England’s set-piece success is no surprise, says Sol Campbell

Sol Campbell told Sky Sports England’s World Cup set-piece joy was “nothing new” and said they had always been a focus.

Campbell scored England’s opening goal of the 2002 World Cup with a header from a corner – but rarely have England enjoyed success from set-plays in tournaments to quite this degree.

Manager Gareth Southgate said in response to questions over the Three Lions’ success from dead balls the coaching team had identified corners and free-kicks as a valuable tool to help them during the World Cup, but Campbell said it was something that had always been a priority for the national side.

“When you look at England, and the stats from the World Cup – it could be about 50 per cent of goals that are set plays,” he said. “It’s not like we’re doing rocket science here, either penalties, free-kicks or corners.

“We’ve always focused on them, it’s not like it’s something new. I’ve grown up looking at them all the time at my clubs, it’s kind of drilled into British players.”

England will face their toughest test, on paper at least, of the tournament when they face Belgium in Kaliningrad on Thursday, having faced only the unfancied Tunisia and Panama to date.

Campbell believes this will represent the first chance to really see how well Southgate’s back three system works, not only out of possession but in it too.

He said: “The back three has worked pretty well. It suits having an extra body there, I don’t think we’ve got the personnel for a flat back-four, but I think we need that extra man.

“Everyone’s been comfortable, but you have to look at the opposition. They just weren’t at the races, Panama. It’s all about confidence, everyone’s relaxed, there’s no pressure on anyone.

“When the bigger games come along and there’s more on the keeper and backline, it’ll be interesting to see how they fare. Hopefully they can step up and continue in the way they’ve been playing.

“If you’ve got two proper forwards up there, it’ll be interesting to see what happens when it’s more difficult to play out from the back. At the moment, everyone’s calm and relaxed, and hopefully they’ll have a plan B when they have a proper midfield against them too.

“If they start playing there, and are still calm then I’ll say this team has gone where it needs to be going, they’re brave on the ball and want to play it the right way.

“I’m sure those guys have it in their locker, but it’ll be interesting to see how they react with proper forwards without them.”

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