World Cup 2018: Analysing England's chances this summer
Over 160 million viewers across 202 countries watch the Premier League every season. And yet the country with arguably the most competitive and entertaining football league has not even been considered as dark horses for as many World Cups as I can remember. Die-hard England fans would look back at the golden generation of 2002 with the likes of Beckham, Scholes, and Owen but deep within even they knew that their chances were really slim.
An abundance of owner investments and multi-billion dollar media deals has lead to an influx of the best talent from across the globe. Domestic talent has suffered as a result. Take current champions Manchester City for example. Raheem Sterling is the only English player who automatically slots into the starting XI with two other players - John Stones and Fabian Delph warming the benches. With modest expectations going into the World Cup how will the England team fare in Russia?
The starting XI looks pretty strong with Jordan Pickford in goal and John Stones, Gary Cahill and Kyle Walker as the three central defenders. Kieran Trippier and Ashley Young slot into the right and left wing back positions respectively. Eric Dier takes on the holding midfielder role with Delli Ali as the free-flowing creative midfielder.
Jesse Lingard and Raheem Sterling will provide the attacking flair from the wings and Harry Kane will be called upon to score most of the goals. Off the bench, Jamie Vardy and Marcus Rashford can be thrown into the mix to change the tempo of the game.
Group G should see them finish second behind Belgium but from then on the going gets tough. A potential round of 16 encounter against Colombia will be a difficult game. If they manage to squeeze through the ever consistent German team in the quarters should surely prove to be their nemesis.
However what works for them is the squad is fairly experienced with a good mix of youthful exuberance and old warhorses. Also without the burden of expectations and away from the limelight, the players might just be able to punch above their weight. A lot will depend on whether Gareth Southgate is able to get the best out of Alli and Sterling.
But captain Kane will undoubtedly be their most vital player - if he fires on all cylinders they will become a force to reckon with. And Rashford can give them that X factor when he comes on as a substitute.
We don't see much changing though. Another quarter-final exit on the cards.
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