As England prepare for the start of the 2022 World Cup, there is plenty to get excited about ahead of football’s biggest international competition. While the Three Lions have been frustratingly inconsistent throughout their recent friendlies and Nations League campaign, Gareth Southgate tends to deliver in the big moments. After reaching the semi-finals of Russia 2018 and then the final of last summer’s rescheduled Euros, is it now time to go a step further in Qatar? Is football really coming home?
Looking at England’s group in the World Cup, there’s every chance they can finish top. A win against Iran in their opening game could provide them with the momentum required to put together a run, and coming in as massive favourites in the England vs USA betting odds for their second game, their opponents from across the pond stand little chance. If Southgate’s side remain unbeaten in their first two it will put less pressure on their final game against Wales, who will be out for revenge after narrowly losing 2-1 in the group stages of Euro 2016, albeit a result that served the Dragons better in the long run.
This is all theoretical though, and England will have to deliver on the pitch. Let’s take a look at Southgate’s crucial players and what they must do to ensure England reach the knockout rounds.
When England need a source of inspiration, they often look to captain Harry Kane to deliver the goods. The Tottenham Hotspur man has been in fine form this season, and will be hoping to carry that over to Qatar having already hit double figures in the Premier League, as well as scoring some important goals in Europe.
While he occupies space as more of a playmaker in north London, for England he is certainly back to his role as a traditional striker, and will want a second World Cup Golden Boot to add to the one he got in Russia after finishing as top scorer. Cool and calculated from the penalty spot, Kane will want some more goals from open play to add to his tally, but will be satisfied either way if he makes the difference in helping England get through the group.
It might seem strange adding James Maddison to this list considering he was in contention to miss the squad altogether, but the Leicester City man adds a sense of the unknown to an all-too-familiar England squad that is refreshing to see. Maddison is an elegant dribbler and adds that creativity and end-product to a side that the likes of Jadon Sancho simply couldn’t throughout qualifying. Despite Leicester’s poor form at the start of the season, manager Brendan Rodgers heaped on the praise for his star man, who has more than warranted his place on the plane.
“I’ve always sensed with James that desire to improve and be the best that he can be,” he said. “When I spoke to him this morning – just anticipating either way [that he was in the squad] because at that stage we didn’t know – my case was really reinforcing about the next World Cup.
“However it goes, whether you get the decision or not, it’s really about progressing and developing and he’s got that mentality to do that. It’s great news for him and great for his country.”
With more experienced players like Jordan Henderson and Kalvin Phillips struggling for fitness and consistency this season, emphasis will be on Declan Rice to step up and be a senior figure in the England squad despite just being 23 years old. The West Ham United man is a powerhouse that can play in front of the defence as well as a more advanced role as a number eight, and his performances in an England shirt, especially in the Euro 2020 final, are testament to his abilities. Expect him to be one of the first names on the team sheet in Qatar.