Kieron Dyer: We can do well in Russia, but it's not England who are my favourites...
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Former England and Ipswich Town star Kieron Dyer says he is confident England will do well in Russia, even though expectations are not high.
However, Dyer, who won 33 England caps and played in the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, feels it is Brazil who will be the team to beat.
England have plenty of positives though, says the former midfield schemer, who has seen close up how relaxed the squad appeared ahead of their leaving for the finals.
“Last week I was at St George’s Park doing my UEFA A coaching badge – England were obviously there training,” Dyer said.
“I chatted to a few of the players and to Gareth Southgate as well.
“They all looked very relaxed which is great.
“I think Gareth has done a good job with the squad he has chosen.
“When I was playing for England, the squad was often picked on reputation, not form.
“Joe Hart has been out of form this season, so hasn’t been picked.
“Gareth is also definite about the style of formation he wants to play, so he’s picking personnel to suit.
“The dilemma for a manager when picking your squad is do you pick your best players, even if they are out of form?
“Do you hope they find it or go for players on their game, that’s the Catch 22.
“One thing England do have is lots of pace and power. I think they will do well.”
But what is England ‘doing well’, in Kieron’s eyes?
Their first game is against Tunisia, with Panama and Belgium to follow in Group G.
“I’m pretty confident England will get out of the group stages,” Dyer said.
“The draw has been pretty favourable. They will be disappointed if they don’t.
“Belgium pound for pound have one of the strongest squads, possibly stronger than England.
“But we’ve seen what Belgium do in tournaments in recent years, they underachieve.
“So it might again be a good time to play them.
“I think the quarter-finals are what most people are expecting England, or hoping England, to reach.
“If we get to the semis, then I think we have over-achieved.
“Expectations are not as high as they usually are when England go to a major tournament, but as I have said, I’m confident they will do well.”
Southgate has named Harry Kane as captain.
The Spurs striker netted 30 Premier League goals last season.
Although he wouldn’t have made Kane captain, Dyer knows the homework would have been done.
“I’ve had it all ways to be honest when it comes to captains,” he said. “I’ve had captains in defence, in midfield, Alan Shearer was my captain when I made my debut for England.
“I personally wouldn’t have picked Kane as captain, but he can lead by example with his goals. He doesn’t have to be vocal.
“He has a lot on his shoulders being our main threat, but he and Gareth and the rest of the coaches will have had a good chat about it and Harry will have said he can cope.
“He is definitely England’s key man. If Harry Kane gets six goals plus, then England are likely to have had a good tournament.”
So who does Dyer think will lift the Jules Rimet Trophy come July 15?
“Well, Belgium are not my favourites as such but, like Spain did a few years ago, they have got to come good sometime,” Dyer said.
“But Brazil are my favourites.
“It looks like Neymar could be getting fit again and if that is so, they have such a strong squad.
“They have world class players in every position and that is a big difference between Brazil and ourselves.
“While we perhaps have one or two world class players – for me that’s Kane and Kyle Walker, who are two of the best in the top five in the world in their positions – overall England don’t have enough world class players.
“That is why England need to be very organised.”