With just a week to go before the FIFA World Cup 2022 begins in Qatar, England announced their 26-man squad for the tournament last Thursday. There were no major surprises in the squad, with almost all big names of the Premier League from England set to participate in the tournament. The Three Lions will be itching to take the trophy back home for the first time since 1966 after narrowly falling short in the semifinals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Let’s take a look at England’s squad for the World Cup, their tactical approach to the game, and their chances of taking home the title:
Despite boasting one of the finest domestic leagues in Europe, England have never really lived up to their potential as a giant in international football. Of the 15 FIFA World Cup finals that they have participated in, they only managed to win just once in 1966. Before the arrival of Gareth Southgate, that campaign also remained the only time that the Three Lions advanced past the quarterfinal stage.
After their shock exit from the Euros in 2016, Gareth Southgate – the face of England’s penalty shootout loss in Euro 1996 – took over the team’s reins. Few predicted his appointment, and even fewer expected that England would go anywhere under his helm. But the former English defender stuck to his unpopular and sometimes controversial tactics, slowly but steadily transforming both the image of the Three Lions and their performance on the field.
Since his appointment in 2016, the Three Lions have reached the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup semifinals and advanced to the final of the Euro 2020 tournament – two big accomplishments in the team’s history. But that also meant heartbreak for the fans twice in the space of just a few years, with the Three Lions unable to get any trophy back home.
England remained unbeaten in the qualification round for the 2022 World Cup, finishing at the top of Group 1 miles ahead of any competitor. But a winless streak in the UEFA Nations League has dampened the team’s spirit, and England have to quickly get back to their winning ways in the group stage of the World Cup.
Squad and Predicted Tactics
The 26-man squad announced for the World Cup announced on Thursday included all the big names, with Gareth Southgate opting to select key players regardless of their fitness and form. Apart from Jude Bellingham, who plays for Borussia Dortmund, all the players are from the English Premier League clubs.
Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale, Nick Pope.
Jordan Pickford will remain the first-choice goalkeeper for the Three Lions in the tournament, but Aaron Ramsdale’s outstanding performance for Arsenal in the ongoing Premier League makes him a strong contender for the position.
Defenders: Kieran Trippier, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker, Ben White, John Stones, Eric Dier, Conor Coady, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw.
For much of his tenure with the Three Lions, Gareth Southgate has opted to use a 3-4-1-2 or 3-4-3 formation, with Kyle Walker, Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire forming the core of the defensive unit. But with Harry Maguire’s form being a concern and a shift to a 4-3-3 formation in recent fixtures means that John Stones and Eric Dier could start for the team more regularly. Trent Alexander-Arnold has received a fair share of criticism for his performance this season, and it remains to be seen if he takes the field during the tournament.
Midfielders: Jude Bellingham, Conor Gallagher, Jordan Henderson, Mason Mount, Kalvin Phillips, Declan Rice.
Gareth Southgate has often relied on the experienced Jordan Henderson to marshall his troops in the middle, and the Liverpool star is likely to start for the team every game. The Three Lions have young and talented midfielders to fill up the other slots, and Gareth Southgate is likely to rotate players depending on the formation he opts to use.
Declan Rice will be the key player for Gareth Southgate when England adopt a conservative approach, while Jude Bellingham or Mason Mount can come in when they need to attack. Kalvin Phillips, the former Leeds United star, is doubtful to start as he has not seen much game time this season due to an injury.
Attackers: Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Harry Kane, James Maddison, Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, Raheem Sterling, Callum Wilson.
Harry Kane, England’s captain and their most prolific goalscorer, is set to be a starter in every game. If Gareth Southgate decides to go back to his tried and tested 4-2-3-1 formation, Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden and Mason Mount are likely to act as the attacking trio supporting the Tottenham Hotspur star. There are still concerns around the form of Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish, but both players have experienced a resurgence in recent weeks.
Gareth Southgate has received criticism in recent weeks for his conservative approach to the game, but the form of the players has also been a factor in their uninspiring performance in the UEFA Nations League. Penalty shootouts have been the bane of England for decades, and the Three Lions would be eager to finish games well within the allotted time. A shift back to the tried and tested 4-2-3-1 formation looks very likely.
England will kick off their campaign on Monday against Iran before facing the United States on Friday. The Three Lions will face Wales in their last match of the group stage, with the fixture having high stakes after being dubbed ‘the Battle of Britain’ by fans. With the United States team their only real competition in the group, England are expected to finish the group at top of the table.
England’s record against the United States team in the World Cups has been dismal – losing on both occasions. The Three Lions have to reserve their best for their second fixture. More challenges will be on their way – with potential knockout games against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, Lionel Messi’s Argentina and defending champions France on the horizon.
While England boast of a strong team, their inability to score goals when it matters is holding them back from becoming champions, either of Europe or the world. Their recent shift to conservative tactics will hurt the team in knockout rounds if continued. But a talented squad combined with a charismatic manager backed by fans is a deadly combination, and England are currently the bookmakers’ favourites to win the tournament outright. England will be hoping their long wait for the elusive World Cup trophy ends this December.
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