World Cup 2022 team preview: Quarter-finals looks the limit for out-of-sorts England

The Euro 2020 runners-up don't look likely to go one step further.

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It’s been 56 years since England’s World Cup success on home soil, and with all the extremely talented players and squads they’ve had over the years since, you’d have to say the Three Lions have underperformed to not have any international honours since. Semi-final appearances in 1990 and 2018 have been their best showings since the triumph of 1966.

They managed to reach a final last summer in the delayed Euro 2020 but fell just short in a penalty shoot-out. All of IN-GER-LAND will be hoping they can finally go one better this time round and they come into the tournament as one of the favourites. Their odds have lengthened of late after a disastrous Nations League campaign, but we’ve seen teams sabotage results prior to big tournaments to put opponents off the scent before. We’re not saying England did that – they were terrible – we’re just saying other teams have done it.

Paddy’s leading footy trader Jason Murphy takes you through what to expect from Group B favourites England at the World Cup 2022.

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England World Cup 2022 qualifying record

England had a quite straightforward qualifying group and as usual made it through comfortably with eight wins from 10 games, drawing the other two – one against an up-and-coming Hungary at Wembley, and the other due to a very late equaliser from the hosts in Poland. They scored 39 goals and conceded just three. Harry Kane was top scorer in the qualifying campaign with 12, including four penalties. Bonus points for those who guess who was their second highest scorer? That’s right… Harry Maguire. 

England manager profile

      Gareth Southgate took the national team reigns in 2016 after the infamous sacking of Sam Allardyce after just one game in charge. Southgate has England’s third-highest win percentage at 61.5% only behind Big Sam (100%) and Fabio Capello (67%). He became a national hero in 2018 after nearly ‘bringing football home’ before defeat to eventual runners-up Croatia, and nearly made the country whole again last summer at Euro 2020.

      Unfortunately, that ended in another devastating penalty shoot-out defeat at Wembley for Southagte who you may remember missed the decisive spot kick in sudden-death of the Euro ’96 semi-final against Germany. Following a very poor run of results in 2022, the former Middlesbrough manager is under pressure to deliver a strong performance. Anything less and you may next see him at a Pizza Hut in early 2023…

      England World Cup squad

      Southgate initially chopped and changed his formations, usually between a 4-3-3 and a 3-5-2 with two wing-backs before settling on a 3-5-2 formation at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. We saw a 4-2-3-1 for most of Euro 2020, but in more recent matches he’s reverted to a 3-5-2 or 3-4-3. One of the suggested reasons for a return to a back three is the manager’s lack of faith in his centre-backs. It is also to do with Southgate’s overall approach to matches. He would rather keep it tight and hope to come out the right side of a close contest as opposed to risking it all á la Kevin Keegan and being more attacking (but also more open).

      The Three Lions manager’s approach may be the right one. A solid defence usually wins international tournaments but England are not drilled well enough to execute a 3-4-3 at this stage, and without a three-week long pre-World Cup training camp, Southgate will not be able to execute this formation with these players in time. Kyle Walker’s potential absence through injury is a major concern as he has become vital on the right side of a back three. If fit, Reece James will be key and deserves to start in whatever England’s formation. Whether it is right side of back four or as a wing back time will tell.

      In midfield, the boss tends to play it safe, especially against stronger opposition and will likely play two holding midfielders in Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham. Further up the pitch is where there is a wealth of talent and the game plan will be for England to break quickly using any combination of Phil Foden, Mason Mount, Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterlin and Bukayo Saka behind star striker Harry Kane.

      • Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope, Aaron Ramsdale.
      • Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Conor Coady, Eric Dier, Harry Magiure, Luke Shaw, John Stones, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker, Ben White.
      • Midfielders: Jude Bellingham, Conor Gallagher, Jordan Henderson, Mason Mount, Kalvin Phillips, Declan Rice.
      • Forwards: Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Harry Kane, James Maddison, Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, Raheem Sterling, Callum Wilson.

      England Key Player

      With 51 goals in 71 caps, Harry Kane is England’s key man. The 2018 World Cup Golden Boot winner and Three Lions captain, his form will be crucial to their chances of lifting the World Cup. He is just three goals short of breaking Wayne Rooney’s scoring record and if he beats it in Qatar then there’s a fair chance they will have enjoyed a good tournament. If he does not, then England probably will have had a poor one. It’s as simple as that really.

      Despite the likes of Ivan Toney, Tammy Abraham, Callum Wilson and Ollie Watkins staking a claim to get minutes over the last 12 months, none of the aforementioned are as reliable or at the level of Kane and he’s the one player they would find hardest to replace. Since the start of 2017, he is still outperforming his xG and despite getting more recognition in recent times for his assists, it should not be forgotten that he is an excellent finisher.

      England One to Watch

      Bukayo Saka is only 21, but already has a wealth of experience and is a key player in an Arsenal team that is performing very well. He is simply too good not to start in this Three Lions side. It’s worth mentioning too that he won England Player of the Year for the 2021/22 Season. He was done a disservice playing as a left wingback vs Italy in the Nations League and then played a major part in the turnaround against Germany in their final game when he came on for Foden. If England do well, Saka playing on the right, cutting in with his left foot will have played a huge part in that.

      England World Cup Prospects

      On paper, England should not have any problems in qualifying top of Group B. However, as well all know, football is not played on paper. The pitches and conditions in Qatar may be better suited to Iran, USA are a threat and there’s nothing worse than meeting the noisy neighbours – and you can expect Wales to go to another level in terms of performance.

      Regardless of the opposition they face, the way England have played in 2022 and their defensive outlook makes it hard to see them taking that final step under Southgate – if anything it will be a couple backwards.

      England World Cup betting tips

      England have only been going one way since losing on penalties to Italy in the final of Euro 2020. Avoid backing ‘it coming home’. ENGLAND STAGE OF ELIMINATION: QUARTER-FINALS

      15/8
      Quarter-Finals England Stage of Elimination

      England World Cup Winner Odds

      17/2
      England World Cup 2022 Winner

      England World Cup 2022 Fixtures

      November 21, 1pm: England v Iran (BBC)

      November 25, 7pm: England v USA (ITV)

      November 29, 7pm: Wales v England (BBC)

      CLICK BELOW FOR TEAM PREVIEWS ON ENGLAND’S GROUP B RIVALS

      *All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change

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