Goalkeeper Joe Hart Dismisses Criticism After Latest England Show

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Slovenia had a half-hearted penalty appeal turned down when Josip Ilicic went down under a challenge from keeper Joe Hart.

England secured their place at the tournament in Russian Federation with a game to spare and manager Gareth Southgate has opted to replace Joe Hart with Butland.

Any optimism that England may cause a surprise in Russian Federation was dampened by yet another now predictable plodding performance against a team ranked 55th in the world.

It is hard to recall a less dynamic Wembley display than that and the man in charge of improving matters is eager to find the right formula before next summer. Forster has not had a great season, Heaton is injured and, while I'm a big fan of Foster, he's been out of the mix too long.

Nine of Harry Kane's 11 England goals have been scored in the second half (82%), including his 90th minute victor in the last match against Slovenia.

The stats may indicate a relatively comfortable qualification for unbeaten England, though the road to Russian Federation has been rocky.

"Tonight highlighted where we are", said Southgate. "We should be proud as a team and as a nation", the Spurs striker said.

"Yes, he didn't have a good Euros, but nor did quite a number of that England team so I think it's quite harsh if we just point the finger at Joe Hart".

"I know from when I worked in Qatar with him he was saying how good Kane was".

Even if they do win that match the best they can hope for is a play-off with New Zealand, which they should win despite an off-color qualifying campaign. Then I'd have Alli behind Kane and Rashford.

England's performance on Thursday was disjointed, lacklustre and lacked any semblance of creativity - and that's being kind.

No one can doubt England's consistency in qualifying for finals. Mark my words, we will not pass a team off the pitch at the World Cup so we need someone who provides a different option, and that's where Carroll comes in.

If Southgate has one reason to be cheerful, it is Kane. [The criticism] comes with the scrutiny of playing for England. With the exception of Arsenal supporters, Kane is admired and respected nationwide.

Scoring against Lithuania would provide him with some solace.

"Harry has the profile to be a legend here", said Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino.

"At this moment in time I see Harry being one of the best in the world in terms of form".

In the centre, Eric Dier plays a physical holding role for Spurs and has generally performed well for England.

Gareth Southgate's men needed last gasp winners to defeat Slovakia in September 2016 and against Slovenia on Thursday night, whereas they also needed a last minute goal to draw against Scotland in June. It's so different. "But we are always striving to become better, and there is a lot of likeness between how City play and worldwide football".

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