’s Exclusive Interview with Didi Hamann

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We sat down with former Germany international and TV pundit Didi Hamann to discuss England’s performance against Iran, his World Cup thoughts and he weighs in on the Messi v Ronaldo debate.

What does England’s result against Iran tell us about their World Cup chances?

England couldn't have been more impressive.

Despite the fact they are the superior team, you still have to score six goals.

They were very dominant in the first half. I think they have marked their territory in the competition.

However, when it comes to the latter stages, you need to see what you're up against in the knockout stages, but I don't think they could have been more impressive in their first game.

Saka made a statement with 2 of England’s six goals- what do you make of his performance and how influential is he in the England line up?

Bukayo Saka is a brilliant player. I think he deserves his place because there was talk about him playing or Foden playing.

That’s a very nice problem to have when you are spoilt for choice between these two players. He's been exceptional for Arsenal this season.

He was brilliant in the Euros last year, so I think he deserves his place. He's one of the key players.

Obviously, Kane will start scoring at some stage, but it took him a few games in the Euros last year to start scoring.

But I think with Saka, Sterling, and Grealish on the other side - England have so many influential players going forward.

Do you think he deserved to start over Phil Foden?

Saka deserved to start over Foden, I think he proved it.

I don't think Foden could have done more than what Saka did.

I think that the manager was proved right all of a sudden.

Kieran Trippier started at right back. Does that tell us Southgate has no intention of using Trent Alexander-Arnold?

If nothing happens to Kieran Trippier, I would like to think that he says at right back.

We know that he's very good from set pieces, as well as Alexander Arnold.

But what I liked about England is that they didn't play with a back five because I just feel that the Euros were far too cautious as England have so much attacking talent.

They've got to get these guys on the pitch and bringing in Mount further proved that.

So I think that the formation they played suited them a lot better.

But I think Alexander-Arnold has to buy his time, if Trippier doesn't do much wrong I suppose he will stay on the team.

Can England afford to play Kyle Walker if he’s not fit, or should they stick with Kieran Trippier?

England need to see how fit Kyle Walker is and if he's not fit.

I don't think you should be playing because there are so many options at right back so there's no need to play a player who's not 100% fit.

Especially when it comes to knockout games, you've got to be 100% there to help the team.

I think Gareth Southgate has always been a fan of Trippier as he has played him on the left and at the right in different tournaments.

I think it'll be a tough decision but as I said usually when you start a tournament and you don't do much wrong, I think it might be tough for Walker as well to get into the team.

Did you agree with Southgate’s starting 11? If not, what would you have changed?

I think Gareth Southgate played the right squad against Iran.

I always felt that in the Euros when we played with seven defenders - which consisted of the back five with Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips in the middle and then three forward players.

We ignored our attacking talent quite a bit.

As Bellingham was in the team today, he was able to influence a more offensive England side, and personally I think that he has more of an attacking mind than Kalvin Phillips.

So I think that helped. In terms of switching from a back five to a back four, it gives you a chance to bring one more offensive player.

Today that was Mason Mount today and he did ever so well. I think that's how we evolved.

So do you think a back five is better than a back four?

If you're playing against Brazil, or another strong nation where you might feel that we've got to be a bit more cautious here.

I don't mind any formation. However, when playing against teams, you should dominate, which was the case in the Euros and it was the case today.

I think you've got to be more proactive, more attacking minded and be a bit more bold.

That's what they were today and we saw that going forward, once they got going. They're very hard to stop.

Jude Bellingham scored for England. Could he win England the World Cup?

He'd be one of the players if they do win the World Cup. I don't think he'll win the World Cup single-handedly.

But he's a very influential player in his young age for Borussia Dortmund. He's scored a lot of goals.

I think he added a new dimension to his game in the last six months because he scored quite a few goals in the first half of the season.

He did the same today. I think with him on form, and when he flies forward as he did today, it improves his chances of lifting the World Cup.

He is also a future target for Liverpool at the moment. Could he be the key to their midfield crisis?

Jude Bellingham could be the key to Liverpool’s midfield troubles.

I think that Liverpool's Achilles heel was not having a player who gets them seven or more from open play from midfield.

They've not had that for a couple of years.

Although, they were successful without that type of player.

But I think that's what they need because I think in losing Mané, they lost a bit of firepower going forward, despite the fact that Nunez is coming into it now.

But I think he's the type of candidate who they should be looking at.

Whether it's possible, if he wants to come or if they can afford him is a different story.

Declan Rice will also face a relegation battle after the World Cup ends- where do you think his next move may be if he were to leave the Hammers?

Declan Rice is spoilt for choice if he were to move clubs.

In terms of Liverpool, they have Fabinho who’s form has dropped off a bit in the last few months, however the last few weeks he's been a bit better again.

I think it depends how he does because I don't think that you can play with both Declan Rice and Fabinho in the middle of the pack.

I think one player of that calibre is enough.

So if Fabinho comes back to form after the World Cup - which I hope he does, I'm not sure there's a need to bring Rice to Liverpool.

Is there any other club that you think Declan rice fits right into?

Declan Rice can also fit into Manchester United’s team. I think United's probably the one.

Arsenal have Thomas Partey, who plays that role brilliantly.

Chelsea, I think they've got players in Jorginho and Kovacic who can play there.

I think United will probably be the team where he is more tailor-made.

Because I think that they are crying out for a player like Rice.

Manchester United would for me be the most likely destination of interest, I am sure he will do well there.

How much will it bother Gareth Southgate that England didn’t keep a clean sheet?

As a manager, Gareth Southgate will always want to keep a clean sheet.

Even me as a player, I would rather have 6-0 instead of 6-2. But as a team, you've got to see the positives.

If you score six, sometimes you've got to give the defence a bit of leeway, maybe to lose concentration.

It's not what you would want to see as a coach. However, I don't think he'll have a sleepless night tonight because he conceded two goals.

I think he will think about the positives rather than the two goals conceded. I wouldn't read too much into it.

We always knew England had a very good defence.

They didn't concede many goals at all in the last Euros, but they also played one more offensive player today.

If you score six and concede two - I don't think it is the end of the world.

Who are your favourites to win the World Cup and why?

Argentina are my favourites to win the World Cup.

Messi is playing as well as ever in the French league.

Obviously he's four years older since his last World Cup but he knows that it is probably his last tournament.

It's also not a one man team. I think the team around him is better than it was eight years ago.

So I do like Argentina and then obviously you've got the usual suspects such as Brazil, France and England.

I hope an African team will do well because, you know, there weren’t so many success stories in recent tournaments.

So it will be great to have a mix of European, South American, and hopefully African teams in the last four or last eight.

Following on from that, which of the African teams are your dark horses?

Even without Mane, Senegal is still a very strong team.

I think they could be harmful. They are the African Champions.

They still have to get ahead of either Netherlands or Ecuador, but I think they should manage it.

Then they need a bit of luck with the knockout stages, but i believe Senegal can go to the Quarter Finals at least.

You played for Germany in the 2002 World Cup final. Describe what it’s like to play for your country in a World Cup Final?

It's the pinnacle of your career to represent your country in a tournament and it was a brilliant experience with Germany in 2002.

As Germans, we class ourselves as a big nation.

You go to the World Cup to win it and we had a really great time. We had a great team spirit.

We probably grew together for the rest of our lives, which already started in Asia, Japan and South Korea, but it was a bit disappointing to lose the final because I think it was a game we didn't need to lose.

Could you elaborate on that?

It was a good Brazil team but it wasn’t an unbeatable Brazil team.

Our captain Michael Ballack was suspended; he got his second booking in the semis.

You know, obviously, it's philosophical and hypothetical what would have happened, but he was our talisman and when he scored the goals - which got us to the semi-final and the final in the first place.

With him, it might have been a different story. Brazil was better on the day.

They had Ronaldo - who will go down as one of the greatest ever in world football.

So, sometimes you just have to just have to accept defeat.

Was that Brazil side - featuring Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho - the best team you have ever faced?

I’m not sure whether it was the best team, I played against some brilliant teams in the Premier League. You know, Ronaldinho was pretty young at the time.

But obviously Rivaldo and Ronaldo are two outstanding players and Cafu as well.

But as I said, it was a very good Brazil team, but it wasn't a team where our game had to be perfect to beat them.

A lot had to go our way obviously, but I just feel it wasn't a team that was unbeatable even though they were very good.

So just following on from that who was the best team that you faced at club level or international level.

It’s always very hard to compare teams.

This is because a club team can buy the best players. In international football. It’s a thing where they give you the right passport to represent your team.

I played against the 'Invincibles' Arsenal squad in the early 2000s, when they went a season unbeaten.

Even though they didn't have more success in the Champions League apart from going to the final. You know that Arsenal team was exceptional.

My first game in England I played against the Manchester United team with Newcastle in the FA Cup Final. They won the treble.

There were some outstanding teams in the Premier League over the years. As I said, it's hard to compare the national teams and club teams.

But you know, these teams were special.

Which midfielder at this World Cup would you least like to face?

With me being six foot three, I never liked playing against tricky little players who have a low centre of gravity, if you can find somebody rather small, I always felt more comfortable playing against players who are, you know, as tall as me.

Who was your toughest opponent at club and international level?

The toughest was probably Vieira.

He was tall, quick and powerful. Great technique. Very good passer of the ball.

He had everything for me. Vieira was always the epitome of a central midfielder.

You know, I always felt that he's got everything.

You know, he didn't have a weakness in his game and Vieira was, for me, the most exceptional defensive midfielder of my time.

This is going to be Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s final World Cup. Who do you think has been the better player?

I'll probably go with Messi because he is more of a team player.

But then if you look at Ronaldo stats, he has done it in more countries than one.

He’s been successful in two or three countries, He has won the Champions League in two different countries, which Messi hasn't done.

You know, it's a toss of a coin but I always leaned towards Messi and that is not going to change.

So just to elaborate. You believe Messi is more of a team player. Is that something that would have accommodated your style more - despite the fact that Ronaldo has the better stats?

For Cristiano Ronaldo - he is the type of player that if he scores 50 goals, he can do what he wants.

But, you know, there's times where you have to think about the team and I just feel that in the past and also when you dive into the politics in the last week or so with Ronaldo, it shows that Messi probably thought more about the team, or more often about the team than Ronaldo did.

That doesn't stop him from being one of the greatest ever; he won the Ballon d'Or 8 times.

If I could choose one to play with - I would probably go with Messi