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Peter Shilton on the one area that will end England’s World Cup dream

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday World – as he promoted the GambleAware campaign – Shilton claimed England’s defence will trip them up in Qatar.

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 24: John Stones (L) and Harry Maguire of England train during the England Training Session at Al Wakrah SC Stadium on November 24, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)© Getty Images

Kevin PalmerSunday World

ENGLAND goalkeeping legend Peter Shilton fears that Gareth Southgate’s leaky defence could end their hopes of World Cup glory in Qatar over the next couple of weeks.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday World – as he promoted the GambleAware campaign – England’s most-capped player of all time told us that he fears Southgate’s side will come up short in the knockout stage of the competition.

England fluffed their lines with a limp performance in Friday night’s dour 0-0 draw against USA, but they are all but assured of a place in the last 16 heading into their final group game against Wales on Tuesday.

​Now Shilton – who won two European Cups during his time working under Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest – has suggested a backline featuring error-prone keeper Jordan Pickford and Manchester United’s troubled captain Harry Maguire will not give England a chance to claim World Cup glory.

“England are one of four or five teams that can go all the way and win this World Cup, but the one area that worries me is the defence,” began Shilton, who was capped 125 times for England in a remarkable international career that ran from 1970 to the 1990 World Cup semi-final.

“We have defenders in there who have not had the best of form with their clubs, and we have been leaking goals over the last year or so.

“I obviously look at Jordan Pickford, as a former keeper, and he had never let England down, even though he has had his critics when he’s playing for Everton.

“I look at France, Spain and Brazil as teams that have a real chance to be in the mix, but England have the experience of going close in recent tournaments, and that will stand them in good stead.

“Looking back on my experience playing in the World Cup, you have a different mindset when you start to make progress in these big tournaments, and believe more the next time you have a chance.

“England were superb against Iran and the quality of players coming off the bench highlighted the quality they have got.

Left to right, England's Declan Rice, Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford appear dejected after the FIFA World Cup Group B match at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar. Picture date: Friday November 25, 2022.© PA

“Players like Jack Grealish, Marcus Rashford and Phil Foden would get into most teams in this World Cup – and that’s where the game has changed.

“I look back to when I was at Nottingham Forest and we won two European Cups and we had a squad of about 18 players, who achieved that on muddy pitches.

“Now, you need a lot more – and England have that quality in reserve, which they will need to go a long way in this competition.”

Shilton’s personal World Cup memories are laced with frustration, as he was at the heart of one of the most famous goals at the World Cup finals as Argentina’s Diego Maradona handled the ball into the net in the 1986 quarter-finals.

Then England went even closer four years later, as they lost out to eventual champions Germany in a semi-final penalty shoot-out.

“Everyone knows my thoughts on that Maradona goal at this stage,” reflected Shilton.

“He was a fantastic player, but that handball was cheating – and anyone who says anything else is talking nonsense.

“Then I look back on 1990 as a missed opportunity. We played our best game of the tournament against West Germany, and it should have been our night.

“Chris Waddle hit a shot that smashed off the inside of the post before the penalty shoot-out and that could have been the moment.

“Then we would have taken on Maradona and Argentina in the final, which would have been very interesting, after all that had gone before. It wasn’t to be.

“Things were very different back then. We were locked away in our hotel and it was only when we came back to England and saw the reception of the people for us that we realised what it meant.

“I feel that 1990 World Cup changed football in England because the mood around the game turned for the better, and the Premier League started a couple of years later.

Peter Shilton has beaten a 45-year gambling addiction and he is backing the GambleAware campaign campaign to help protect fans from gambling harms this winter.

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“It was a great way for me to finish my international career and I am not someone who likes to look back and wonder what might have been. You need to look forward.”

England’s showdown with Wales on Tuesday night is the next chapter in the story, with the trophy Shilton came so close to winning in Italy still a distant dream for Southgate’s Class of ’22.

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