The Three Lions have endured 56 years of hurt but England still dream of a night like their 1966 World Cup final triumph. After recent improvements, many fans would argue that 2022 is the best chance England have had to ‘bring football home’ for some years. This World Cup follows a stellar EURO 2020 campaign in which Gareth Southgate’s team reached the final before penalty defeat to Italy, while the previous World Cup saw semi-final defeat to Croatia. The star quality of Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka means England are considered among the favourites with most bookies only putting Brazil, Argentina and France above Southgate’s side.
How far will they go?
Grouped with Iran, USA and Wales, England will be expecting to progress with relative ease. Providing England perform to their potential, they will likely face either Netherlands or Senegal in the last 16. From there the route becomes even trickier due to a potential meeting with France in the quarter-finals, assuming both nations with their groups as expected, before meeting either Portugal or Germany in the semis. However, while it may seem unlikely, don’t be surprised is football does ‘come home’, or if England make another deep tournament run.
Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Newcastle United), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Conor Coady (Everton, loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers), 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)
Midfielders: Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City), Declan Rice (West Ham United),
Forwards: 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).
Likely Formation 3-4-3 – Pickford; Trippier, White, Stones, Maguire, Shaw; Rice, Bellingham; Saka, Kane, Foden.
Southgate is known to favour a back three, and there’s little evidence suggesting he’ll make changes for his second World Cup as England boss as that formation has provided England with two of their best turnouts in their international history. In goal, Jordan Pickford… well, picks himself. Despite being sub standard for an underperforming Everton, the former Sunderland man always shows up for England.
Meanwhile, the defence looks weaker than Southgate would have hoped as Chelsea’s Reece James misses out through injury while Kyle Walker is also struggling despite making the final squad. Kieran Trippier is likely to be preferred to Trent Alexander-Arnold as a result at right-back with Southgate seemingly not a fan of the Liverpool man.
Ben White, John Stones and Marry Maguire are the best back three England can muster. The omission of Fikayo Tomori could become an issue in hindsight, as followers of AC Milan might argue the 24-year-old should be starting ahead of most of the current three such has been his form in Italy. Maguire will be hoping to shake off his awful Manchester United form which has seen him repeatedly dropped while White will return to his favoured position after a season of impressing at right-back for Arsenal. Luke Shaw remains England’s best left-back.
Midfield is where England look strongest, Declan Rice and Bellingham are a pairing to compete with any midfield in the competition and, given both are still so young, they could pull the strings for the next decade. Their best form could lead to a successful England campaign.
England’s attack boasts a perfect blend of youth and experience. There’s no debate over Harry Kane’s place in the team but there are many options on either side of the captain. Bukayo Saka is enjoying some excellent form for Arsenal this season and warrants a start on the right while Phil Foden is most likely to start on the left. However, it will be a tough decision as Marcus Rashford has shown himself to be back to his best this season.
Jonathan Maze | GWFN