Saturday, February 29, 2020

Low expectations a blessing for England’s World Cup campaign

David Nugent in Editorial, World Cup 2 Dec 2017

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The World Cup draw took place on Friday in the Russian capital Moscow. As an England fan, I was hoping for the Three Lions to not be drawn in the ‘Group of Death’.

It turns out the draw was not too bad for Gareth Southgate’s men, as they were drawn alongside Belgium, Tunisia and Panama. No draw is an easy draw for England, as they have a tendency to underwhelm whoever their opponents are at major tournaments.

However, surely England should be quietly confident of qualifying for the knockout stages from Group G.

Not the favourites

The fact that England are in the same group as the highly-rated Belgians may work in their favour. It means that they are not favourites to qualify for the knockout stages, lowering expectations straight away.

In the last few decades, many times England have gone into major tournaments as the favourites to win their groups. The favourite’s tag just added pressure to teams that could not handle the expectations.

England teams have a habit of failing at major tournaments and it is because sometimes the media build up the team to be something they are not. The so-called ‘Golden Generation’ struggled to live up to expectations because they were hyped-up so much by the media.

Current team not great

The British media have not hyped-up the current England team up, as they are simply not that good. The team has a few very good players in striker Harry Kane and attacking midfielder Dele Alli.

However, Southgate also has major problems to sort out before next year’s trip to Russia. One problem area of the team is at centre-back. Chelsea’s Gary Cahill looks a shoe-in to start at the World Cup.

However, beyond that, there are places up for grabs at the back. Chris Smalling is not always in the Manchester United team, while teammate Phil Jones is just so injury-prone.

Inexperienced pair Joe Gomez and Harry Maguire have been in recent squads and looked comfortable in the international game. Everton’s Michael Keane would also be an option.

However, for the former Burnley star to make the squad, he has to hope that new Toffees boss Sam Allardyce can help his shattered confidence.

The number one spot is also a concern. West Ham’s Joe Hart has been poor this season in a poor team, while promising Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has also conceded a lot of goals this season.

The latter, however, has been in far better form for the Toffees and may head to Russia as England number one.

Then there is the complete lack of midfield creativity. There is no playmaker figure in the mould of Paul Gascoigne or Glenn Hoddle. There just seems to be functional midfielders.

Everton’s Ross Barkley is the closest player England have to the aforementioned pair. The 23-year-old is sidelined due to injury and could well move clubs in January, which could affect his chances of playing regularly in the near future.

Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere can provide that sort of creativity too. However, he is struggling to make the Gunners starting line-up at the moment.

England not contenders to win the World Cup

England heads to Russian more in hope than expectation. I doubt that many believe that the Three Lions can win the World Cup.

Gareth Southgate’s side are odds of 1/16 to win the World Cup. Those odds suggest that not many fancy Southgate and his side making a big impact on Russia 2018.

Asked yesterday if he would take making it to the quarter-finals, Southgate said ‘not at the moment’. However, with the current group of players and boss, I believe the quarter-finals would be a decent result.

This is not me being pessimistic about the Three Lions. It is just my realistic opinion of where England are as a footballing nation.

The fact that not many people expect rate England could work in the team’s favour and who knows the Three Lions might just surprise people in Russia.

How far can England go at Russia 2018?


David Nugent

David is a freelance football writer with nearly a decade of experience writing about the beautiful game. The experienced writer has written for over a dozen websites and also an international soccer magazine offline.
Arguably his best work has come as an editorial writer for Soccernews, sharing his good, bad and ugly opinions on the world’s favourite sport. During David’s writing career he has written editorials, betting previews, match previews, banter, news and opinion pieces.



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