Sport

Nations League provides crucial test for England with Qatar World Cup on horizon

Gareth Southgate oversees training at St George’s Park on Friday

England on Saturday start a mammoth international break, with a seemingly interminable four games, and yet the most important match will still be one they are not involved in.

Gareth Southgate’s squad will gather to watch Sunday’s play-off between Wales and Ukraine that decides the last place in their World Cup group. It will be welcome given the amount of downtime the players have over these two weeks, which is why it could also offer the opportunity to provide some education on the more problematic side of Qatar 2022.

It is fair to say that more than a few of them have been echoing Kevin De Bruyne’s comments asking why they have to face four matches at the end of such a long season. Some of that is because of the change to the calendar enforced by Qatar, but it also means that the World Cup – for all the charm of the Nations League – is what this break is really all about.

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