Rod Liddle Rod Liddle

England are displaying all their usual flaws under Gareth Southgate

Phil Foden (photo: Getty)

Afterwards, Gary’s team of expert pundits crawled into their Hey Jude comfort blankets. Isn’t he great! Maybe the greatest! Well, sure. He’s a very good player. And England did win. But nothing could disguise the fact that for 65 minutes they displayed all the flaws that affected previous performances against Iceland, Belgium, Brazil, Australia, North Macedonia… a suffocating languor, a witlessness, a confused midfield and a dodgy defence. And Southgate was unable to press the correct buttons to alter that. Okay, he made the right substitutions (as usual, a little too late). But the chief problem – in midfield – has not been sorted. Did you know Phil Foden was playing? He was. One of the top three or four performers in the Premier League last season was close to invisible, playing so far back he operated occasionally as a makeshift left back. 

There was a lack of guile and pace in attack: too often England simply knocked it around the edge of the Serbian penalty area, clueless as to how they might actually get inside it. These are all very familiar faults, so quite why we are the tournament favourites is a mystery to me. Not bringing Grealish was a mistake. Starting with Gallagher or Bowen might sharpen us up front. Play like this against those smug pastry-munching Scandies and we’ll be in for what will be called a ‘shock’ defeat. Except it won’t be much of a shock to me.