Pressure is on Southgate after the Nations League relegation
The Three Lions have come close to glory in the last two major tournaments
QATAR – England got to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup and lost on penalties to Italy in the final of Euro 2020. Gareth Southgate will be hoping his side goes one step further in the first-ever World Cup held in the winter months.
It is a strange time to be an England fan, Gareth Southgate‘s side has come tantalisingly close to a final in Russia but for MarioMandzukic‘s extra-time strike. On home soil at the European Championships which were delayed by a year because of Covid, the Three Lions lost on penalties to Italy to again break England’s hearts.
The Lionesses showed the men how to do it this year when they beat Germany to win Euro 2022 and deliver the first major trophy for the country since 1966. However, the form of Southgate’s side has not matched the women’s as his team have not won in their last six games and suffered relegation from Group A of the Nations League following a 1-0 defeat to the Azzurri in September.
England will not have to worry about facing the Italians in Qatar as they bizarrely made it two World Cups in a row that they failed to qualify. This has added to the obscurity of a tournament which is deep in controversy. The corruption at FIFA which surrounds the competition, the tragic deaths of migrant workers in building the stadiums and the country’s awful human rights record has put off many fans from watching the games.
England has and will make stands for what they believe is right. The team flew to Qatar in a plane called the ‘Rain Bow’ as a protest to the country’s anti-homosexuality laws. Captain Harry Kane will wear the One Love armband throughout the tournament and Southgate has said his side will speak out when appropriate.
Their first game is next Monday against Iran, a team managed by Carlos Queiroz who was once Sir Alex Ferguson‘s assistant at Manchester United. Queiroz’s side includes Beyer Leverkusen forward Sardar Azmoun and Brentford’s Saman Ghoddos and they will be looking to go beyond the group stages for the first time.
England then faces the USA who have shocked the Three Lions before, famously defeating them in the 1950 World Cup and claiming a 1-1 draw in 2010 when Rob Green‘s error from a Clint Dempsey strike proved costly. They are managed by Gregg Berhalter, a former Southgate teammate at Crystal Palace. The USMNT’s star man is Chelsea’s Cristian Pulisic who will be vying to impress after not always playing for his club this season.
The final game for England in the group is against a fellow home nation in Wales. The two side’s met in Euro 2016 when a late Daniel Sturridge goal won it for England. However, the Three Lions went on to lose to Iceland in the last 16 whilst Wales remarkably made it to the semi-finals before they lost to Portugal. This World Cup is Wales’ first since 1958 but it is also likely to be the last for many of their star players with Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey now in their thirties.
England is the favourite to top this group and would be expected to beat whoever comes 2nd in Group A which consists of the Netherlands, Senegal, Ecuador and Qatar. But if this does come to fruition, they will likely face a tough match against France in the quarter-finals. In an interview with the BBC, England legend Alan Shearer predicts that will be the stage England go out in, “With the success that they have had in the last two tournaments we want England to go that one step further and try and win it. Whether we can or not remains to be seen. It’s going to be very, very difficult. I’d say maybe a quarter-final.”
England’s defence is a worry for some fans, with Harry Maguire playing with a point to prove and the team taking an injured Kyle Walker with them. Southgate has also chosen to take Kalvin Phillips who has played just once in the Premier League this season. But there are reasons to be optimistic as Kane is on from with 13 goals this season. James Maddison, who is somewhat of a wildcard selection, has seven goals league goals so far and Jude Bellingham has been a star for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga. Hopefully, England goes further than Shearer’s prediction and most importantly fans travelling to Qatar stay safe.
November 21: England v Iran (1pm, Khalifa International Stadium, Doha)
November 25: England v USA (7pm, Al Bayt Stadium, Al Kohr)
November 29: Wales vs. England (7pm, Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan)
Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Newcastle United), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Conor Coady (Everton, loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers), Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle United), Kyle Walker (Manchester City), Ben White (Arsenal)
Midfielders: Jude Bellingham(Borussia Dortmund), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City), Declan Rice (West Ham United),
Forwards: Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), James Maddison (Leicester City), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Raheem Sterling (Chelsea), Callum Wilson (Newcastle United)
England’s first match is on Monday, September 21 kicking off at 13:00.
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