Can England Win the World Cup?
The days are well and truly ticking down now, with the biggest and best sporting event in the world now almost upon us. 32 nations will head to Qatar to take part in a real bonanza for football fans, with a total of 64 games crammed into 29 days. For some merely making the tournament is an achievement in itself, whilst escaping the group phase will deem a success for others. And then we have a category of sides who will believe they have a solid chance of lifting the most famous trophy in the sport – a category which includes England.
But how realistic are these hopes for Gareth Southgate’s troops? England have after all now famously failed to win an international tournament since the World Cup success on home soil back in 1966. They have however at least threatened to end that drought in recent outings, making the semi-finals of the World Cup in Russia 2018, and losing that agonising penalty shootout to Italy in Euro 2020. Could this be the year that the Three Lions finally, finally get over the line?
- Jordan Pickford - (Everton)
- Nick Pope - (Newcastle United)
- Aaron Ramsdale - (Arsenal)
No real issues between the sticks. Pickford can be expected to start for the ever-loyal Southgate and has rarely let the national side down. With Pope and Ramsdale in excellent form for their clubs this season, the backup looks solid.
- Trent Alexander-Arnold - (Liverpool)
- Conor Coady - (Everton/Wolves)
- Eric Dier - (Tottenham Hotspur)
- Harry Maguire - (Manchester United)
- Luke Shaw - (Manchester United)
- John Stones - (Manchester City)
- Kieran Trippier - (Newcastle United)
- Kyle Walker - (Manchester City)
- Ben White - (Arsenal)
A traditional strength of the Southgate era, England haven’t looked so watertight of late – shipping three against Germany and four against Hungary. The system is also unsettled at present, with Southgate switching between a four and a three at the back in recent games. With fitness concerns regarding Kyle Walker; Luke Shaw and Kieran Trippier would look the most solid options in the full-back/wing-back roles, whilst John Stones surely starts at the heart of the defence, most likely partnered by Harry Maguire despite his lack of minutes for Manchester United.
- Jude Bellingham - (Borussia Dortmund)
- Conor Gallagher - (Chelsea)
- Jordan Henderson - (Liverpool)
- Mason Mount - (Chelsea)
- Kalvin Phillips - (Manchester City)
- Declan Rice - (West Ham United)
Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice seem likely to be two of the first names on the team sheet, particularly given the uncertain fitness of Kalvin Phillips. A solid duo but, should Southgate field both, much of the creativity seems likely to fall on the shoulders of Mason Mount who is yet to fully prove himself at this level – although his recent strike against Germany won’t hurt his confidence.
- Phil Foden - (Manchester City)
- Jack Grealish - (Manchester City)
- Harry Kane - (Tottenham Hotspur)
- James Maddison - (Leicester City)
- Marcus Rashford - (Manchester United)
- Bukayo Saka - (Arsenal)
- Raheem Sterling - (Chelsea)
- Callum Wilson - (Newcastle United)
In Harry Kane, England do at least have one of the most potent finishers in the tournament, with Callum Wilson selected as the man to provide the backup. Sterling, and one of Saka or Foden, seem the most likely to play either side of him, with Grealish and Rashford playing the role of impact subs. James Maddison is easily the most intriguing name here, and could also drop back to play the Mount role.
Overall, the squad – which incidentally is the most valuable in the tournament – looks well set up to employ the kind of pragmatic approach that often performs so well at major tournaments. Getting a disrupted back line in synch quickly looks key.
This is where things begin to look rather less promising. Qualification for the tournament itself proved to be something of a breeze, with eight wins and no defeats, 39 goals scored and just three conceded during their European Qualifying section. The subsequent UEFA Nations League campaign however was something of a disaster. A 4-0 thumping at home to Hungary proved to be the low point in a winless run of six games which saw England relegated from their section. Putting a more positive spin on those displays isn’t easy, but four of those games did come at the end of a long season in June, and the squad ought to be much fresher here, whilst the best of those displays was the most recent, when coming from behind to salvage a 3-3 draw with Germany.
Route to the Final
England are hot favourites to at least make it out of a Group B containing the United States, Wales, and Iran. The derby element will add an extra element to the Wales game, whilst the USA’s high energy style won’t make things easy, but a solid start against an Iran outfit who look overmatched should set England up to top the Group.
Should England win Group A, the runners-up in Group B would then lie in wait – most likely either Ecuador or Senegal. England would be strong favourites to beat either of those sides, but should they fail to win their Group, a Last 16 clash with an improving Netherlands outfit led by Louis van Gaal would be significantly trickier.
The Quarter-Finals would then see England’s relatively soft start come to an end, with the most likely opposition being defending World Champions, France. That said, France don’t look quite the same force as four years ago, with uncertainty in the midfield positions and off-field issues potentially causing unrest in the camp. If not France, it would then be Denmark who stood in the way of England and the Semis.
Moving on to the Semi-Finals, should the draw pan out as expected either Belgium or Portugal would be next up. Two tough opponents, but about as good as you could hope for having made it this far.
The semi-final stage proved to be England’s ceiling in 2018, but should they burst through it in 2022, the odds would suggest a showdown against Brazil, Spain, or Germany in the biggest game of them all.
Overall, England’s likely route to the final should they win Group B would be, Senegal, France, and Portugal. Should they finish second the Netherlands, and South American giants Argentina and Brazil would block their path.
So that’s an analysis of the squad, current form, and route to the final, but what do the odds say? As usual UK Bookmakers seem to be optimistic about England’s chances. Priced at around the 7/1 mark, England lie behind only Brazil, Argentina, and France in the outright market.
For those who believe that England will again come up short, the general prices on the various stages of elimination are as follows.
- Group Stage - 8/1
- Last 16 - 5/2
- Quarter-Final - 2/1
- Semi-Final Final - 9/2
- Runner Up - 8/1
Given the likelihood of a last-eight clash with either France or Argentina, many may be tempted by the 2/1 about England falling at the Quarter-Final Stage. Other England-related odds which catch the eye as perhaps representing a touch of value include.
- To win all Group games - 2/1
- Harry Kane to win Golden Boot - 7/1
- To be eliminated by Penalty Shootout - 5/1
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