Rio Ferdinand thinks that Jesse Lingard’s style of play could be key for England against Sweden on Saturday.
Gareth Southgate’s men go into their game knowing that a win will send the Three Lions to their first World Cup semi-final in almost 30 years, with the last occasion being back in 1990.
While many have pointed out that England are on the easier side of the draw, avoiding France, Uruguay, Brazil and Belgium in the last eight, they still have a tricky game against a tough defence in the shape of fellow European side Sweden.
While the Swede’s no longer have world class players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrik Larson among their ranks, they have been a very tight unit, especially at the back.
However former England and Manchester United star Rio Ferdinand thinks that current United ace Jesse Lingard’s style of play could be crucial if the Three Lions are to progress:
“Jesse is not a freestyle footballer with all the skills who does step overs and loads of dribbling – but there is substance to his play and always a reason or meaning behind what he does,” Ferdinand wrote in his column for the BBC.
“What makes him so good are the things he has always had, since I first saw him play as a young boy: game intelligence, speed of movement as well as speed of thought, the ability to play one or two-touch football and an eye for goal.
“He has shown all of those qualities during this World Cup and I think he is going to be especially important for England in our quarter-final against Sweden.
“Sweden are going to offer us a stiffer defensive test on Saturday than any side we have faced so far, and we are going to need Jesse’s kind of clever imagination within the team.
“The way Gareth Southgate’s team play, they need people high up the pitch to be constantly on the move.
“It is no good our three midfielders being in static positions, with one on the left, one central and one right – we need fluidity in there and Jesse gives us that in abundance.
“England’s system definitely plays to his strengths, because its flexibility means he does not have to play in a rigid position – he is allowed to move, which is great for him.
“It is great to see Jesse flourishing at international level and I know from speaking to Gareth before the tournament started how highly he rates him.
“But you have to remember that Jesse is not a young player any more, he is 25. He has had to wait to make his breakthrough for club and for country, and the perseverance he has shown is another really good trait.”
Lingard scored a fine goal for his country in the 6-1 win over Panama during the group stages.