Russia 2018 – World Cup Preview

Gareth Southgate has claimed his England World Cup 2018 squad has been picked to excite the nation at this summer’s tournament.

Manager Southgate revealed his 23-man squad with Adam Lallana, 

who is on the standby list, the big-name omission. But Southgate believes, with the likes of Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Dele Alli and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, his young England squad offers plenty of encouragement.

“I believe this is a squad which we can be excited about,” said Southgate. “We have a lot of energy and athleticism in the team, but players that are equally comfortable in possession of the ball and I think people can see the style of play we’ve been looking to develop.

‘It is a young group, but with some really important senior players so I feel the balance of the squad is good, both in terms of its experience, its character and also the positional balance.”

Who made England’s 23-man squad?

Here’s who will feature in England’s World Cup squad:

Goalkeepers: Jack Butland (Stoke),
Jordan Pickford (Everton),
Nick Pope (Burnley).

Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool),
Gary Cahill (Chelsea),
Fabian Delph (Manchester City),
Phil Jones (Manchester United),
Harry Maguire (Leicester),
Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur),
John Stones (Manchester City),
Kieran Trippier (Tottenham Hotspur),
Kyle Walker (Manchester City),
Ashley Young (Manchester United).

Midfielders: Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur),
Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur),
Jordan Henderson (Liverpool),
Jesse Lingard (Manchester United),
Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea).

Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham),
Marcus Rashford (Manchester United),
Raheem Sterling (Manchester City),
Jamie Vardy (Leicester),
Danny Welbeck (Arsenal).

Standby: Lewis Cook (Bournemouth),
Tom Heaton (Burnley),
Adam Lallana (Liverpool),
Jake Livermore (West Brom),
James Tarkowski (Burnley).

Gareth Southgate decided to leave Joe Hart and Jack Wilshere at home and has picked a squad heavily-loaded with defenders, reflective of his desire to play with three
centre-backs and wing-backs.

Trent-Alexander-Arnold could win his first
England cap in Russia while the inclusion of Ruben Loftus-Cheek also speaks to Southgate’s bold approach. Harry Kane will captain the side.

Who is in England’s group?

England are in Group G alongside Belgium, Tunisia and Panama.

Belgium: One of the favourites for the competition with a dazzling array of talent. England will be familiar with most of their key players: Thibuat Courtois, Vincent Kompany, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku among others, all play in the Premier League. England’s toughest opponent by a distance.

Tunisia: Potentially tricky opposition who will look to frustrate England. They were unbeaten in qualifying and Sunderland winger Wahbi Khazri could be a danger man. Nevertheless, a team England should beat if they have aspirations to reach the latter stages.

Panama: One of the stories of the tournament, having qualified for the finals for the first time in dramatic fashion. England will be heavy favourites to swat them aside.

When do England play?

Monday June 18, 7pm BST
Tunisia vs England (Volgograd)

Sunday June 24, 1pm BST
England vs Panama (Nizhny Novgorod)

Thursday June 28, 7pm BST
England vs Belgium (Kaliningrad)

Should England progress from their group, their last-16 match will be on

Monday July 2 (if they win the group) or Tuesday July 2
(if they finish runners-up in the group).

Should England progress beyond that stage, their quarter-final will either be:

Friday 6 July – Kazan, 7pm BST
Winner match 53 vs Winner match 54

OR Saturday 7 July – Samara, 3pm BST
Winner match 55 vs Winner match 56
And the rest…

Semi-finals

Tuesday 10 July – St Petersburg, 7pm BST
Winner match 57 vs Winner match 58

Wednesday 11 July – Moscow, 7pm BST
Winner match 59 vs Winner match 60

Third place play-off

Saturday 14 July – St Petersburg, 3pm BST
Loser match 61 vs Loser match 62

THE FINAL

Sunday 15 July
Moscow (Luzhniki), 4pm BST.

What happened in 2014?

England were eliminated in the group stages with just one point and two goals to show from their two games. They were beaten 2-1 by Italy in their opening game despite an
encouraging performance, before Luis Suarez’s goal confirmed their exit in the second match against Uruguay. A dead rubber against Costa Rica finished goalless.

What is Gareth Southgate saying?

“The selection process has been over months really, it’s not just been the last few weeks,” said Southgate. “We feel the team are improving and we want to continue that momentum.

‘The first call up for Trent Alexander-Arnold is well deserved. When we pick young players, it’s not just because they are young, it’s because their performances deserve it.

‘We’ve also had a couple of injuries with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez, which is a huge blow for them personally and disappointing for us.”

Goalkeeper Joe Hart, midfielder Jack Wilshere and left-back Ryan Bertrand have all been omitted and not placed on Southgate’s five-man standby list that includes Lallana, Tom Heaton, Jake Livermore James Tarkowski and Lewis Cook.

“Ryan and Joe have played a lot over the last two years so they’re not decisions we took lightly. I could’ve had easier conversations by keeping them involved,” said Southgate, whose goalkeepers are Jordan Pickford, Jack Butland and Nick Pope.

“With Joe, we’ve got three other goalkeepers who have had very good seasons and the decision I was faced with was do I keep Joe in and have experience around the group? Or give the three guys who have basically had a better season a chance? We felt the players all needed to be in on merit after their performances this season.

‘Ryan is also very unfortunate in that it’s probably one of the strongest positions we have. Ryan has had a decent season, but I just felt the others were ahead of him. Both calls were really tough. They’re both good guys and have contributed a lot throughout qualification, so it wasn’t an enjoyable part of the job and I feel it’s important to acknowledge their contribution in getting us to Russia.”

Other teams to look out for

Germany: Perhaps unsurprisingly, Germany are top of the pile when it comes to predicting which nation is most likely to win the 2018 World Cup at this point in time.

Brazil: With Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and veterans at the back, Brazil is back and looking as strong as it’s been in quite a while. Don’t be shocked if the South Americans are the last team standing next summer.

France: Les Bleus will hope to overcome their Euro 2016 disappointment after they lost to Portugal in the final held at home in the Stade de France. The best way to make amends is by lifting the title in Russia. Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud will be entrusted with scoring goals.

Argentina: If there is a competition and Lionel Messi is playing, one cannot rule out the possibilities of success. Especially, when he wears the blue and white stripes for Argentina. The two-time World Cup winners narrowly missed out on their third World Cup triumph four years ago when the lost to Germany. They will want to go one step further this time on.

Portugal: There is only one name that comes to mind when you think of Portugal and that is Cristiano Ronaldo. The world’s best player is on track to lift a record sixth Ballon d’Or after Real Madrid’s hat-trick of UEFA Champions League titles, and you can never count his team out, not even on the international stage

Ben Fox

Author: Ben Fox

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