Monday, February 26, 2024

Nick Matthew has a few tips for England’s footballers

Heat and boredom are the big enemies (oh, and don’t forget Spain and Brazil)

By Nick Matthew (Current world squash champion)

There are a number of things England’s footballers must contend with if they are going to have a successful World Cup campaign.

For a start, they’ve got to deal with the travelling and boredom. This is where I do have some sympathy for players. I have probably spent more time in hotels and travelling around the world than anyone in life! However, I only ever have to keep myself entertained when I’m competing in other countries. There are 23 players in England’s squad and not all of them will be playing so it’s tough trying to keep everyone happy.

I’m sure there will be times when the players will be bored out of their skins when they are staying in their hotels. Sportsmen need to have down time but you don’t want to be wasting energy. I like to watch a film or a TV box set. At the moment, I’m watching Breaking Bad. That is the best way to kill time. I would think the England guys probably play darts or pool and that some days their wives visit them.

Another issue they will have to overcome is the heat. I have weighed myself after I’ve played a match in hot conditions. I lost three to four kilograms and you have to put that back into your system. Hydration during games will be very important.

What the players have to keep reminding themselves is that it is an honour to represent your country and everyone would trade places with them in a heartbeat. The key point is you are trying to play to your maximum.

The beauty is, I think Roy Hodgson has selected the right squad for the tournament. There seems to be a good blend between youth and experience. We are a team who are more dangerous on the counter-attack and that’s where the youngsters will be needed.

Steven Gerrard is the key man in the deeper role. He will dictate our tempo in midfield and we will be incredibly dangerous from set pieces with him and Leighton Baines.

The one fear I have is, that in the last few years, England’s biggest weakness has been their inability to keep a hold of the ball. It is twice as hard in humid conditions if you don’t have possession. It sometimes might take 80-plus minutes to make a breakthrough. That’s why Spain are so good. They are patient in possession and don’t care if they fail to score in the first minute. I expect Spain to go far. You can’t, though, rule out Brazil if they get a bit of momentum.

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