Here’s the new boss. Kinda the same as the old boss?
While no one’s going to be mistaking Sam Allardyce for Roy Hodgson anytime soon — tactically or physically — the new England boss chose a very similar roster to the previous manager for Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Slovakia.
And you know what? That’s fine.
Yes, England stumbled horribly at EURO 2016, drawing Russia and Slovakia, beating Wales, and losing to Iceland in its first knockout game.
But that same team throttled the competition in qualifying for that tournament –the same UEFA opposition it will face in World Cup qualifying — going 10-0 and only allowing three goals with a plus-28 goal differential.
Allardyce has chosen Joe Hart in goal behind Kyle Walker, Gary Cahill, John Stones, and Danny Rose. In the midfield, it’s Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson behind a trio of attackers in Adam Lallana, Wayne Rooney, and in-form Raheem Sterling. Harry Kane is up top.
The most controversial decisions are using Kane, who’s struggled to score for Spurs early this season, over Jamie Vardy, and keeping Eric Dier or Jordan Henderson in over another Leicester player in Danny Drinkwater.
And lest we judge Allardyce from the get-go should the Slovakia tie go poorly, remember that England went 6W-4D-0L in 2014 World Cup qualification, edging Ukraine by a single point to avoid a playoff.
This time around for England, it’s Slovakia, Scotland, Slovenia, Lithuania, and Malta. Winning the group should not be a problem. Europe may be a deep confederation, but it also gets more than double the WC slots than the next group (and one extra with Russia hosting in 2018).