Being an England fan can make it hard to get motivated for major tournaments. This is even clearer amongst younger fans who are yet to see England perform well in a tournament. Therefore many will go into the 2018 World Cup with low expectations. England have a history of performing very well up to a tournament and then underachieving before restarting the cycle. Despite this, the squad is a lot more well-balanced than before and seems to be playing well together as a unit. Whether this can be replicated in the World Cup is something we will have to wait and see, but I for one am confident in this team and am looking forward to seeing if they can make an impact on the tournament. England has been drawn in Group G along with Panama, Tunisia and top seed, Belgium.
England World Cup 2018 Preview: All you need to know about the Three Lions
The One to Eleven:
The England team, at least on paper, is very promising. In the 4 years since the last World Cup, the side has almost completely changed. Lots of young players will be making to look an impact in their first World Cup with England and this is exciting for an England fan. The most notable additions to the side are the duo of Harry Kane and Dele Alli from Spurs. Both players have made unheard of jumps in their careers in the last few years and are now considered two of the world’s elite players. If Kane and Alli can replicate their partnership for England in the way they play for Spurs, they have the potential to scare any team in the competition and lead England in to the later stages of the tournament.
On the wings, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling offer England a very direct way of attacking, more fluidity and lots of pace. Sterling and Rashford have both made huge waves in the last few years and with both playing under top managers at rival Manchester clubs, both are sure to come in to the world cup with bags of confidence. Furthermore, both these players are also highly versatile with both of them being able to do a job on either wing as well as a striker or center attacking midfielder.
In midfield, England has to balance its creative midfielders with its more defensive options. When it comes to creative midfielders, Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are two strong options. Both very hard-working midfielders who like the ball at their feet. As a duo they work well, Wilshere is more passing orientated whilst Chamberlain can use his pace and dribbling to drive at teams and create space. At defensive midfield, Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson and Spurs’ Eric Dier are the two clear choices. Both have strengths and weaknesses to their game. Dier is the preferred option in most people’s eyes but Henderson brings more experience at this level and links up well with Oxlade-Chamberlain. A defensive midfielder with two more attacking options is the way I see England setting up though manager Gareth Southgate seems very open to changing the system up depending on the opposition and therefore we could see some of the more versatile players such as Dele Alli and Eric Dier play multiple roles in the tournament.
It’s no secret that England are not the most defensively sound team and there isn’t a whole lot of options here to pick. When there is no clear favorite in the position, certain roles should be filled depending on form. This relates to most of the defense. John Stones and Kyle Walker in my opinion are the only 2 names guaranteed to be on the team-sheet in defense. Both have grown so much as players under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City and play with each other regularly. Stones allows England to play the ball out of the defense if needed and is a good leading figure in the defense. He has shown leaps and bounds in his leadership qualities under Guardiola and I believe he will captain England in the not too distant future. Kyle Walker offers lots of pace and attacking support as a right-back but he can also play as a center back in a back 3 if needed as we saw recently in friendlies against the Netherlands and Italy. Harry Maguire, Joe Gomez, Phil Jones, Gary Cahill and Eric Dier are all capable center backs but none of them are stand outs for me. The defender in the best form and confidence should be the one picked. My bet would be Gary Cahill as he has the most experience when playing at a high level. It seems rather likely that Ashely Young will play in the left back role and Jordan Pickford will play in goal. Both have been reliable for club and country in recent times and both are just ahead of their competition, in my opinion, again they’re not clear favorites though and therefore shouldn’t be guaranteed names on the team-sheet.
Off of the bench, England have some very good options. At full back, Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose offer good like for like substitutes for Ashley Young and Kyle Walker. Defenders such as Harry Maguire offer more attacking minded center backs if England are not pushing enough. Jamaal Lascelles from Newcastle United is a defender I believe should get some game time. He is calm, collected and a good leader and could be a good option off the bench to shut a game down. Midfielders like Jesse Lingard, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Adam Lallana are all good subs to try and bring some energy into the side and more defensively minded midfielders like James Milner and Jordan Henderson can come on to kill a game off. Forwards like Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy offer very different styles up front if something is not working and add more pace to the side. The only guaranteed super sub that is likely to be used, is Vardy. Coming on after 65 minutes to run at tired legs will be pivotal in the latter stages of the games.
Gareth Southgate is by no means a top manager and has very little experience at managing at a top level. What this means is he has less pressure on him. What Southgate offers England is a no nonsense approach. Southgate is fully aware due to his experiences in English football of how England will have to play and use their strengths as a team to beat others instead of trying to turn this group of players into something they’re not. Though I don’t think Southgate will be England manager for a long time, he is building good foundations. This group of players is fairly young and many of them are only just breaking through into the top level. Having Southgate allows this team to get experience playing together so that someone can build off of it. He is by no means a big-name manager but what he understands is how to play to a team’s advantages and get the best out of their players due to his experience level.
Style of play:
In recent friendlies, England have played two particular ways. Against teams of higher quality such as Germany or Brazil, England played a formation with 5 at the back and played more defensively. They did not try to go all out at teams at the risk of leaving themselves exposed. They instead remained calm and used their pace to threaten counter attacks. Against less technical teams, England played a lot more attacking orientated with creative midfielders and tried to break teams down with pace. Though not the most entertaining, both worked well in preparation and shows a clear understanding between the players and the manager. England have to use the advantages that they possess against the other team. Whether that means sitting back and using pace on the break or playing more attacking, creative football, England have shown that they can adapt against different opposition.
Now I may be an optimistic England fan but I also have realistic expectations. Do I expect England to advance to the later stages of the tournament? Of course not, but I do expect them to get further than the last World Cup. I think England come second in their group and will make it to the quarter finals. That is me being optimistic. As long as England play decently and do the country proud by not going out in disappointing fashion I will be more than satisfied, and I believe the majority of England fans will agree with me here.
Leave a comment below as to how you think England will do in Russia this summer. Come back tomorrow where we will take a closer look at how France may fair in the World Cup.
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