Source: FIFAWorldCup via Twitter
England’s performances against Germany and Brazil, even without the presence of key players, suggested that the Three Lions could have a formula to compete at the 2018 World Cup. Gareth Southgate’s men played out two goalless draws against both outfits at Wembley Stadium, despite missing main man Harry Kane due to injury. They managed to hold firm against the presence of Neymar and company along with Die Mannschaft, who boast the deepest talent pool in the world. The results will give Southgate optimism that his side can hold their own against the best teams in the competition, rebuilding the confidence shattered by England’s defeat to Iceland in Euro 2016.
It could all count for nothing come the start of the World Cup when the Three Lions will be under the spotlight. They’ve cracked time and again under pressure of the big stage, but the young players coming through the ranks have exuberance to perhaps ignite a deep run in the tournament. England are backed in the latest international betting odds at 16/1 to win the World Cup. And although that seems unlikely given their recent performances in competitions, the success of England’s junior teams over the past year could inspire the senior team to emulate their feats.
England’s success at the World Cup will hinge on the performances of Kane. Notably, he struggled immensely at the Euros after enjoying an excellent campaign for Tottenham in the Premier League. The 24-year-old racked up the goals for Spurs, but failed to find the back of the net in the tournament. His disappointing tournament was epitomised in his set-pieces as then England boss Roy Hodgson opted to have the striker to take corners, which were extremely poor, to say the least. Under Southgate, Kane could well be the Three Lions’ leader on the field and should he harness his Tottenham form on the major stage – England have will have a puncher’s chance.
Source: _EnglandStats via Twitter
He will be supported by his club team-mate Dele Alli, playing in the same role as he does for Mauricio Pochettino’s men. Alli has not been at his thus far this term after an extremely impressive season in the 2016-17 campaign. The 21-year-old has the talent to make an impact, but also the propensity for self-destruction due to his lack of discipline on the field. England cannot afford another Wayne Rooney moment of the 2006 World Cup when he was dismissed against Portugal.
England’s backline looks to have improved with the performances of John Stones and Phil Jones at the top of the Premier League for Manchester City and United respectively. Behind them, Gary Cahill, Michael Keane and Joe Gomez provide solid depth, while the full-back positions are well manned with quality on both flanks. However, the middle of the park is a massive issue, with Eric Dier likely to drop back into a three-man defence with Jones and Stones.
Regulars Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have not inspired confidence, while Adam Lallana has been struggling with injuries. Youth could be the surprise package and saving grace should Harry Winks and Ruben Loftus-Cheek continue on their upward trajectory. It all flows through Kane though, should he fire then the rest of the squad only need to provide a solid complement for the striker.