England go into the World Cup 2018 tournament following an unbeaten qualifying campaign.
The Three Lions have been in this position before, however. Whether the side can perform at the World Cup like they did in qualifying is the big question.
Gareth Southgate’s squad is much better than the team Roy Hodgson took to Brazil four years ago; that is for sure. Hodgson’s squad was a mash-up of English players and poor tactics that saw the team finish 26 out of 32 teams. England were unable to make it out of the group stages and recorded a draw and two losses. The Euro 2016 tournament was a slight improvement but progressing past the group stage was still a struggle.
There is hope this year’s team can at least get to the quarterfinals. Southgate was handed a favourable group stage draw. The Three Lions will compete against Belgium, Panama and Tunisia. The Belgians should prove to be England’s most difficult opponent and the two European nations will play on the final matchday in Kaliningrad. The fixture should determine which team tops the group.
If England emerge from the group stage, the team will move on to play a squad from Group H. Possible opponents include Poland, Senegal, Colombia or Japan. England will like their chances of progressing at this year’s tournament.>
Southgate has already named Tottenham striker Harry Kane as the team’s captain. Kane is coming off of another stellar club season. Kane tallied 41 goals in 48 matches in all competitions. If he can continue his form in Russia, the striker will prove he is just as good as any other No. 9 at the World Cup.
England’s other forwards aren’t as prolific as Kane, and Southgate’s selections of Jamie Vardy, Marcus Rashford and Danny Welbeck doesn’t fill one with hope the trio can get a much-needed international goal.
Perhaps England’s strongest area is their defence. Anchored by Chelsea centre-back Gary Cahill, England should be strong in the rear. Liverpool teenage sensation Trent Alexander-Arnold received a call-up and his addition shows the strength in depth the Three Lions have at the back.
Joe Hart missed out on World Cup selection. Despite the English media’s shock, his omission shouldn’t have been unexpected. Hart has struggled in recent seasons with Torino and West Ham, respectively. His exclusion now gives a young, hungry goalkeeper the chance to shine. Southgate is expected to start Jack Butland. Like his goalkeeping colleagues, Butland is inexperienced at the international level.
In addition, his club team Stoke were relegated at the end of the Premier League season. Whether he can stand up to the high demands of the World Cup is a major worry but those worries could be calmed if he starts well in England’s opening match against Tunisia on June 18.