England. What is there to say that hasn’t been said already? The English fans and the English media must be the toughest critics in the world and the team regularly disappoint them. They qualified strongly for this World Cup winning eight and drawing two of their qualifying matches, remaining unbeaten.
England share a group with Panama, Tunisia and Belgium. As you may expect, they are not the favourites to win the group but are expected to progress at the very least. Their final group game against Belgium is one of the most hotly anticipated matches and it will most likely determine who wins the group.
England squad outlook
Jordan Pickford, Jack Butland, Nick Pope, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose, Harry Maguire, Phil Jones, John Stones, Gary Cahill, Jordan Henderson, Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard, Ashley Young, Fabian Delph, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Raheem Sterling, Jamie Vardy, Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Danny Welbeck.
Squad talk: The country was abuzz with speculation before the squad was announced about who we would see included. There were some surprise inclusions such as Fabian Delph and Trent Alexander-Arnold. There were also some shock exclusions as Jack Wilshere and Joe Hart didn’t make the cut.
As well as that, there were calls for the likes of Jonjo Shelvey to be included in the squad to add creativity, but there was no call-up for the Newcastle man. Gareth Southgate also named Lewis Cook, Jake Livermore, Adam Lallana and Tom Heaton on the standby list. James Tarkowski was also on that list, but he picked up an injury and his replacement is yet to be announced.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek could be a one to watch for the England squad. His selection has gone a little under the radar what with the inclusion of Alexander-Arnold taking the spotlight. Loftus-Cheek has been a vital part of the turnaround at Crystal Palace this season and his creativity could be key for England.
King of the country
There have been many great England players over the years. Bobby Moore, Alan Shearer, Gary Lineker, Paul Gascoigne, Bobby Charlton and so on. If I had to pick one player, I would go for David Beckham.
His time playing for England wasn’t overly successful in terms of results, but there has never been a more iconic player to don the three lions. His presence on the pitch was always felt, but his presence off the pitch was just as big. Even now, he has been retired for a few years but people still talk about him on a regular basis. He is probably the most famous footballer in the world, there aren’t many people who don’t know the name David Beckham.
Who’s the gaffa?
Gareth Southgate. He was the successor of Sam Allardyce after his short-term stint as boss ended with controversy. Southgate was given the job after having managed the under-21 side for three years. Since his appointment, he has been loyal to the players he knows as he continually picks those who played under him in the under-21 side.
Before international management, Southgate only had one previous job – manager at Middlesbrough from 2006-09. The thing he is probably most famous for is missing the final penalty for England against Germany in the Euro ’96 semi-final, bringing our dreams crashing to a halt.
He was a defender when he played and since he has been in charge of England senior team that has shone through. The team conceded just three goals in 10 games while qualifying for this competition. Recently having changed to a three at the back system, it remains to be seen whether he will send his side out to attack teams, or hold on for results when the cup starts.
My opinion on how England will do? I think England will beat Tunisia and Panama and then narrowly lose to Belgium to go through to the round of 16 as runners up. In that scenario, we would be most likely to get Poland in the RO16, and I predict we will lose to Poland on penalties after a 1-1 draw.
Lazy fan fact: The England national team is the join oldest in the world along with Scotland. A representative match was organised by the Football Association to be played on the 5th March 1870. This match, played at Hamilton Crescent, is widely viewed as the first ever international football game.