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Trevor Sinclair England v France preview and memories of 2002 World Cup

07 Dec | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Trevor Sinclair England v France preview and memories of 2002 World Cup

The former England international reveals why he believes England can win the World Cup and reveals the Premier League club that he believes Jude Bellingham would fit in at best.

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What have you made of Jude Bellingham at this World Cup?

It’s difficult not to be impressed. It’s just over three years ago that he broke into the Birmingham City first team and now he’s in the World Cup quarter-finals, bossing it.

As a young man, I’ve been through it myself, you take time to mature. But he seems to be so mature already, so full compliments to his parents and his coaches at Birmingham City, who have brought him up with a fantastic attitude.

And then you come onto what incredible talent he has and what his ceiling is.

It’s difficult not to compare him to Steven Gerrard. He’s box-to-box, technically very good and for a young boy he has this tenacious, combative nature. He loves a confrontation, he’s no shrinking violet.

I think before the tournament, a lot of people would have been surprised at the levels he’s hit. If there was a game he was going to struggle with it might have been the Senegal one, because of the pressure of it being knock-out, but he just got into his flow again and played with that confidence, not arrogance, flowing through him.

How impressive is the maturity with which he carries himself and speaks publicly?

You have to compliment his attitude and will to learn. I was listening to one of his old coaches from Birmingham talk about how he prepared like an elite professional at such a young age.

You can see that in the way he carries himself. He has no fear but also has an understanding of what his role is, the freedom with which he is allowed to play and the decisions that he is being asked to make.

I think you can compare him to the likes of Gavi and Pedri of Spain and Barcelona in the sense that they all understand their games and are so coachable at such a young age.

You have to praise Gareth Southgate, too. He wants players that understand tactics, pressing triggers, when to sit, when to make a run, and he’s helped instil that in Bellingham’s game.

The England team, with Declan Rice, Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka and Bellingham, is very young, and with youth you do get fearlessness. This England team combines fearlessness and maturity really well.

Do you anticipate the majority of the biggest cubs in the world trying to sign Bellingham?

Yeah, very soon.

I think he’ll stay in January. Borussia Dortmund tend to stick strong and do their business when they can get the best fee possible in the summer market.

But in the summer, I do expect a £150-175m kind of fee to be spent on him.

Barcelona, I’m not so sure, because they already have Gavi and Pedri in those positions, but virtually every other massive club will want him.

Real Madrid, for sure, and Liverpool, who have been heavily linked. He obviously has that great relationship with Jordan Henderson, which might give them an advantage.

But you look at Man City, where there might be some movement out in midfield this summer, and I think he could slot into that team really well.

Pep knows what he wants from his players technically and tactically, he knows how he wants his players to play, and I think Bellingham brings everything that he would want. He’s got defensive qualities, he’s got that passing range and he’s got the ability to get all over the pitch.

I can see him at City, for sure.

Birmingham got some stick for retiring the No. 22 shirt when they sold Bellingham – maybe they knew something we didn’t?

Yeah, they knew very early. Everybody at Birmingham can’t speak highly enough of him, his attitude and his family.

Jude’s got the world at his feet and, barring injury, I can see him setting a lot of records and being very successful in the game.

On England’s World Cup campaign as a whole, are there parallels to draw between this run to the quarter-finals and your run to the quarter-finals in 2002?

Yeah, they’re very similar actually.

I remember we beat Denmark 3-0 in the last 16 when it was been pouring with rain. It was a really memorable game, that one. I remember I hit the crossbar, but luckily the game was put to bed by half-time.

Everything seemed to go to plan and we executed what we wanted to do really well, just like England did against Senegal.

And then we played tournament favourites Brazil, just like this team have to play another of the big boys in France.

What are the differences between this camp and the one you were in?

I think the huge difference is that this England squad has experience of playing in the latter stages of tournaments and feel like they totally belong there.

There are certain things that they will have learned from the last few tournaments that they’re putting into action here. For example, if you look back at the Croatia semi-final in 2018 and the Italy final last summer, I think we probably got it wrong having taken the lead.

I feel like this team has already shown a better grasp of when to go for games and put them to bed – we’ve scored our second goal soon after our first on a regular basis in this tournament. Hopefully we continue not to sit back and give opposition the impetus.

Gareth and his players really understand how to control the flow of games and keep things in their hands. That’s something the squad I was a part of didn’t do so well.

Is your perception that this is a happier camp than yours?

Yeah, definitely. Without wanting to dig out Sven, I think Gareth has the advantage of having been part of England squads while playing for Aston Villa and Middlesbrough.

I don’t think it was done on purpose, but in my time you did feel like you had five or six Manchester United players gravitating towards each other, same with Liverpool. So you go into the lunch room and everybody’s just sitting with their clubmates.

I think as somebody who maybe didn’t fit into one of those groups, Gareth has a better understanding of the dynamic of the squad, and the need to keep everybody involved and happy. He’s spoken to various experts in the field to make sure that he’s getting it right.

The team spirit in this squad really does stand out.

Do you think this squad also benefits from not having one stand-out player who everybody relies on?

Yeah, you can see that the structure put in place all the way down to grassroots football by Gareth many years ago means that players are very good technically, but also used to playing a role within a team.

Kane, obviously, is more experienced but you’ve got young guys playing around him who are all generational talents and who could all be the match-winner.

Look at how many goalscorers we’ve had. Kane’s only just got his first goal of the tournament. It looks like James Maddison won’t play at all, which just proves the talent in the squad.

How do you see the game against France playing out?

Apart from the last half hour against Poland, I think France have been underwhelming in this tournament. It feels ominous to say it, but I think we can keep them quiet.

Obviously, their key threat is Kylian Mbappe and I think we have the perfect defender to deal with him in Kyle Walker. When PSG have played Man City, Mbappe hasn’t done too much.

I wonder whether Mbappe might play on the right-hand side, because I don’t see Luke Shaw being able to deal with him in the same way.

But it’s a lot more complicated than that.

Rabiot, I think, is an excellent player. He gets bad press but he brings a real simplicity to that France midfield, in a good way. Giroud and Dembele are in good form, too.

Would you consider moving to a back five to combat the French attack?

It’s a really difficult one, because we’ve been so convincing for a lot of the tournament. Senegal weren’t a match for England, so it’s difficult to argue to change the side.

Henderson’s got a lot of qualities but I wonder whether Gareth might look at Kalvin Phillips, with his passing range and experience of going deep in major tournaments. He’s got better legs and mobility than Henderson.

I’d keep Bellingham in that advanced position, where he can drop deeper and help keep a solid midfield shape if needed.

So I think there are a few ways of tightening up without actually changing formation. I think we’ve been too good so far to be fiddling with the shape too much.

This is what Gareth’s spent years preparing for. I’m sure he’s talking to his staff all the time, watching the players, and he’ll have a strong idea of what he wants from his team by the time the game comes around.

How do you see it going?

I honestly can see us winning the game, I really can. I think we’ve got the tools to do it.

We’re the top scorers at the competition, we’ve got several players in great form, we’ve got the experience of these types of games. It just feels like it’s the right time for this team.

And if they do beat France, can England win the World Cup?

Yeah, I think they can.

They need to be at their best and they need to keep players injury-free. John Stones’ hamstring niggle is a concern because I don’t think Eric Dier or Conor Coady have his quality.

But if they can keep this core together, and everybody is at their best, then it’s possible.

I think Brazil look really good and will reach the final from the other side of the draw. A Brazil v England final would be quite a spectacle.