Can England really win the World Cup?
This is the closest they have gotten to the World Cup since their 1990 loss against West Germany, and the question on everyone's mind is - Can they win it? England has usually flattered to deceive at most of their World Cup appearances and people are really sceptical of their ability to win the ultimate title this time.
This England team is different from any other team they have had in that it lacks any larger than life superstar who creates attention on and off the pitch. On the pitch, you just see young ambitious players playing together with a common purpose and mutual respect for each others' efforts.
The closest player who stands out as the team superstar is Harry Kane, yet you can barely name him as such because of the togetherness in the team, and this has kept the team away from unnecessary media attention and hype usually seen before tournaments, keeping the team's attention on only one thing: the World Cup.
This in stark contrast with the 1998 and 2002 squads when Michael Owen and David Beckham's larger than life personalities took attention from the task at hand. Jordan Henderson was right when he said, "It's the most together England team I've been involved in, it makes a massive difference and you get your rewards for that."
Another thing that has created a difference for this team is the mentality of the coach and his selection criteria that rewards hard-working players a place in the team without regard for the player's own recognition or name. In this side, name and fame come second to hard work and ability. It is about what you can do and not what you are known for.
This meritocratic system has created opportunities in the team for hard working players who would have otherwise never had a chance to play. Players like Marcus Rashford, Harry Kane, Dele Alli now have the chance to showcase their brilliance in the absence of traditionally known players like Jack Wilshere, Adam Lallana and Wayne Rooney. This has made room for players who are hungrier for success to take over and battle for success.
This team is highly meritocratic and players earn chances to play based on their performances and not their names. The result was evident in the qualification series where England qualified with an impressive 26 points without losing a match. In their games, you see players trying their best to justify they deserve their places in the team, and no one gets a pat on their back because of name and recognition. For the first time, nobody plays because he is Rooney, Lampard, Gerrard or Terry. Players play because they deserve to and because they are hungry for it.
England has the last match against Croatia before they reach the final, and history seems to be on their side, winning three of their five matches against them since 2000. Also, England has been the better scoring team of the two in the competition thus far with eleven goals while Croatia has had to rely on penalty kicks to qualify on two occasions.
If they do meet France, England still has a competitive advantage, having won 3 times in competitive matches and losing once to France. In the World Cup, England has won on the two meetings with France and have an overall 19 wins with 9 losses, signifying n advantage to England. England has an upper hand on both teams.
This England team has reaped the rewards of togetherness and meritocracy in the qualification stage and group stage, amassing a record six point in the latter, and for the first time, they are really close to winning the World Cup. For this team, winning the World Cup is a real possibility.