Can Harry Kane return glory to The Three Lions?
England are the kings of disappointment when it comes to international soccer. As one of the founding countries of the sport, you would expect England to consistently perform well. The English Premier League is the most competitive in the world, and you would think that England should be better. However, they have been incredibly underwhelming.
Going back 10 years in five international tournaments, England have failed to get past the first knockout round. Here are their results in previous tournaments:
Euro 2008 - Failed to qualify
World Cup 2010 - Failed to win group (2nd to USA) and lost 4-1 to Germany in Round of 16
Euro 2012 - Lost to Italy in quarterfinals on penalties
World Cup 2014 - Failed to reach knockouts (albeit in a tough group), mustering only one point
Euro 2016 - Lost 2-1 to Iceland in Round of 16
England have had some unlucky breaks including this shocker in 2010.
England have certainly underperformed, but additionally, their nation places extremely high expectations on their side to do well. Frankly, they are not one of the top teams in the world. They currently sit at 16th in the FIFA World Rankings. That said, they could be primed for a deep run if Gareth Southgate makes smart tactical and lineup decisions, Harry Kane continues his run of good form, and a bit of luck goes their way.
England breezed through qualification (although in a rather weak group), going unbeaten in 10 matches and giving up just three goals. Additionally, this looks like the best team England has fielded in quite some time, with a bevy of young talent that have experience at a high club level.
The first thing that needs to go well is the team selection. Here are the 23 players whom England should send to Russia in addition to a first choice XI that should be used unless tactical adjustments are necessary:
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, Fraser Forster, Jack Butland
Defenders: Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling, John Stones, Harry Maguire, Danny Rose, Kyle Walker, Eric Dier, Nathaniel Clyne, James Milner
Midfielders: Jordan Henderson, Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ross Barkley, Adam Lallana, Dele Alli
Forwards: Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Raheem Sterling, Jamie Vardy
Starting XI (4-3-3)
Main Attacking Sub Options: Vardy, Lingard, Ox, Lallana
Main Defensive Substitution Options: Dier, Milner, Smalling
The weakest part of their starting XI is clearly their keeper. England do not have a great option and Hart is the best of them. Walker and Rose are clear choices for fullbacks. A Maguire-Stones pairing at center half will provide a much-needed possession play, especially with a lack of quality midfielders. Maguire might be an unorthodox selection, with Smalling and Cahill as more experienced options, but Maguire has shown time and again this season to be one of the top center halves in the EPL. He tracks attackers well, is tremendous in the air, and can get forward when needed.
Another potential weak point in the lineup is their midfield. Southgate could potentially bolster the midfield with more bodies, opting for a 3-4-3 or 3-4-2-1 with Rose and Walker as wing backs and sliding Dier in as the third center half. This has become more prevalent in the EPL this season. Henderson and Dele are obvious inclusions. For a third central midfielder, Wilshere offers a high work rate and a defensive presence when needed. Dier or Milner could also slide into this position.
The front three are no-brainers and they are one of the most dangerous groups in the entire tournament. Rashford and Sterling offer blistering pace and technical ability. Kane has proven to be the best striker in the world, finishing at an incredible clip with both feet and his head. This group will give teams problems and the team will live and die by their success.
England’s ceiling is likely the quarterfinals, which would be a successful tournament. Their group features Belgium, Tunisia, and Panama, and if they fail to reach the knockouts, it would be calamitous. There is a strong chance that they will face Poland or Colombia in the first knockout round. Both of these matchups are winnable and will dictate whether the World Cup is a success. Following that round, they will likely face Brazil or Germany, ending their run.
With all this said, if Kane remains hot, they could upset some favorites. Also if chaos ensues in the group stage, they could get a lucky knockout draw. England are once again a very interesting team with potential to knock off a top nation if everything falls perfectly, but we should expect a performance on par with previous tournaments that is all but assured to disappoint their supporters.
Edited by Jazmyn Brown.
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