Former Scotland coach Andy Roxburgh has dubbed England the “kings of the corner kick” and praised Gareth Southgate for his “attention to detail” in the wake of their World Cup semi-final exit.
England’s World Cup dream ended on Wednesday night after Croatia came from behind to win 2-1 in Moscow after extra-time.
Roxburgh, who led Scotland at two World Cups and has been part of FIFA’s technical study group, told reporters on Thursday he has been impressed with what he has seen of England and their coach.
Noting the crucial role set-pieces have played at Russia 2018, Roxburgh said: “In terms of corners and free-kicks, delivery is everything – Sir Alex Ferguson used to say that.
“And the delivery here has been high, high quality, then you get the movement, then you get the finishing ability.
“The coaches have to be complimented for that – Gareth Southgate, for example. I think nine of England’s 12 goals have been from set plays. They’re almost the kings of the corner kick here. It shows the attention to detail.”
England are far from being the only team to have prospered from set-pieces, though, with one goal coming from every 29 corners at Russia 2018.
Asked why this might be the case, Roxburgh said: “I think we have to mention VAR (video assistant referees). You might say what has that got to do with technical matters but in this context it has.
“VAR is not only there to minimise refereeing mistakes, it’s also had a deterrent effect on the pushing, pulling and tugging that you saw in the early games. That’s almost been eliminated now and that means people have more freedom to move.”
Another feature of this tournament for Roxburgh, who served as UEFA’s technical director for nearly 20 years, has been “the Pep Guardiola effect”.
He explained it was clear to him and others on the FIFA technical team that the high-intensity pressing style of Guardiola’s Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City teams has had “a big impact on coaches”.
“We saw it with Croatia last night – they have this ability to play from the defence and through the middle,” he said.
“It’s high possession but it’s not possession for the sake of it, it’s possession with a penetrating style. You not only attack but you also try to win it back immediately, so it’s very technical but it requires speed and thought.”