England’s Attention to detail in their World Cup Preparations

Gareth Southgate’s has given special attention to detail in England’s preparations for the 2018 World Cup leading him to request for a referee from Asia to run their upcoming friendly against Costa Rica. The England manager’s tactic is to leave nothing to chance ahead of the tournament that begins on June 14. He wants the English players to know the different style of refereeing by match officials from Asia and what to expect in the tournament.

Southgate has captivated the FA chiefs with his resolve to learn from the previous managers’ mistakes, and his resolution to ask for a referee from Asia is among the measures he is taking to increase the national team’s chances in Russia.

Asian Referees Style of Officiating

The Asian Football Confederation has always insisted on its referees to apply the full law, and they are still strict to penalise physical challenges. In comparison, most European and African referees are always willing to let the game to flow and avoid punishing soft physical fouls. Southgate has been alerted that there is a big chance that an official from Asia will referee one or more of England’s matches in Russia. The fact that their group does not have Asian country will give them an edge.

Japanese referee Hiroyuki Kimura, as well as assistance from his country, will referee England’s friendly match against Costa Rica next Thursday. Although Kimura will not be at the World Cup, he has officiated international competitions in the Far East, such as an East Asian Championship game between Taiwan and North Korea, friendlies between Argentina and Singapore, Poland and Finland. Referees who will be in Russia are dismissed from taking charge of any upcoming friendlies involving the participating countries.

Mark Clattenburg has been quoted saying that most English players are unfamiliar with the referees from Asia. The Asian confederation insists on their referees strictly applying the letter of the law. The referees do not put up with physical contact and are likely to award more free kicks. Any slight touch like tugs on shirts inside the box will give them a reason to make a decision, and England players should be careful in such areas. That should be their state of mind especially with the introduction of video assistant referees.

England’s Attention to Detail

When compared to previous England managers, Southgate’s has taken attention to detail to another level. Although Roy Hodgson brought British cycling’s guru, Dr. Steve Peters, into his backroom team, it is now understood that Southgate has amplified the participation of sports psychologists with the team. They have been prepared on how to stay psychologically strong in tough situations, such as going behind in the games.

Penalty shoot-outs are one of the potential weaknesses, with England losing six out of seven shoot-outs in competitive tournaments. In their preparations, the players have been made to walk from the halfway line when taking a practice penalty to create an atmosphere of how it happens in tournaments.

Southgate made a decision not to announce a 35-man World Cup squad and then cut it down to 23 due to advice he received from the former England rugby coach Stuart Lancaster. He was cautioned against the preparation training camp turning into a selection contest among the World Cup hopefuls.

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The Video Assistant Referees

The referees in England’s friendly match against Nigeria at Wembley on Saturday will be keen to note some of the challenges that England may face at the 2018 Russia World Cup, where VARs will be used in every game. Italian referees who are particularly experienced in the VAR system will be in charge of the game having used the VAR in Serie A this season.

The VAR for the game will be Michael Fabbri, who was the VAR in the divisive match between Juventus and Fiorentina in February. Fiorentina was awarded a penalty when Giorgio Chiellini handled the ball. However, three minutes later before Juventus took the kick, the referee overturned the decision after a consulting Fabbri and gave a free kick to the Old Lady for an offside.

In the meantime, Fifa announced that one of the Asian referees had been dropped from the tournament. Fahad Al-Mirdasi was banned from football for life due to attempted match-fixing. The Saudi Arabian Football Federation said that Al-Mirdasi requested for money during a cup final. Consequently, the entire Saudi officiating team, including two assistants, were kicked out of the World Cup.

It is now clear that England has a shot at the upcoming World Cup. Southgate has studied their past mistakes and has put tremendous effort to ensure that they do not repeat their usual mistakes at the big stage. The England squad is also full of talent with the likes of Pickford and Kane impressing in the past seasons being named to the team. We have to wait and see how The Three Lions perform in the much-anticipated tournament.

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