free kicks and corners. Just, you know, David Beckham if he were noticeably worse at taking free kicks and corners.
John Stones - PINT HALF FULL
The only outfield player to start all three games, Juan Cojones (as he’s known in Latin-speaking countries) is still very capable of losing possession when he wants to, but has generally done his whole ‘ball-playing centre half’ lark pretty well up to now. Plus, in 32 minutes against Panama he scored as many goals as the entire Germany squad managed in the whole tournament. We have to get this off our chest too - why does no one ever mention how handsome he is? The man’s handsome. Probably the most handsome man in Barnsley. It needs to be pointed out, damn it.
Harry Maguire - PINT HALF FULL
Assured on the ball, confident in his passing, unafraid to venture forward and a threat in the box (well, both boxes, really)... When you think about it, Harry Maguire wouldn’t look out of place in the Brazilian back line. Which is odd considering he looks like someone threw Sputnik onto the body of a Suffolk farmhand.
Gary Cahill - PINT HALF FULL
Firmly England’s back-up centre back (‘centre back-up’?), the Chelsea defender performed well when called upon against the Belgians and managed to clear a Pickford spillage off the line fairly early on. One of the few players over 12 years old in the squad, he’s clearly reveling in his role as team Dad, which is nice.
Kieran Trippier - FULL PINT
Arguably England’s player of the tournament so far. Unarguably the owner of England’s worst haircut. He’s quick, he can defend and he’s providing assists via his excellent set pieces. He could be key to unlocking Colombia on Tuesday night.
Ashley Young - PINT HALF FULL
Hard in the tackle and a decent outlet on the left, no one is totally convinced by his defensive nous, but he’s yet to let England down in this new system. Does he get into the starting XI over a fully fit Danny Rose? We’ll see. Also worth noting is that he’s England’s oldest player. BUT HIS NAME IS ‘YOUNG’! Now,that’s irony, Alanis Morissette. You can keep your spoons.
Phil Jones - DREGS
My old nan always says, ‘if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.’ But then she also says,‘that Phil Jones is a useless sh*thouse.’ So we’re a little torn here. Maybe we’ll just whisper it…‘Phil Jones is a useless sh*thouse.’
Jordan Henderson - PINT HALF FULL
Harry Kane wears the armband, but the Liverpool man’s the real leader of men out there. It’s been a huge season for Jordan Henderson, hasn’t it? He’s now England’s main man in the middle and looks more and more like a boss every game. Nearly scored against Tunisia with a long ranger too. Bag one of those soon and he’ll be all set in a white shirt.
Eric Dier - PINT HALF EMPTY
Binned off for Henderson, it must have been odd for him to get recalled against Belgium and given the captaincy. Especially given it was a game he made zero impact in. We all know Eric Dier’s decent and provides cover in a few positions, so we won’t moan too much about him. Which is pretty big of us, especially as we thought of a cracking ‘Eric Dire’ joke. Ho ho! You’d have loved that, you!
Dele Alli - PINT HALF EMPTY
Looked up for it in the first half against the Tunisians but then picked up a knock and faded. He was rested for the two other group games but looks set to return and, like Maradona on any given Tuesday night, he should be well up for a night of intense Colombian action.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek - PINT HALF EMPTY
Big and beautiful, RLC is probably the player we all most want to see pull up trees in this tournament. The Chelsea player who doesn’t play for Chelsea looked sharp in his ten minute spell in game one, but flitted in and out of the others matches, both of which he started. As soon as Alli’s fit, Loftus-Cheek will be shipped out quick than an Amazon Prime delivery.
Fabian Delph - DREGS
After his renaissance season under Pep, Fabian Delph’s inclusion in the squad was probably the least surprising surprise inclusion possible. He offers cover in midfield and on the left and, like a certain brand of deodorant, he won’t let you down. But if he’s a £1.75 can of body spray, his peers like Mousa Dembélé are fine cologne. And that showed against Belgium.
Jesse Lingard - FULL PINT
Seen as something of a manager’s pet when Southgate first took over, Lingard is now a nailed-on starter. Flashes of brilliance provided no end product against Tunisia, but in the second game he really purred, earned a penalty and then belting in a screamer. Along with Sir Harry, Lingard is pivotal to how deep England can go into this thing.
Harry Kane - FULL PINT
Crikey. Five goals in two games put England’s Main Man top of the goalscoring charts in pretty short order, eh? Kane came off on 64 minutes against Panama and didn’t kick a ball on Thursday night meaning he’s only played 154 minutes so far. That’s a goal every half hour. It’s not just goals that the Spurs man brings, though. Sure, England weren’t exactly busting a gut to win their third game but with Kane on the bench, how uninspired did everyone look? Without Kane, England look toothless and almost rudderless.
Raheem Sterling - PINT HALF EMPTY
The Man City man hasn’t scored in 22 international games now. And he has a tattoo on his leg. And he has a kid. God, he’s awful. Send him home. Send him to prison. JK. Sterling is a class act. But as much as he gets a hard time, he is yet to impress in Russia. Two games played, two quiet outings with chances missed. Let’s not forget he has a tattoo on his leg too. The terrible man.
Marcus Rashford - PINT HALF EMPTY
Didn’t get on the field against Panama but showed promise and spark in the opener when coming for the much-maligned Sterling with 20 minutes left to go. The 20 year-old didn’t see much of the ball against Belgium and was let down slightly by his finishing. Unless he meant to miss, of course. So we could snaffle that plum second spot. Either way, don’t expect him to oust City rival Sterling for the Round of 16 clash.
Jamie Vardy - PINT HALF EMPTY
Rebekah’s husband hasn’t really had much of a chance to have a party as yet in Russia. He did what he does when putting in a half hour shift against The Canal on Sunday and the same from the off last night. Vardy made his runs and could have got an assist had Rashford worn his shooting boots on in Kaliningrad. He’ll be eager to play some part against Colombia. If for no other reason than to ‘make a few contacts’. If you know what we mean. And you do.
Danny Welbeck - DREGS
The last England player to score against England’s third opponents Belgium, Dat Guy got twelve minutes against Bobby Martinez’s men. Not to score, you understand. But to underpin how England were more than happy to lose the game. This was perfectly demonstrated by his second touch, a deft flick around his man which ballooned halfway to Lithuania. His introduction was a tactical masterstroke by Southgate.
Gareth Southgate - FULL PINT
There’s been genuine warmth and love shown to the England boss by the nation so far. He’s just a ruddy nice bloke. He’s your sister’s new boyfriend. Sure her ex was more of a laugh and this one doesn’t even drink. But he treats her well and she seems to loves him. As do the England players. He’s keeping the squad happy, he’s keeping the press in check and he’s guided England to the knockout stages of the World Cup. He’s alright by us. Until we get knocked out, anyway. Then he can bloody well do one. Your sister can just get back on Tinder.
All images - PA. Numbers and stats via WhoScored.