Thursday May 17 2018

England’s new blood to face stern test

The Three Lions descended to the lower level of

The Three Lions descended to the lower level of exiting at the Round of 16 before getting out of the group became a serious challenge altogether last campaign. 

By Edward Ssekalo

That background is important for properly assessing the Three Lions’ chances in Russia this year. A vastly reshaped lineup will take to the field when the action gets underway, in fact only two of the players who regularly featured in Brazil are likely to make it into Gareth Southgate’s starting XI. England’s old flaws may not be completely cured, however. There is more stability in the goalkeeping department these days, but the Three Lions are always one defensive lapse away from self-destruction. Nonetheless, being grouped with Panama and Tunisia means a place in the Round of 16 is a certainty, surely.

How they play
Gareth Southgate has focused on making England gritty again, even switching to a back three and shoring up the defence with wingbacks. Compact and eager to hit opponents on the break, there is as much sense of defensive discipline today as there is little evidence of attacking panache.

Strengths
England’s forwards, from Jamie Vardy to Harry Kane to Raheem Sterling, head into Russia coming off fruitful domestic seasons, although the challenge has often been replicating club form on the international stage.

Weaknesses
There has always been a mental fragility about the English team; you just have to go back two years to see how the Three Lions crumbled against Iceland at the Euros. That, plus the lack of a reliable midfield creator will ultimately curtail England’s progress.
Star man
Harry Kane is a reliable scorer at club level, but he must use this platform to prove he is up there among the best, especially after his underwhelming international tournament debut at Euro 2016.

One to watch
If selected, Jordan Pickford could be one of the revelations in Russia.

Prospects
England was cruelly reminded at the last two World Cups that hype is not enough to win you games, but surely in a Group G where Belgium is the only team at their level, not even England will manage to do an England and choke at the group stage. Past the group phase, don’t be so sure, especially if penalties are involved.

World Cup Low
Losing 1-0 to USA when England made its first finals appearance in 1950.

World Cup Legend
Bobby Moore was the defensive kingpin and captain of the title-winning 1966 team.

Fifa ranking
England are ranked No.13 by Fifa.

Coach
Gareth Southgate

England squad

Goalkeepers: Jack Butland (Stoke), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Burnley)
Defenders: Kyle Walker (Manchester City), John Stones (Manchester City), Harry Maguire (Leicester), Kieran Trippier (Tottenham Hotspur), Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur), Ashley Young (Manchester United), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
Midfielders: Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Crystal Palace), Fabian Delph (Manchester City)
Forwards: Jamie Vardy (Leicester), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City) Harry Kane (Tottenham), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal)

Fact file

How they qualified:
Finished top of European qualifying Group F
WC Appearances: 14
World Cup Record: 1950 - First round;
1954 - Quarter-finals; 1958 - First round;
1962 - Quarter-finals; 1966 - Winners;
1970 - Quarter-finals; 1982 - Second group
stage; 1986 - Quarter-finals; 1990 - Fourth
place; 1998 - Second round; 2002 -
Quarter-finals; 2006 - Quarter-finals; 2010
- Second round; 2014 - First rounds
Overall Record: P62, W26, D20, L16
Best performance: Winners in 1966
WC High: Geoff Hurst’s hat-trick during
England’s 4-2 win over West Germany in
the 1966 final

Probable II

1. Jordan Pickford
2. Kieran Trippier
3. Kyle Walker
4. Harry Maguire
5. John Stones
6. Danny Rose
7. Eric Dier
8. Jordan Henderson
9. Dele Alli
10. Raheem Sterling
11. Harry Kane (captain)

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