It’s the question every England fan will be asking as this summer’s World Cup dawns upon us but how bright is the outlook for the Three Lions this time around? While the years of heartbreak will no doubt temper expectations, you can’t blame those England fans who hold on hope that this year will be one that sees the trophy return home.
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England 2018 World Cup squad
Goalkeepers: Jack Butland, Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope.
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Gary Cahill, Fabian Delph, Phil Jones, Harry Maguire, Danny Rose, John Stones, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker, Ashley Young.
Midfielders: Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Jordan Henderson, Jesse Lingard, Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Forwards: Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling, Jamie Vardy, Danny Welbeck.
Stand-by: Tom Heaton, James Tarkowski, Lewis Cook, Jake Livermore and Adam Lallana.
England’s last World Cup success
Ask people in England what happened in 1966 and most will correctly tell you that it’s the last time England won the World Cup. The Three Lions faced West Germany in the final at Wembley and there was nothing to separate the two teams after 90 minutes. Eight minutes into extra time, Geoff Hurst scored the infamous ‘did it cross the line?’ goal which still divides opinion to this day. Research stemming from the University of Oxford claims that the goal should not have been awarded but you can decide for yourself by watching Hurst’s effort (in colour) below:
Recent World Cup Efforts
The Three Lions haven’t made it further than the quarter-finals since Italia ’90 and their last two efforts have come even shorter than that. In the 2010 edition of the tournament in South Africa, England could only limp into the knockouts following some lacklustre group stage performances. Their second place group finish saw them drawn against Germany and the quality between the two sides was plain to see as one of England’s biggest rivals tore them apart. Had Lampard’s long-range effort been correctly judged to have crossed the line the scoreline may have been closer but the result would have been in little doubt.
At the last World Cup in Brazil four years ago, England came into the tournament unbeaten in qualification and but were 28/1 outsiders to be crowned champions. Roy Hodgson’s men were dealt a tough group which included Italy and Uruguay and after losing to the pair England’s hopes were shattered after just two games. Their final match saw them draw 0-0 with Costa Rica, a nation who would turn out to be the year’s surprise package.
Form ahead of Russia 2018
England again approach the World Cup with an unbeaten qualification record. The Three Lions hardly set the world alight during the qualifiers though, despite being handed a fairly easy group. Defensively they were sound but their tally of 18 goals scored was rather underwhelming especially when compared to the likes of Germany (43) and Spain (36).
To their credit though, Gareth Southgate and his men have been able to up their game when faced with stronger opposition. The four friendlies following qualification saw them beat the Netherlands and draw against Germany, Brazil and Italy. While England’s overall performances in the games were good, goals didn’t come any more easily for them as they managed just two across the four contests.
Who will make the final squad?
Who should be on the plane is always a hotly debated topic among pundits and fans alike as only 23 men can be selected for the final squad. Gareth Southgate faces a goalkeeping conundrum as Joe Hart, who started all but one qualifier, has endured a poor season for West Ham, outperformed by Burnley’s Nick Pope. Even if Hart isn’t selected as first choice though, he’s a big dressing room figure and as a result and this alone could see him make the final squad.
In defence, Danny Rose is arguably England’s best left back but he’s only received limited minutes for Tottenham this season after falling out of favour. Ryan Bertrand offers him competition but with two left backs surely making it to Russia, Rose is worth backing at 1/2 (BetVictor) to be in Southgate’s plans. James Tarkowski is in contention for being one of the central defenders in the squad but more likely to be chosen is Gary Cahill (8/11, William Hill) who has over 50 England caps to his name.
Further up the pitch and the likes of Dele Alli, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard both seem to be nailed on by this point. Fellow youngster Ruben Loftus-Cheek could also be in the mix, partly thanks to his strong showing in the friendly against Germany. Adam Lallana’s injuries put his involvement in doubt and he’ll need to prove his fitness if he’s to be selected. Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy are the obvious choice upfront but Danny Welbeck (11/10, William Hill) could well be brought in too but largely thanks to a lack of competition.
Southgate’s star men
World Cup matches can often be decided by fine margins and sometimes it takes a quality player to take the game by the scruff of its neck. Who have England got in their ranks who could potentially make the difference between winning and losing in Russia? Harry Kane is one of the obvious choices after another prolific Premier League season and a goal every 106 minutes during qualification. It looks as though he’s been rushed back too soon from an injury sustained in March though as he’s not looked sharp since his return.
Raheem Sterling has thrived under Pep Guardiola this campaign and the 23-year-old has recorded his most productive season to date. If he can transfer his club form to country, he could well be a big danger in Russia. Kyle Walker is most accustomed to playing right back but Southgate has been testing him out on the right side of a back three. His pace will be a huge asset for England at the back and winning his first league title will do plenty for his confidence.
What the bookies make of England’s chances
England, who are drawn Group G in Russia 2018, are trading at a shorter price than European Champions Portugal but still have to be considered outsiders at odds of 18/1 (Bet365). This price makes them the seventh favourites but usually winners of this prestigious tournament are found higher up in the betting. Since 1986, the biggest priced winner was Italy in 2006 who were trading at 10/1 before the action began. There have been a fair few finalists who were trading in double digits though, 20/1 shot Germany in 2002 being the longest-priced recent example.
The quarter-finals are perhaps a more realistic aim for England and they can be backed at a tempting 4/5 with Ladbrokes to make it to this point. In the top scorer market, England’s main option is unsurprisingly Harry Kane (16/1, Coral) while Leicester’s Jamie Vardy finds himself a long way behind at 80/1 (Bet365).