LONDON: English fans stand to ‘enjoy’ the confusions of VAR for the first time at international level when England face world champions Germany at Wembley on Friday.
The Premier League decided not to join the worldwide trials but the video referee system was used for the Community Shield in August (without involvement) and will be tested in the FA Cup next spring.
At least, unlike the FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia last summer, the referees on and off-pitch will be of the same nationality and mother tongue in Poland’s Pawel Raczkowski and Pawel Gil.
The Germans may be more wary of VAR than England after the problems in the Bundesliga this season which may even see the system switched off at the mid-point of the campaign.
VAR will be least of England manager Gareth Southgate’s problems.
He had promised, after England had secured their ticket to Russia, that he would use the preparatory friendly matches to experiment with players and tactics. Back then England’s manager had imagined he would be dictating events. Now speight of injuries has forced his hand.
Southgate had envisaged trying out new ideas against Germany and Brazil next Tuesday but not so many all at once against two of the strongest nations in the world game.
England emerged from World Cup European qualifying Group F undefeated in their 10 games, eight points clear of runners-up Slovakia and with a goals balance of 18-3. But that should always have been expected in a modest group.
The lurking issue was that England’s performances rarely convinced in the attempt to regain confidence and credibility after the disastrous Euro 2016 second round exit at the hands of Iceland.
Hence a need, ahead of Russia, to build further around the potent attacking weapon which is the Tottenham attacking pairing of Harry Kane and Dele Alli.
Unfortunately both will be absent through injury this week along with midfielders Jordan Henderson, Harry Winks and Fabian Delph plus winger Raheem Sterling. Liverpool’s Adam Lallana and Nathaniel Clyne and Danny Welbeck of Arsenal are also unavailable.
In qualifying Southgate, promoted suddenly from managing the under-21s last autumn after the one-match reign of Sam Allardyce, had relied on a 4-2-3-1 system which made the most of his forward talent and protected a shaky central defence. However, in the final – meaningless – 1-0 win in Lithuania Southgate experimented with 3-4-3 which he hoped to use in Russia.
How England will shape up on Friday may depend on who is finally fit for duty.
Already the 22-man squad includes five uncapped players through force of circumstance, not choice. Southgate will then have only two more friendlies, against Holland in Amsterdam and Italy at Wembley next March, before he names a provisional squad for Russia.
He had already denied himelf the options of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Daniel Sturridge and Jack Wilshere because of a lack of playing time at club level.
So in front of an expectant 80,000-plus crowd, Southgate may have to revert to 4-2-3-1 and field a central midfield of Tottenham’s Eric Dier and Jake Livermore of West Bromwich and start with Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford or Leicester’s Jamie Vardy up front.
Whatever his decisions, it will be a makeshift team. Greater interest may surround England’s use of second-half substitutes since Southgate has called up Swansea’s Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham (Swansea).
Striker Abraham (formally Kevin Oghenetega Tamaraebi Bakumo-Abraham) helped Chelsea’s youngsters record back-to-back triumphs in both the UEFA Youth League and the FA Youth Cup in 2015 and 2016 and was a member of the England side who reached the semi-finals of this year’s UEFA U-21 finals.
At least he knows all about scoring goals against Germany: Abraham struck England’s second in the 2-2 draw in Poland on the way to the usual shootout defeat.
** England will wear navy rather than their traditional white home strip. It will be only the third time they have been able to wear the away Nike kit since its launch in March — and the first time they have worn an away kit at Wembley since Egypt visited in 2010. England will return to their traditional white against Brazil.
Both teams will wear poppy symbols in memory of the dead of world conflicts.