Gareth Southgate says he cannot freely distribute caps to his England fringe players in Tuesday’s final World Cup group game with Wales, despite the temptation to rotate.
England top Group B with four points and need one more to secure a safe passage into the knockout stages, but Southgate faces calls to rotate their side with qualification almost assured. Only a four-goal defeat against Wales, bottom of the group, would see a place in the round of 16 threatened.
Southgate has named back-to-back starting lineups against Iran and USA, meaning there are 15 players in his squad who have yet to start in those finals.
Midfielder Jordan Henderson, who appeared alongside Southgate at his press conference, is said to be one of the changes to the starting line-up, but the England manager has hinted there might not be not be many other areas of rotation.
“It’s always a challenge and we [do] have 26 players,” Southgate said when asked about keeping fringe players happy. “But we’re at a major tournament, it’s not about giving away caps. We want to go as far as possible. Players support each other and some will be disappointed if they don’t play.
“At other camps throughout the year we try to give people playing time where we can, but when you’re in a World Cup you can’t think that way unless that you haven’t already qualified and have a match with a different approach.
“We are lucky to have many professionals who come out on top. I did that myself by going to a tournament without many minutes.
“The [back-up] the job is to train well, support the guys and be ready for the moment ahead. It’s been part of our history in the previous two tournaments when the team was ready and supported each other throughout.”
When asked what kind of line-up England can expect against Wales, Southgate added: “We want to win football games. We have to balance freshness and stability, that’s always the decision. you take with the team. We have a chance to win the group with a positive result.
“We’re going to pick a team that we think can win the game. That’s our priority.”
Kane is ‘fine’ despite recent beatings
One person who is rumored to face a rotation is captain Harry Kane, who was an injury doubt against USA but went through an unsuccessful 90 minutes up front.
Southgate, however, insists the England captain’s fitness is up to par.
“He’s fine with the hit he’s had,” Southgate said. “I don’t know why everyone says it’s his ankle [that is causing him injury problems]it’s his foot.
“There’s only Ben White [missing] with the disease. So we have everyone available to choose from, which is a great position. It makes decisions difficult, you want a team in top form, that’s where we are.
Southgate expecting ‘fantastic atmosphere’ against Wales
A win or draw against England would eliminate Wales from the tournament in the group stages, while Rob Page’s side are looking for their first victory against their British neighbors in 34 years.
Southgate admitted England will have to match the “spirit” of Wales on Tuesday night as he recognizes the extra motivation they will bring to the contest.
“We know they seem to have extra motivation to play England with what they’re saying,” Southgate said.
“It’s like two countries whose borders are side by side. It’s a great sporting rivalry. It’s nothing more than that.
“That feeling may not be mutual, but I can understand that too. I live in Yorkshire, they feel the same for the rest of England!
“It’s going to be a fantastic atmosphere and we’re really looking forward to the game. We have to match the spirit of Wales, but I’d be disappointed if we didn’t. [anyway].”