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Coach: Gareth Southgate

Top All-Time Scorer: Wayne Rooney (53)

Top scorers in qualifying: Harry Kane (5)

Player to watch: Harry Kane

World Cup appearances: 15

Tournament best: Champions (1966)

FIFA Ranking: 15 ELO Ranking: 7

Kit: White shirt, dark blue shorts, white socks

Nickname: The Three Lions


Monday 18th, June @19:00

Tunisia v England

Volgograd Arena

Sunday 24th, June @13:00

England v Panama

Nizhny Novgorod Stadium

Thursday 28th, June @19:00

England v Belgium

Kaliningrad Stadium

Although still considered as one of the top European national sides, England have done precious little to uphold that reputation in recent tournaments. The Three Lions were dumped out of Brazil 2014 at the group stage without winning a match and were knocked out by relative minnows, Iceland, in the round of 16 at Euro 2016.  

Record leading goalscorer Wayne Rooney retired from international football last year and England’s great hope is that Spurs striker, Harry Kane, can fill those legendary boots. Coach Gareth Southgate is building a team of talented youngsters around his star striker, including the likes of Raheem Sterling, Dele Alli, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard, but there is a distinct lack of big-game experience among the squad.

It may be a transitional period for the national side, but with the pressure off, can England make their mark on the tournament?

Route to the Finals

England’s campaign started in controversy as Manager Sam Allardyce lasted just one match and 67 days in the job. Having taken over from Roy Hodgson after the poor showing in France 2016, he oversaw a slender 1-0 victory against Slovakia in the opening group fixture, courtesy of Adam Lallana’s 95th-minute winner. However, Allardyce left in disgrace later that month after a newspaper investigation into his role in player transfers.

Gareth Southgate was promoted from his position as U21 manager after a successful interim period of four games which resulted in qualifying wins over Scotland and Malta, a draw with Slovenia, and a 2-2  friendly draw with Spain.

Southgate’s side went on to qualify with a record of 8-2-0 from 10 matches, topping the group with 26 points ahead of second-placed Slovakia. Qualification was secured with a game to spare after a 1-0 Wembley win over Slovenia, but that victory told the story of the overall campaign. Harry Kane struck the winner deep into injury-time after England had laboured throughout and failed to create clear-cut chances. Only three goals were conceded throughout qualification but eighteen goals scored was the second-lowest among the group winners in the European section.

The Squad

Despite a raft of top Premier League players, Southgate has failed to come up with a system and formation which provides a coherent game plan. During qualification, England rarely looked like a powerhouse of world football and relied on late, injury-time winners on more than one occasion. 2-0 home wins against group minnows Lithuania and Malta tell the story of a side that failed to play with attacking verve and often struggled to break down opposition defences.

With the retirement of Wayne Rooney from Three Lions duty, the last of England’s ‘Golden Generation’ has left the international stage and a new group of players is emerging. Tottenham stars Harry Kane and Dele Alli lead the new kids on the block, and Southgate has plenty of exciting attacking options in Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Jamie Vardy (Leicester) and Danny Welbeck (Arsenal). His challenge, however, is to merge these players into a successful attacking unit – something he has failed to achieve in his reign thus far.

England’s excellent defensive record in the group could also be misleading due to the quality of opposition. Central defensive midfield lacks strength in depth with only Eric Dier (Tottenham) and Jordan Henderson (Liverpool) in genuine contention for starting spots, while centre defence is lacking in experience. Chelsea’s Gary Cahill is England’s most-capped defender, while Manchester City’s John Stones has emerged as first-choice despite only winning 23 caps in his short career so far. Southgate’s experiments with Liverpool’s Joe Gomez and Leicester’s Harry Maguire are a cause for concern – not because they lack quality, but because it demonstrates the uncertainty about the heart of England’s defence. Lesser sides in qualifying will not expose any weakness or inexperience but the top sides in the world most certainly will.

Only three players called up to the squad in the last twelve months have more than 50 caps – Joe Hart, Gary Cahill and Jermaine Defoe – and of those, only Cahill has been included in Southgate’s final 23 for Russia.

World Cup Record

England’s moment of World Cup glory came in the tournament they hosted in 1966 when Geoff Hurst became the first and only player to score a hat-trick in the final. That was more than 50 years ago, however, and the Three Lions have failed to come close to repeating that feat in the years since.

Their next-best result was at Italia ‘90 where they reached the semi-finals and lost out on penalties to Germany in a game famous for Paul Gascoigne’s tears. They reached the quarter-finals in 2002 and 2006, losing to Brazil in the former and falling to Portugal on penalties in the latter.

It was defeat to Germany again in 2010 in South Africa, a game remembered for Frank Lampard’s disallowed ‘goal’ when the officials failed to spot his shot had crossed the line. However, the tournament was marred by rumours of training ground bust-ups under Fabio Capello and England only crept through the group stages in second place behind USA.

Things got worse in 2014 in Brazil where England failed to progress from the group stage for the first time since 1958 (excluding the tournaments in 1974, 1978 and 1994 which they failed to qualify for at all). Roy Hodgson’s side were drawn in a tough group against Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica, and got off to the worst possible start with a 2-1 defeat to the Italians. Worse followed as they fell by the same scoreline to Uruguay, and they were already out when they drew the final group match 0-0 with Costa Rica. They were eliminated as the group’s bottom side with just one point.

How Far Can They Go?

The last international tournament – the European Championship in France 2016 – saw another lacklustre performance from another Roy Hodgson side. After finishing second in the group stage behind Wales, they were dumped out of the competition in the round of 16 by Iceland.

England have been drawn against Belgium, Tunisia and Panama in Russia, and should be good enough to progress to the knockout stages. However, Belgium are worthy favourites to win the group and both Panama and Tunisia will play the defensive game that England struggle to break down, so it is not a foregone conclusion. A Place in the last sixteen will see them face one of the top two in group H – possibly Poland or Colombia – and a victory there could see them land a quarter-final against Germany or Brazil.

A place in the knockout stage is the minimum expectation, but it is difficult to see England progressing beyond the last eight. The most likely stage of elimination is in the round of 16 or the quarter-finals.

Best bet

Harry Kane to be England’s
top scorer @ 6/4