Carra: England lack a game changer like Bale, Payet

Matt Stead

Jamie Carragher believes England lack a game changer in the mould of Dimitri Payet or Gareth Bale.

Criticism is mounting over England and manager Roy Hodgson after the national team contrived to finish second in Group B behind Wales, despite beating their counterparts 2-1.

The FA were reportedly left ‘stunned’ by Hodgson’s six changes in the decisive 0-0 draw against Slovakia, which leaves England facing a more difficult route to the final.

Many feel the manager is completely to blame for the country’s struggles in advancing from the group stage, but Carragher, writing for the Daily Mail, believes England also lack a game-changing player.

The former Liverpool defender referenced Payet and Bale, who have scored crucial goals thus far for France and Wales, as well as the performances of Andres Iniesta, as players who can make a difference by themselves in games.

‘It’s not so easy, is it?’ Carragher wrote, when considering similar players within Hodgson’s side. ‘This, it should be pointed out, is not a criticism of any of England’s squad. There was not too much wrong with any of the performances in Group B: they were honest, hardworking and between the penalty areas, in the main, they were excellent at keeping possession.

‘What is becoming more and more obvious is the lack of Champions League pedigree our players have. The top performers polish their reputations in that competition and international tournaments such as these and know what is required to win the tight games.

‘England are missing someone to make a difference in the way Iniesta provided a wonderful ball for Gerard Pique in Spain’s opening game against the Czech Republic or Kevin De Bruyne came to life for Belgium and tore the Republic of Ireland to shreds last Saturday.

‘Payet has sparkled for France but, against Albania, they even had the luxury of being able to turn to Antoine Griezmann — a top-class forward who changed the game with a crucial goal and secured the hosts their place in the knockout stages.

‘Then there is Bale. I wrote a column in October saying he could end up being remembered as one of Great Britain’s greatest ever players, in the realms of George Best, Kenny Dalglish and Sir Bobby Charlton. At the end of this tournament, his place in that group will be secure.

‘Bale has won another Champions League since then — he was Real Madrid’s best player in the San Siro against Atletico Madrid — and he has three goals in his first three games at a major tournament.

‘People were saying he hadn’t played well in the first two matches but that’s what sets the best apart — making an impact when they are below their standard. Look around the tournament and you will see players who you know have a big moment waiting to happen. Germany have got Mesut Ozil, who you know will deliver. Luka Modric has done it for Croatia already. These are the A-game players.

‘Who is going to do that for England? Look back at the tournaments in which we have had our best results — the World Cups of 1966 and 1990 plus Euro 1996 — we had two such individuals in Charlton and Paul Gascoigne who had that ability. They were something-from-nothing men who opponents looked at with genuine trepidation. Which England players have had that aura since?

‘Maybe Wayne Rooney had it in 2004 but he is not as explosive as he was 12 years ago. This is just a point of where England are: I can’t criticise them too much and Hodgson, who was brave to make so many changes in Saint-Etienne on Monday, has a good squad with some very good Premier League players in it.’