England kicked off their World Cup 2022 campaign with an emphatic win and they were heavily favored to defeat opposition Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha. The Three Lions come off the back of an impressive World Cup Qualifying campaign, having scored 39 goals and conceded a mere 3 in the process.
But England fans have little hope as they themselves are lacking in firepower, having not won any of their last 6 games before this tournament. Gareth Southgate will be eager to put that aside and he has named a strong 26-man squad for this year’s World Cup. He will look forward to continuing his impressive record of leading England into the semi-finals of every international competition they have taken part in.
England is undoubtedly the strongest in their group, and they will have enough quality to sweep past minnows Iran, first-timers Wales, and an out-of-form USA side. But the tournament is all about the final, the glory of lifting the trophy in front of the supporters, and with the squad that England has, they can certainly go one step further than they did in 2018, and after a long 56 years, finally, bring it home.
Today, we investigate their squad, analyze their recent form, and conclude why England might win the World Cup.
Recent matches Form
England Qualified for this World Cup with an incredible record in the group stages of the Qualifiers, having set the best goal difference of +36 (scored 39, conceded 3) out of all other groups. They were unbeaten in the qualifiers having won 8 and drawn 2 out of 10 total games. The 8 wins included a 10-0 beating of San Marino away from home, and 5-0 wins against Albania, Andorra, and San Marino at home.
England also finished runners-up in the UEFA Euro 2020, which was postponed to 2021 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. They didn’t concede a single goal up to the semi-final, and they made a statement after beating Germany in the first knockout round. They also showed impressive resilience to come back from behind and beat Denmark in the semis.
They started the final against Italy in style, as full-backs Luke Shaw and Kieran Trippier combined to give them the lead just 2 minutes into the match. After Italy’s equalizer in the 67th minute, the match went to extra time and eventually penalties, where teenager Bukayo Saka missed the decisive spot kick that led to the four-time world champions lifting the Euros. England resumed their World Cup Qualifying campaign after that.
But since friendly wins against Switzerland and Côte d’Ivoire, the Three Lions are winless in their last 6 games, all coming in the UEFA Nations League. A 4-0 thrashing against underdogs Hungary summed up their form in the tournament, as they finished bottom of their group and are set to be relegated to League B of the Nations League in the next tournament. However, in their most recent game, they pulled off an amazing comeback from two goals behind against top dogs Germany as they went on to draw the match 3-3.
They have not played any warm-up friendlies before this tournament, and Gareth Southgate will hope that his player can put their past miseries aside and fully focus on the task ahead.
Team news and lineups
Gareth Southgate’s 26-man squad for the 2022 World Cup
Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford (Everton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal), Nick Pope (Newcastle)
Defenders: Kieran Trippier (Newcastle), Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Kyle Walker (Man City), Benjamin White (Arsenal), Harry Maguire (Man Utd), John Stones (Man City), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Conor Coady (Everton, on loan from Wolves), Luke Shaw (Man Utd)
Midfielders: Declan Rice (West Ham), Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Kalvin Phillips (Man City), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Mason Mount (Chelsea)
Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Callum Wilson (Newcastle), Marcus Rashford (Man Utd), Raheem Sterling (Chelsea), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Phil Foden (Man City), Jack Grealish (Man City), James Maddison (Leicester City).
England’s only injury concern prior to the World Cup was Kyle Walker, and it still seems as if he has not fully recovered from it. The groin injury he sustained in the Manchester derby back in October is expected to keep him out for at least a few more days. The other big news coming out is that James Maddison hasn’t been found training, hinting that another injury woe might have struck England. Apart from that, all other members of the England squad are fit to start and available for selection.
Southgate likes to set his team up in a 5-2-3 formation, something that has led the side to success in the past, however, in their first match up in the World Cup, he went with a 4-3-3 formation.
Jordan Pickford has been Southgate’s go-to number 1 in international tournaments and he will start ahead of two in-form keepers in Aaron Ramsdale and Nick Pope.
Luke Shaw is the only natural left-back in the England squad and he is set to be England’s starting left wing-back. His club teammate Harry Maguire has been a mainstay in this England team since the former Middlesbrough manager took over, and he is expected to start in the left center-back role.
John Stones and Eric Dier both have an excellent partnership with the Manchester United captain, but for this tournament, Southgate might turn to the Manchester City star. For the right center-back role, Kyle Walker is the go-to. However, Ben White has proven to be class so far this season and he can easily deputize for the injured Walker.
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kieran Trippier are two hot contestants for the right wing-back role, but the former has never really managed to cement his place for the national side. Hence, Trippier, who has been a favorite for his manager is set to start in that role.
The midfield two of Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips did wonders for England in the Euros last year, but with the latter having played very few minutes this season, Dortmund star Jude Bellingham might get the nod to partner up with the West Ham captain. Mason Mount and Jordan Henderson are also equally capable of playing that role.
Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden are equally capable of covering both wings, especially Sterling who was the player of the tournament in the Euros. Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish are also valuable options for the left-wing role, while Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka will most likely start at right wing for the Three Lions.
And despite Callum Wilson’s stellar form for his club Newcastle, Harry Kane will preferably lead the line as captain of England.
Gareth Southgate has the right blend of quality, youth, and experience for the tournament, and the resilience and guile that his teams usually have. They cannot afford to succumb when it comes to the big stage and he will hope that his team goes one step further than they did in 2018 and lift the trophy in Lusail.
But the truth is, with the squad they have, England is a safe pick for World Cup glory. This could finally be the year when it comes home.