World Cup 2018 – England team preview

Last updated: June 11, 2018 by Leon Marshal

England is position twelve in the FIFA World Ranking. They are one of just eight national football teams to have ever won the trophy, as we all know too well this was back when we hosted the 1966 edition of the competition.

Our top flight division is the most established and profitable league in Europe with television coverage that is broadcast throughout the world. The Premier League also boasts the highest number of international players representing their national teams in the World Cup with 42.5% of players in the Premier League being full internationals.

Wayne Rooney is the country’s leading top goal scorer with 53 goals in 119 caps for the team just six games behind the most capped English player Peter Shilton who played as goalkeeper and managed 125 caps.

The English team’s performances in the fifteen World Cup tournaments have been rather deplorable after their 1966 glory as they have only managed to make it to the semi-final in 1990, where they finished fourth in the tournament. In the 2002 and 2006 editions, the team made it to the quarter-finals but in the last World Cup England failed to make it past the group stage.

England’s golden generation comprised of team players who had great success for their clubs from 2001-2010. The defence was composed of giants such as Rio Ferdinand, Jamie Carragher, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Phillip and Gary Neville. The midfield had Frank Lampard, Steven Gerard, David Beckham, and Paul Scholes while the attacking front was led by household names such as Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen and Peter Crouch. They never managed to reach their full potential and the expectations that were placed on their shoulders, even failing to qualify for UEFA Euro 2008.

The England team

How did they qualify for the World Cup in Russia?

England is in group G of the 2018 World Cup alongside Belgium, Panama, and Tunisia. Belgium is the biggest threat in the group with a more experienced and talented squad. Most of the Belgium players play for English clubs which may be an advantage for the England team as they will have inside information of their opponent’s potential going into their match that will likely be the decider of who tops the group.

Tunisia is making their fifth appearance in the World Cup while Panama will be making their first appearance in the tournament. The two teams will be likely playing for the nation’s pride but may still upset the big boys in the group. England boasts the pride of being the only nation in the group to have ever won the trophy.

England topped group F of the FIFA World Cup Qualification that consisted of Malta, Scotland, Slovenia, Lithuania, and Slovakia. England conquered the group winning eight and drawing two of their ten qualification matches. The most promising factor from the qualification is the fact that they only conceded 3 goals.

Harry Kane was the top scorer alongside Adam Nemec (Slovakia) with 5 goals each. Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana both scored two goals in the campaign but this wasn’t deemed good enough to book the two a ticket on the plane to Russia.

England’s key players

Harry Kane – The team’s captain has been the Premier League’s leading goal scorer in both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons. This season he came second, just two goals short of the Golden Boot that went to Egypt’s sensational Mohammed Salah, with 32 goals. Kane will be their biggest goal threat in Russia with his physique and great striking instinct. The bookies quite fancy him to be top scorer in Russia, pricing him at 16/1 just behind the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar, Antoine Griezmann and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Harry Kane England

Raheem Sterling – Sterling had the best season of his career at Manchester City since his £49m move away from Anfield. The 23-year old reached double figures in the Premier League, bagging 23 goals and 15 assists in 46 appearances. He will be an important player for England, playing as their second striker and playmaker behind the captain. He will be tasked with both creating chances as well as scoring goals.

Marcus Rashford – The Manchester United sensation shot to fame when he scored in his first Premier League match against their fierce rivals Arsenal. He also scored on his national team debut becoming the youngest English player to score in his first senior game for the national team. He can play from either wing and through the centre as a true striker. He made 46 appearances this season finding the net twelve times and creating ten assists, although many of his appearances for his club have been from the sub’s bench.

Gary Cahill – The most capped and experienced player in the England team with 60 appearances for the national team. The 32-year-old defender may not be a regular starter but will be an integral part of maturing and nurturing the rather young and inexperienced defence.

Overview of the manager

Gareth Southgate – Southgate represented England in the 1998 FIFA World Cup and both the 1996 and the 2000 European Championships. He started his managerial career in 2006 at Middlesbrough and in 2013 was appointed England’s under 21 manager, a role in which he had an impressive 81.8% winning record, losing only three and drawing three over 33 matches.

In 2016, the 47-year-old was appointed the England manager on a four-year contract. Southgate has only lost two matches in his 18 games in charge of the national side. The manager likes to play with three defenders and wing backs. Although there were misgivings when Southgate was appointed by some of the England supporters, there is a good vibe around the team and his nurturing of young talent is seen as a particular strength.

Strengths & Weakness

Tottenham and Manchester City effect – Manchester City won the Premier League this season while Spurs came third and these clubs contribute a total of 9 players to the England squad. This is synonymous with other successful European teams, such as Germany which is dominated by Bayern Munich players and Spain whose team features many Real Madrid and Barcelona players.

Team Discipline – The team has great leadership with Southgate in charge. Previous teams have had leadership issues and often suffered with ill-discipline, with off-field antics hitting the front as well as the back pages of the newspapers. This England team seem a lot more focused on playing rather than being celebrities.

Goalkeeping options – How many times have we said this about the England national team?

In the 2008 European qualifier match, Paul Robinson missed a back-pass clearance from Gary Neville against Croatia that saw them lose 2-0. In their opening match of the 2010 World Cup, Robert Green mishandled Clint Dempsey’s long-range shot pushing it into his own net. In the 2002 World Cup, David Seaman’s failure to save Ronaldinho’s long-range free-kick saw them knocked out of the tournament by that goal. Recently, Joe Hart’s failure to palm away Kolbeinn Sigthorsson’s weak shot saw England lose 2-1 to Ireland in the round of 16 stage of Euro 2016.

Jordan Pickford is England’s first choice keeper. He has had a tough season with Everton but managed a career-high of ten clean sheets from 38 appearances for the Toffees. The other option is Jack Butland who was part of the Stoke City team that has been relegated from the Premier League. Butland is the only selected goalkeeper with tournament experience. Nick Pope is the third option in between the posts.

Defence – The three first-choice centre-backs are Walker, Stones and Maguire who all love to come out with the ball leaving them exposed. This could prove fatal should England reach the knock-out stages and meet high quality opposition who play on the counter-attack. The three are also inexperienced and this will be their first time playing together.

What are England’s chances of winning the World Cup 2018?

The exciting thing for England fans is the incredible new breed of youngsters who are proving so successful. The U21 team won a third successive Toulon Tournament title and the U20 team are of course World Cup winners after beating Venezuela 1-0 in the final back in June last year.

The U19’s are also champions after beating Portugal 2-1 in Georgia. Last but by means least, the U-17’s are also world champions, they beat Spain 5-2 in the final held in October last year in India. They did it the hard way, coming from two goals down to claim the crown.

So whilst the future is looking very bright for the next generation, the current England team lacks truly world class talent, especially in the defensive department. That said, I fully expect England to progress from their group but fear they will struggle to get any further than the quarter-final stage.

England is seventh favourites to win this year’s tournament, the odds at the bookies for England to win the 2018 World Cup are 16/1 at Coral.