World Cup 2018 England team profile: How they qualified, star man, World Cup record, fixtures
England come into a major tournament on the back of an impressive-looking qualifying campaign. Can Gareth Southgate succeed where Roy Hodgson failed and get the Three Lions firing at a tournament proper?
- Honours: World Cup 1966
- FIFA Ranking: 13
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
A record of eight wins and two draws from 10 was a hugely impressive return considering the backroom upheaval that marked the start of their campaign However, the Three Lions have been here before - most recently in qualification for Euro 2016, where their excellence in qualifying was bettered only by their incompetence at the tournament itself.
STAR MAN - Harry Kane
The four-season wonder had a poor Euro 2016. However, he was far from alone in that and has developed his game further since then; his will for constant improvement has never been questioned but those who have worked closely with Kane speak of a player who is unaffected by self-doubt.
Furthermore, England will more than likely set up in a system that mirrors Tottenham's, so the 24-year-old should really hit the ground running. Contrast that with 2016 where it felt Kane was shoehorned into a side to fit around an old guard that was terribly out of form.
NEXT BIG THING - Ruben Loftus-Cheek
The loss of an in-form Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to injury was a substantial blow. However, in Ruben Loftus-Cheek they have a player, given the right environment, who has the potential to excel. The 22-year-old has had the prodigy moniker since before his teens and perhaps that pressure has fostered the maturity he displays - both on and off the field - that surpasses his modest years. The Chelsea star, on loan at Crystal Palace, marries an imposing physicality with technical brilliance that could allow for a breakout tournament.
Southgate was, by his own admission, not the first choice to replace Sam Allardyce. There was clamour for a more high-profile appointment, particularly considering his relatively modest domestic managerial career.
However, both Southgate and England appear to be benefitting from the apprenticeship he served with the U21s. He has a depth of knowledge of England's emerging crop that was beyond many of his predecessors, and England, having seemed so stale, have the feel of a team on the rise driven by youth.
Southgate has trialled a number of formations while ushering in meritocracy; form not reputation dictates England selection.
WORLD CUP HISTORY
Winners in 1966, but intrinsically linked to the competence/incompetence of linesman Tofiq Bahramov, depending on your persuasion.
Since then, England have trended downwards. There have been highs – 1986 and 1990 - but they have generally been followed by crushing lows. The last couple of tournaments have generally been disappointing, with neither performance nor results being particularly positive.
REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
England head into the tournament with expectations genuinely dimmed, and with a squad brimming with youth and potential. This could be the first tournament in a while where the Three Lions exceed expectations.
- 18th June- Tunisia
- 24th June – Panama
- 28th June – Belgium