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Is Southgate The man For England

Southgate faces final Spanish test as interim boss

A 3-0 win against Scotland at Wembley on Friday night has strengthened the case for Gareth Southgate taking up the post as permanent England manager. The Three Lions certainly rode their luck in the initial exchanges with Scotland wasting several very presentable chances before the heavy favourites showed a killer instinct in the final third.

There would have been a sigh of relief behind the scenes in the country’s footballing headquarters. Two wins and a draw from his interim spell in charge of the senior national squad is likely to mean the Football Association offer Southgate the position on a full time basis although there is still the small matter of a glamour tie with one of the best international teams in the world to contend with.

england manager, gareth southgate

Spain visit Wembley on Tuesday, themselves in something of a transitional period following Vicente Del Bosque‘s retirement. The 65-year-old coach took La Roja to the pinnacle of the footballing elite and while they not be at the height of their powers following a disappointing couple of tournaments, they are one of few teams against whom England are underdogs in their own back yard.

Despite lacking the potency of a World Cup qualifier, this game should be played at something approaching a decent tempo and it will certainly be the most effective yardstick for judging what state the national side are in as they close out 2016, albeit it may come too late to adjust the identity of who leads the country into the rest of the qualification campaign for Russia 2018.

Barring an absolute mauling by the Spanish, it seems extremely likely that Southgate will take up the role which he publicly distanced himself from following Roy Hodgson’s departure this summer. The question now seems to be whether or not he is made to wait to find out his fate and when a decision is made, how much faith is placed in his relatively inexperienced hands?

Because of the hysteria around Sam Allardyce’s departure after just one game in charge and the short turnaround before the clash against Malta, the FA had little to no opportunity to consider any viable alternatives to Southgate, who was a natural interim appointment due to his role with the Under-21 side. Now though, the question is, how much due diligence will the organisation feel is appropriate?

Sam Allardyce leaves England job

England are not scheduled to be in action again until March when they visit Germany in another high-profile friendly clash. Theoretically, that could open the door for another candidate to come in and take up the job, although the majority of the likely candidates are either uninspiring or unavailable.

The former Middlesbrough boss has urged his employers to resolve the situation quickly but in an environment ruled by red tape and governed by committee, failing to consider any alternatives would only come back to haunt the Association should Southgate’s tenure take a downturn.

English football could certainly be in some sort of managerial limbo for a few weeks to come, especially if Tuesday’s result raises more questions over whether the establishment have identified the right man for the job.

Will Argentina Miss 2018 Wold Cup

The World Cup Russia 2018 has it’s fair share of problems and the tournament is still over 18 months away. The worries over racism, doping and even the country’s infrastructure will be a concern to both fans and participating nations alike but one big name are in danger of missing out on a place at the next World Cup already.

2014 finalists Argentina, beaten only by an injury time Mario Gotze goal are now being forced to contemplate the possibility that they will not be present at the world’s next show-piece event. It’s been a tumultuous time for the South American side since that 1-0 defeat in Rio de Janeiro and things show no sign of improving going by recent results.

Lionel Messi temporarily retired from international duty after losing out to Chile on penalties in the Copa America final a few months ago, Sergio Aguero hinted that he too might follow suit. We all knew the Barcelona front man would be back, but the fact that the five-time Ballon d’Or winner felt, even momentarily, that he could no longer represent his national side was a sign of just how much pressure this extremely talented group of individuals are under.

That situation has only deepened in recent months, with Argentina sitting sixth in the South American qualifying group after 11 games. A 3-0 defeat to Brazil side who are excelling under new boss Tite and sit top of the group is bad enough but when it means that Edgardo Bauza’s men have now picked up just two points from their last four games, the alarm bells are well and truly ringing.

What makes this situation even more perplexing is just how talented this squad is. Packed to the rafters with a myriad of star individuals, albeit extremely top heavy and supported by a defence that is showing it’s age, they should still comfortably be one of the best four teams in the continent who qualify automatically for next summer’s tournament. At the moment though, they’re trailing Copa America champions Chile – who occupy the only play-off spot – by a single point.

That situation doesn’t necessarily sound so bad in isolation, this team are more than capable of making up a place or two in normal circumstances but the most worrying thing about this campaign is that they have dropped points against some of the lesser teams and still have plenty of tricky games to come.

Way back in October 2015 they lost 2-0 at home to an Ecuador team who, until that point, had gone nine matches and six years without a victory away from the altitude of Quito in World Cup qualifiers and things have barely looked up since. Bauza’s inability to get the best out of an uber talented squad means they are just a couple more unfavourable results away from the unthinkable.

FIFA’s decision to overturn two of Bolivia’s results due to fielding an ineligible player, giving points to Chile and Peru in the process, didn’t help Argentina’s plight but this mess is almost entirely of their own making. With tough games to come against the likes of Colombia, Chile and Uruguay, the 2014 runners up have just seven games left to turn around their ailing fortunes and book their place at Russia next summer. The pressure is on.