Expectations are high, and hopes even higher, that England can pull off another superb run in a major tournament after reaching the 2018 World Cup semi-finals and Euro 2020 final. Manager Gareth Southgate has instilled a confidence in his team which led to the belief that England can finally win the World Cup again. This confidence is also reflected in the betting markets with the Three Lions third favorites to lift the trophy behind Brazil and France.
Yet confidence in Southgate and his team isn’t as strong as it was after England stumbled on this year’s Nations League campaign. No win in six games with two defeats to Hungary and relegation from League A put a bitter note on Southgate’s time in office and sent England to face this important World Cup campaign on a rock-bottomed basis. The pressure to do well has increased and the manager’s decision-making process, on and off the pitch, will be increasingly in the spotlight.
No more than when he names the 26-man team he will bring to Qatar. Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling are certified dead and are hoping to replicate their form from the last two tournaments with Jordan Pickford also confident of a starting spot on goal. Jude Bellingham is pushing to tie a starting spot, but the question of where Phil Foden’s best position is on the squad has not been answered. Calls to start Trent Alexander-Arnold as right-back went unheard with favorite Reece James and Kyle Walker and the England boss stayed with Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw despite their limited playing time with Manchester United.
In favor of England there is the group in which they were drawn. The expectation is that the Three Lions win Group B with Iran, the United States and Wales, although Scotland have shown the Europeans that Home Nations matches in major tournaments can be challenging. Things get more complicated in the round of 16 and if England are leading the group they will likely face the African champions, Senegal, in the round of 16 before a possible clash with current world champion France in the quarterfinals. Belgium and Portugal are potential contenders for the semi-final before one of Spain, Germany or Brazil awaits in the final, probably. It looks set to be the toughest run England have had under Southgate so far, but if they succeed, they will have secured their place in history.
Here’s everything you need to know:
Group matches (all times GMT)
Monday 21 November: England-Iran – 13:00
Friday 25th November: England vs USA – 7pm
Tuesday 29 November: Wales v England – 7pm
Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford (Everton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal), Nick Pope (Newcastle)
Defenders: Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Marc Guéhi (Crystal Palace), Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Fikayo Tomori (Milan), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle), Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
Midfielders: Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City), Declan Rice (West Ham United), James Ward-Prowse (Southampton)
Forwards: Tammy Abraham (Roma), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Raheem Sterling (Chelsea)
Those to watch
Star – Harry Kane: England captain and main forward, Kane won the golden shoe in the last World Cup and secured his place in the starting XI. He is hitting form at the right time by scoring close to one goal per game for Tottenham in the Premier League this season. The 29-year-old can also go deep and choose passes across the lines for his faster teammates that will prove useful against strong defenses.
Emerging Talent – Jude Bellingham: The question was whether Gareth Southgate would give him enough minutes to show off his talent at the World Cup, but England’s recent 3-3 draw with Germany changed that. At 2-0, 19-year-old Bellingham took control of the midfield and launched the Three Lions in a counterattack. He interrupted the game, ran into the box, slipped into picturesque through balls and won a penalty, almost nailing a point in the starting XI in the process. Additionally, Bellingham is only the third teenager to score in four consecutive Champions League appearances after Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappé and England got real talent.
Probability of winning the World Cup (taken from Betfair)
England should have enough quality and depth in their squad to get through the group stage with Wales, encouraged by reaching the World Cup for the first time in 64 years and motivated by the inspiring speeches of Michael Sheen, the biggest threat. Results elsewhere could give England an easier path to the later stages of the tournament, but if things go as planned, making it through the quarter-finals will be good for Gareth Southgate’s side. Eliminated in the quarter / semifinals.