Interview: Harry Redknapp Backs England For World Cup Success
We are now just days away from the biggest event in football as the 2018 World Cup in Russia gets underway on 14 June. The hopes of the nation lie on the 23-man squad that Gareth Southgate has selected for this year’s tournament, as anticipation builds for England’s first game on 18 June against Tunisia.
One man who is looking forward to this year’s tournament is former Tottenham, West Ham and Southampton manager, Harry Redknapp. Champions Football Speakers spoke to the much-loved star to get his views on the upcoming tournament and England’s hopes for success.
So, Harry, which team do you think are going into the tournament as favourites?
It’s a difficult one really, I suppose Germany are the strongest, but they have one or two who play in England who wouldn’t scare you too much. I think England have a realistic chance, if they get the luck of the draw, get through the first round then who knows.
Gareth Southgate has named one of the most inexperienced squads ever for a major tournament, do you see this as an advantage or disadvantage?
Well whatever happens we certainly shouldn’t have any fear going into the tournament. We’ve got good players. Look at all the other countries who everyone says are so wonderful well half of them are playing in the Premier League but there’s no one better than Harry Kane. There’s no one better than Dele Alli in his position, John Stones is outstanding, there isn’t a better right back than Kyle Walker or better left back than Danny Rose.
Marcus Rashford is also someone who can give anybody problems. When he runs at people he’s very difficult to play but the problem is where do you play him. You’d probably have him out wide unless you take a chance and play two up front. For me you have to get Dele Alli in the team, he’s a marvellous talent so there’s lots of good options.
So, I think we’ve got some very very good players that would get in any team. I think we’ve got to go into it without fear and have a go.
England’s group looks favourable, on paper, against Tunisia, Panama and Belgium, how do you see them getting on?
I see England comfortably winning the first two games against Tunisia and Panama and will have safely qualified by the time we play Belgium. I think the Belgians will be one of the danger teams in the competition, so it will be difficult. However, I think because both teams will be through by then we can probably rest a few players and get prepared for the next round.
Many of the Belgian players play in the Premier League, do you think this gives England the edge?
Well we certainly know a lot about them and that they’re good players, but it doesn’t matter how much you know about the likes of Eden Hazard, etc, but how do you stop him? He’s a great player and a fantastic talent as is Kevin De Bruyne and the team is full of talented players but for whatever reason when it comes to a tournament they haven’t produced.
We have been waiting for Belgium to produce something on the big stage for a long time, so it will be interesting to see whether when it comes to a meaningful tournament like this year’s World Cup, if they can produce like we know they are capable of.
Harry Kane will be captaining England in Russia, do you believe this is the right choice?
Yes, absolutely. He’s a great player, a fantastic professional and probably our one world-class player. He’s the one who could get into any team in the world, you just need to look at his goal scoring record for Tottenham, which is incredible, to see how good he is.
So for me he was the perfect choice of England captain.
Jack Wilshere won’t be going to the tournament, do you think this was the right decision?
I’m a big fan of Jack and think if he’s fit he has to be in the squad and the team. Obviously, Gareth Southgate was worried about his fitness and whether he would break down but I think there was room to take him. We have a lot of defenders going and personally I would have taken a gamble and selected Jack.
Perhaps a surprise choice for the squad was Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold being selected. What did you make of that inclusion?
I think he’s been fantastic this season. He looks like he could be a big player for both club and country for years to come. To play in the Champions League this year at his age and put in the performances he has done is a huge achievement. He’s good going forward, he’s quick and he can defend. He’s still young so there’s areas of his game to work on but he’s a great talent. He’s one for now and for the future and will go far in the game.
What would represent success for England in this tournament in your opinion?
Winning it. We’ve got good players, people say it will be good to get out of the group or to the quarter-finals, but I believe we can go all the way. Portugal won the European Championships in 2016 by only winning one game in normal time so it’s doable.
In a cup tournament with a bit of luck in the draw, all of a sudden you can find yourself going all the way. It’s different to winning a league over 40 games or so, you don’t need to be the best team in a cup.
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