Joey Barton believes England cannot win the World Cup despite qualifying for Russia 2018 unbeaten, although progressing through the group stage is the “minimum requirement”.
England eased through their qualifying section with eight wins and two draws to finish eight points clear of nearest rivals Slovakia.
Gareth Southgate’s men will open their World Cup campaign against Tunisia on June 18 before facing Panama and Belgium in Group G.
But Barton, who won a single cap for England in 2007, does not think the manner in which the Three Lions qualified should place them among the tournament’s potential winners.
“I don’t think you can judge people off qualification,” Barton told Omnisport. “England have been very, very good at qualifying for major tournaments recently.
“I remember that wasn’t always the case, I remember England sides that struggled to qualify. We’re very good at qualification now, but we know that’s not a great indicator for tournament performance.
“You have to give Gareth credit for qualification, the same way you have to give Roy Hodgson credit for a good qualification campaign.
“But as we’ve seen with the last Euros and the last World Cup before that, we’ve qualified in style and went home in a lot worse spot psychologically than when we went into those tournaments.
“Progress for England will be coming out of the World Cup psychologically intact. To come out of the World Cup with a positive psychological mindset will be a huge positive. Are we able to do that? I don’t know.
“I think we have to get out of the groups this World Cup – that’s the minimum requirement – and everything after that is a bonus.”
Here’s our-man squad for the #ThreeLions‘ games against the Netherlands and Italy.
— England (@England) March 15, 2018
Southgate has handed Nick Pope his maiden international call-up for upcoming friendlies against Netherlands and Italy as a reward for his performances at Barton’s old club Burnley.
But there are question marks over who will start in goal for England in Russia, with regular number one Joe Hart losing his place at West Ham and Fraser Forster also having been dropped by Southampton.
“We don’t know who will be the number one keeper three months away from the tournament,” Barton said. “You have to know your best side.
“You look at all the England goalkeepers and none of them are in a rich vein of form at the minute and that needs to change, you need a good goalkeeper to win anything.
“That is going to be a huge problem for them if they don’t sort it out quickly.”
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