The words ‘England’ and ‘World Cup’ tend not to mix too well judging by recent tournaments, where the Three Lions have failed to better their 2006 quarter-final showing, which ended with that famous but painful penalty shootout defeat to Portugal.
This resulted in severe scrutiny and questions regarding the desire of the squad, the all round ability and, as always, the suitability of the manager and his staff.
In 2018, though, and with the latest World Cup in Russia on the horizon, England’s newest batch of internationals aren’t under the spotlight as much; pressure has eased, a new manager in Gareth Southgate is bringing in with him fresh hopes and, after countless disappointments, the media and fans alike seem to be downplaying England’s chances ahead of the competition, essentially relieving any pressure in the process. As levelled at previous national team squads, though, the World Cup isn’t a holiday.
England’s group of Panama, Tunisia and Belgium seems kind enough on paper and, with all due respect, that’s probably a fair assessment if you take the Belgians out of it, but Roberto Martinez’s side will be looking to end England’s hopes and throw a spanner in the works. Their undoubted quality with the likes of Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne and Vincent Kompany in their ranks make them England’s toughest opponent in the group. The Belgians are priced at 11/1 (Black Type) to reign supreme in Russia, which backs up their evident pedigree.
England themselves have quality in their side, though. Golden boy Harry Kane will be looking to impress on the world stage further after a solid Champions League cameo for Spurs this season, alongside Spurs team-mate Deli Alli who, after a fairly up and down time of late, will be keen to fire England to glory and get his career back on track. Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Jamie
(Image via https://twitter.com/thesackrace)
Vardy are also capable of lighting up the tournament on their day, although pressure to deliver will fall mainly on the shoulders of Kane.
England’s stars have to step up
As always seems to be the case with England, no matter who’s in charge, it will essentially come down
to whether England’s players can transfer their, by and large, solid club form onto the world’s biggest stage of all and not crumble under the spotlight. That, on top of the vast amount of other tournament contenders, makes the Three Lions’ task an even harder one, but success isn’t impossible by any stretch.
(Image via https://twitter.com/HKane)
The latest odds from Black Type betting show Germany and Brazil as co-favourites at 9/2, France at 11/2, Spain at 6/1 and Lionel Messi’s Argentina at 9/1, although outsiders are certainly in with a chance too, with England themselves at 16/1, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal at 25/1 and Luis Suarez’s potentially dangerous Uruguay side at 28/1.
The World Cup in Russia will be unmissable and one of the greatest sporting events on the planet, which the tournament undoubtedly is. There usually tends to be a surprise package or two along the way in any major international tournament – not many predicted Portugal being crowned European champions at the Euros in 2016, did they?!
Can England get the fans on side once again, thrive under the pressure and go all the way in Russia? Stranger things have happened.