World Cup 2018: Preview – England

2018 FIFA World Cup

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Champions in 1966, England have failed to go beyond a semi-final since 1990, despite boasting of the best football league in the world.

World Cup 2018: Preview – Panama & Tunisia

Panama will be making their first ever FIFA World Cup appearance..

The Three Lions will be participating in their 15th World Cup in Russia this summer. The current squad has great young English talent which gives hope to a nation who are the pioneers of modern association football.

World Cup History

The ultimate prize was finally held by the English in 1966, in their own backyard when they beat the mighty West Germany in extra time at Wembley.

1950 – 1st round
1954 – Quarter Finals
1958 – 1st round
1962 – Quarter Finals
1966 – Champions
1970 – Quarter Finals
1974 – DNQ
1978 – DNQ
1982 – 1st round
1986 – Quarter Finals
1990 – Semi Finals
1994 – DNQ
1998 – Round of 16
2002 – Quarter Finals
2006 – Quarter Finals
2010 – Round of 16
2014 – 1st Round

In 1954 they were knocked out by Uruguay in the quarter finals while Brazil, the eventual winners in 1962, knocked out England in the quarter finals. In 1970 once again, England were put out of the world cup at the quarter final stages by West Germany, sweet revenge for 1966.

1966 Champions. Picture Courtesy – FIFA.com

In 1986 it was Diego Maradona who made the English suffer before in 1990 it was again the Germans who knocked them out this time in the semi-finals on penalties. Since then it has been tough time for the English in world cups, not going beyond the quarter final stages.

How They Qualified

Ranked 15th in the world this time around England qualified unbeaten in their 10 qualification matches, winning 8 and drawing 2. On the way through they changed coaches twice and finally qualified with an interim manager in Gareth Southgate.

Though questions were raised on the attacking flair of the team, where they managed to score only 18 goals, they were solid defensively as they conceded only 3 goals, in a group comprising the likes of Slovenia, Slovakia, Lithuania, Malta, and Scotland. The best game of the qualifying stages was a 2-2 draw against Scotland at Hampden Park where Harry Kane netted a late equalizer for the Three Lions.

In 2018, England played high profile friendlies against the Netherlands and Italy, registering a 1-0 win and a 1-1 draw respectively. Before their first match in the World Cup, England will test their systems and balance against Nigeria and Costa Rica in friendlies.

Manager & Playing Style

Gareth Southgate succeeded Sam Allardyce as caretaker England coach in September 2016 before being formally handed the reins on 30th November 2016. A former Three Lions defender, who was part of England’s campaigns at France 1998 and Korea/Japan 2002, he led his country to a sixth consecutive World Finals appearance by topping Group F in European qualifying.

Gareth Southgate

With players like Joe Gomez and Oxlade-Chamberlin being ruled out and Adam Lallana lacking match practice, its yet to be seen who the attacking midfielders who will board the plane to Russia be.

Southgate prefers to play a 4-4-2 formation which can also morph into a 4-2-3-1 where a forward drop to a number 10 role. In possession the fullbacks push on and wingers come off the line, center forwards split.

Strengths & Weaknesses

England’s strength will be its exuberant youth and pace up front with the midfield gifted with solid defensive skills. Lack of tournament experience on the big stage will be a weakness as it was seen in the last Euro where they failed to cope with the pressure of big games; this is the 1st World Cup for many English players.

They are expected to come through the group which comprises of Belgium, Tunisia and Panama. Southgate’s men will be hoping they don’t contribute to any surprises in the group stage.

Key Players

Lauded as a “complete player” by Zinedine Zidane, Harry Kane is now firmly established as one of the world’s leading strikers. The prolific Tottenham Hotspur star scored five times in six appearances for England during Russia 2018 qualifying.

Harry Kane

With another stellar season with Tottenham where he scored 30 plus goals in the Premier League 2017-18 Southgate will be relying heavily on his number one striker to bring in the goals as support will be expected from Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford. Jamie Vardy or Danny Welbeck could also feature next to Kane in a 4-4-2 formation.

Sterling, who had a great season with the English Champions Manchester City, will be another one to watch out for. He has been prolific in scoring as well as assisting for his club and his blistering speed can give any defense a headache but he still needs to polish his end product.

Jordan Henderson, who could possibly wear the captain’s armband will be at the heart of the midfield with a free role given to Dele Alli one of the most gifted youngsters in world football currently.

Jordan Henderson

Eric Dier will also be a name in the Southgate team sheet from game one. The Spurs midfielders have had a superb season and will be expected to work well with the front man Kane and Alli who they play alongside week in week out.

Experience at the back comes in the form of Gary Cahill and Ashley Young, who has rejuvenated his career in the recent times with solid performances for Manchester United. Kyle Walker and John Stones from the champions City will complete the back 4.

Preliminary 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.

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