Yet again the talk surrounding England as they approach a major tournament is marooned somewhere between hope and hype but Damien Duff has questioned whether Gareth Southgate’s players have the commitment required to make a mark at the World Cup.
Playing for England brings with it an avalanche of expectation and scrutiny with everyone from Paul Gascoigne, David Beckham, and Raheem Sterling all but vilified by the UK press at one point or another while on, or preparing for, national duty.
Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard are just two of the ex-internationals to have revealed the issues that come with wearing the famous white strip and a string of failures at major events in recent times has only made life in that goldfish bowl all the more intense.
Ferdinand also touched on the factions that existed in camps as a result of intense club rivalries.
Though friendly with Lampard in their younger days together at West Ham United, their Manchester United and Chelsea allegiances sowed division with England.
“I think their quality will get them so far,” said Duff, who will act as a studio analyst for RTÉ during the station’s coverage of the global event in Russia which kicks off on June 14.
“Maybe they don’t have the clique going on.
It may be that international football simply doesn’t rank as the highest priority for players who, to a man, are earning fortunes in the Premier League every week.
Many are experiencing Champions League football on a regular basis to boot.
Duff doesn’t really buy that.
“I won a couple of leagues (with Chelsea) but it was still the biggest honour to pull on an Irish shirt.
“Maybe it’s just in our blood, who knows?”
The Dubliner did get to play in a World Cup, in 2002, but he was denied a second bite at the big time eight years later thanks to Thierry Henry’s infamous handball in the play-off second leg against France in Paris in 2009.
He’s well over that by now.
Duff took his son to Nice last week to watch the latest Gallic generation take Italy apart in a friendly in Nice — they even wore French jerseys — and he’s of a mind that Didier Deschamps’ side have all the raw materials required to be champions — if their heads are right.
“I went to France-Italy the other night and if they hit top gear, which you never know, if they even decide to train... they’re not loved over there but you can’t ignore their quality, (Kylian) Mbappe, (Ousmane) Dembele, (Antoine) Griezmann.
“It was the three (of them) the other night. It was probably the best front three around in the World Cup. It’s whether Mbappe is clinical enough, the same with Dembele.
“I think they’ll be there and thereabouts.”
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