Chelsea boss Antonio Conte mounts the case for Gareth Southgate to take Gary Cahill to the World Cup

Cahill’s hopes of making this summer’s tournament receded earlier this year when he lost his Chelsea starting spot and was left out of Southgate’s squad 

Ian Winrow
Friday 27 April 2018 20:06
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Antonio Conte thinks Gary Cahill should go to the World Cup
Antonio Conte thinks Gary Cahill should go to the World Cup

Antonio Conte believes Gary Cahill would be a valuable addition to England’s World Cup squad and plans to help the centre-back in his efforts to convince Gareth Southgate he should be on the plane to Russia.

Cahill’s hopes of making this summer’s tournament receded earlier this year when he lost his Chelsea starting spot and was left out of Southgate’s squad last month for the friendlies with Holland and Italy. In fact, Cahill last appeared for England in October’s meeting with Slovenia and in the 32-year-old’s absence, Southgate’s side have conceded just one goal in five games.

The England coach insisted he had omitted Cahill in order to look at other options with Burnley’s James Tarkowski and Swansea’s Alfie Mawson called up. But Southgate has a growing number of options in central defence and Cahill’s inconsistent season has done little to strengthen his claims.

Conte, though, restored the player to his side following the defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at the start of this month and the former Italy coach has indicated Cahill is again first choice and believes the defender has the kind of experience that could prove invaluable in a high-pressure tournament.

Cahill has failed to hold down a starting sport for England

“In this moment he's deserving to play, because he's playing well,” said Conte. “He's in good physical condition. We are talking about an important player with great experience. He has played big competitions. I know that when you have to go to play this competition, the World Cup or European Championships, it's important to have players with great experience because the pressure will become very strong for everyone.

“I think that Gary is deserving to play. To play and then to have the chance to go and play in the World Cup. But, at the same time, I have always shown great respect for Southgate. I think he's a really good, important manager. He has to make the best decision for the national team. I'm sure he will take the best decision.”

Cahill took over the captaincy at Stamford Bridge following last summer’s departure of John Terry to Aston Villa and Conte believes the experience has improved the centre-back. “It wasn't simple to make this type of substitution with John Terry because we are talking about a great leader, a player with fantastic leadership qualities,” said the Chelsea head coach.

“You have this in your blood. Then I think he developed a lot in this year with Chelsea. Now we have three or four players who have to take the responsibility, to try to take this leadership and then help the coach and manager in every moment.”

Conte’s side will attempt to increase the pressure on Tottenham when they face Swansea City this evening. Victory would close the gap to Spurs, who lie fourth, to two points having played a game more, 48 hours before Mauricio Pochettino’s side face Watford.

“The only way for us to keep hope of a place in the Champions League is to take three points from every game,” Conte said. “It won't be easy, but we must do this if we want to continue to fight until the end for this target.”

And the head coach rejects suggestions his side’s experience of winning two titles in the last three years is a factor in the run-in. “You can see that in three years we won twice the title, but also in three years we are risking twice not playing in the Champions League. Two years ago, Chelsea finished in 10th place. This season, with great experience, we are fifth. It's not important, this type of experience.”

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