World Cup fever is nearly upon us. While the official songs or flags out of car windows are still a little while away, we’ve taken another step closer to Russia today, with England’s squad being announced.
Gareth Southgate certainly hasn’t been afraid to make the big decisions – Joe Hart, Chris Smalling, and Jack Wilshere have all been overlooked, with the youth of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Trent Alexander-Arnold favoured.
Our football expert has taken a look at the England squad, and some of the best bets for the World Cup.
Big calls from Southgate
Calling up Ashley Young for his first World Cup at the age of 32 hasn’t gone unnoticed, and rather than experience at international level, Southgate has gone down the in-form route and his versatility is likely to have been a big factor in his selection.
This is also the least experienced squad England have sent to a World Cup since 1962 with youth, bar one or two exceptions in Young and Cahill, given the chance to see what they are made of on the international stage.
Following the squad announcement, it seems that Kyle Walker will be part of a back three as he has played in warm-up games and I fancy formation wise it will be 3-4-3
Decisions are to be made at full back though, but there’s plenty of pace there with Kieran Trippier, Young, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Danny Rose to choose from, though I would fancy the latter two to get the nod.
The two in central midfield look nailed on to be Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson, while Dele Alli and Rahem Sterling could supply the pace to link up with Harry Kane up top.
Kane the main man
It goes without saying – but if England are to do well at the World Cup, it’ll be Harry Kane’s goals that fire them there.
The Tottenham man finished with 41 goals in all competitions this season, and is undoubtedly the Three Lions’ main man up front.
Looking at the options behind him, he should have plenty of ammunition too – Dele Alli and Raheem Sterling are in fine form, and he could well fill his boots in relatively easy opening fixtures against Tunisia and Panama.
Kane is certainly England’s best bet for the Golden Boot at 16/1 – and if the Three Lions go far, will certainly hope to become their first top scorer since Gary Lineker in 1986.
Case for the defence
If England can do one thing – it’s keep goals out.
They have only conceded once in their last six games, in a run that has taken in Brazil, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.
Hart is out, so it’s between Jordan Pickford and Jack Butland as the number one keeper. Neither have the big international experience that many people would want in their side ahead of the competition
The Everton man is likely to get the nod between the sticks, though and with two supposedly straightforward matches up first, Grosvenorsport.com’s 8/1 for England to not conceded during the group stages could be a great bet.
Can they win it?
In a word, no.
There are better teams in the tournament than England – Brazil, Spain and Germany chief amongst them, and Southgate’s men are likely to come unstuck as soon as they play a team with genuine quality.
Still, there is certainly more optimism around this young and exciting team than there has been for a while – and with an easier group than last time, the Three Lions should certainly make it to the knockout stage.
I don’t think England will win, but I can certainly see them making a quarter-final, before a likely valiant defeat.
The 5/2 for the Three Lions to exit in the quarters looks a good price.