With the start of the most viewed and anticipated global sporting event, the FIFA World Cup, many football pundits, fans as well as ardent followers of the game are giving the odds to the usual big honchos such as Germany, France , Brazil , Spain and Argentina with Belgium being the dark horse in this race. As a matter fact the odds for each of these nations winning the cup is in single digits while England is averaging 16/1. In layman terms they aren’t very high as per the opinion of the “pollsters”. But hey we have seen polls and odds proven wrong in the recent past with the Brexit result and some elections haven’t we? It’s important we remember the race hasn’t started, the fat lady is yet to sing and most of all; England’s Lions have a great fighting chance as any of those aforementioned teams.
It is important to understand that these teams are being rated heavily due to the skill and experience of the players listed on paper. Most of these teams have gone in with squads that have been around and played together for at least 2 to 3 years. England however are going in with the youngest (average age per player) and most inexperienced squad out of all the 32 teams in this cup. The average age of the three lions is 26 while the average amount of caps (matches played) is a startling 20 per player. It is based on that most England fans are panicking and saying “Hey when we had the Golden generation of Lampard, Terry, Rooney, Gerard, Rio we weren’t able to make it far. These young lads gonna be run over “. That sore point has some validity where in the past two World-cups England packed a power house of some of the greatest players ever but made little impact, even failing to pass the group stage in 2014.
However this is where memories of the past must stop. Those highly rated teams look good on paper but the game is played on the pitch. Based on the skill level England has one of the most talented and brilliant squads. In their Captain Harry Kane the English outfit has a player who is without a doubt the best striker in World Football. Harry Kane, who has been described as England’s version of “Christiano Ronaldo”, became the top goal scorer in Europe for club and country for the calendar year of 2017 – surpassing Argentina forward Messi, Robert Lewandowski, Christiano Ronaldo himself, and Edinson Cavani. If he can be the top gun in Europe he sure can be the top gun in the World cup.
If Harry Kane is the General, he has some excellent deputies with him such his Tottenham team mate Delle Alli. The Tottenham midfielder grew up playing football on the streets of Milton Keynes which is evident in the backheels, flicks, nutmegs and dribbles, which occasionally change a game. In 2016 Alex Ferguson, the former Manchester United manager, described Alli as “probably the best young midfielder I have seen [since] Gascoigne”. Since then, the 22-year-old has twice been voted the Premier League’s best young player by his peers
According to the Financial Times there are two reasons to bet on Alli succeeding at the World Cup. One is that he is a fearless, big-game player. This season his best performances have come against Real Madrid, Liverpool and Chelsea. He scored twice against Chelsea, a game that decided which club qualified for the Champions League. One was his signature move — a diagonal run into the penalty area, like a sports car in the outside lane, out-thinking and out-running the defence. His goals can come out of nothing: he can be irrelevant and irresistible in the same game. His other advantage is that in the national team he will be playing alongside his current and former club colleagues — Harry Kane, Eric Dier, Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker.
Another bright shining star for the 1966 cup winners would be Raheem Sterling. Few players are faster than Raheem. The 23-year-old who plays for Manchester City now has to produce his Premier League title-winning form in an England shirt. Sterling netted 18 goals in the Prem last season, which is a massive reflection of the amount of significant skill he has. With his speed, agility and wit, there is no doubt he will score a few for England in Russia.
If Delle and Raheem are going to be supporting Harry Kane upfront, there needs to be some attacking ability in the midfield. The answer to this comes in the form of Eric Dier, Jesse Lingard and Jordan Henderson. Eric Dier has shown the ability to protect the defence by playing deep at times with but has also shown the ability to get on the ball quickly and move up the pitch. In Henderson the lions have a veteran campaigner who has done well for Liverpool and can definitely create magic in the midfield.
The English defence is as talented as the team’s attacking prowess. In Kyle Walker they have a defender who can run back and throw off strikers in an effort to protect the England backline while also being able to run up the wing and whip it in for England’s stylish attackers. With Cahill, Trippier and Harry Maguire this armada can protect the England goal effectively once they keep their momentum together.
In Goal England has a choice between Butland, Pope and Pickford. In the honest form of the game these guys aren’t on the same level of Manuel Nuer or Spain’s De Gea but what they lack in experience they have in skill. All three are agile, nimble and have done exceedingly well for their clubs in what can only be described as the most competitive league.
If England can do it, there are two very young men who can assist; Marcus Rashford and Trent Alexander Arnold. Last Saturday Marcus Rashford scored one of the most amazing goals against Costa Rica with a 25 yard strike. If he repeats that skill in Russia there is no doubt the world cup would be returning to London. Alexander Arnold may be young but in the right back position the young man, once he gets on the field would definitely cramp the opposing strikers.
It’s been a while since England won a knockout match at the World cup, actually last time was in 2006. However this time it’s going to be different. The vibe of the team tells you that they can go all the way. If you don’t take my word for it, trust what Captain Harry Kane said in a press conference; “The main thing is to believe it can be different. It’s been tough for the last 50 years because we haven’t won anything. For us [the key thing] is to stay focused on ourselves, not to worry about the teams in the past. We are our own team, we have our own identity and we just have to look forward and enjoy it. We cannot wait to get out there and get started.”
This is England’s year!