Two days after the Sports Personality of the Year ceremony in Liverpool , Gary Lineker spoke to Sports Gazette at BT Sports in Stratford.
The 57-year old has delivered his verdict on the identity of next year’s World Cup winning team, and it’s a damning one for England.
Although the former Spurs and Barcelona front man senses a wind of change due to some ”exciting” young talents coming through, he believes that it will be ”very difficult” for England to go places in Russia.
It is no mystery that by ‘exciting young talents’ he is alluding to Tottenham pair Harry Kane and Dele Alli as well as to Manchester City prodigy Phil Foden, who was crowned Young SPOTY of the year on Monday for his great displays at the Under-17 World Cup as well as his role in the Three Lions’ road to the final of the European Championship in May.
”It’s gonna be really hard [to predict the World Cup winner] but you have the usual suspects”, said the Golden Boot winner of the 1986 World Cup.
Lineker made history by scoring in the World Cup semi-final against Germany in 1990.
A game which is famously remembered for Paul Gascoigne’s tears after he had picked up a second yellow card that would have ruled him out of a potential final against Argentina and of course, Chris Waddle’s infamous penalty that ended England’s hopes of glory.
The legendary frontman was once quoted as saying that ‘Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win’. However, he can’t see Germany winning back-to-back tournaments in Russia.
”If I have to pick one now, I think that France will go very far”, Lineker carries on.
”And I think it will be very difficult for England.
”We are a very young side, we’ve got some good young, exciting players coming through.
”Thus, I think we will be tough for anyone to play against.
”But winning is probably asking too much”, he reiterated.
Some big nations have failed to qualify for the World Cup with Chile, the Netherlands, Ghana and especially Italy embarrassingly coming up short.
Lineker, whose stock rose thanks to his four goals and inspirational form at Italia 1990, brands it a ‘disappointment’ that the Squadra Azzurra will have to watch the World Cup from home. Italy was the launching pad for his glittering career, thus he is disconcerted by their absence.
”Yes, it’s really disappointing not to have Italy in the World Cup.
”You know, it has been such as a long time since they missed out.
”I think it was 1958 the last time.
”It’s really disappointing a World Cup without Italy.
”The World Cup will not quite be the same”.