With their poor performances in recent competitions (failure to get out of the group stage at the 2014 World Cup and an embarrassing loss to Iceland in the last 16 of the 2016 Euros), England head into the 2018 World Cup in Russia with little expectation from the nation’s supporters. While the English Premier League is widely regarded as the best league in the world, English home-grown talent has suffered in recent years due to the financial ability to import quality players from overseas.
Although having won the tournament on home soil in 1966, and qualifying for the finals on all but three occasions, the most recent World Cup performance in 2014 was statistically their worst ever, achieving only 1 point in the group.
The national interest in football is immense across England, and the country always expects so much from their team. However, with the recent disappointing performances in major competitions, expectation is low, which may work in favour of the players. Although squad depth is questionable, England still have talented players, in particular excellent attacking capabilities in Kane, Alli and Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling, who has had an outstanding season thus far. If this attacking force can perform in Russia, then England stand a great chance of progressing deep into this competition.
- Harry Kane (Spurs) – Kane has firmly cemented himself as one of the world’s best strikers in the past year, performing exceptionally well for Spurs both domestically and in Europe. Having been the golden boot winner in the Premier League in both the 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons, he has scored over 100 goals for his club, a remarkable achievement since becoming a regular starter in the team only three seasons ago. With 12 goals in 23 games for England, Kane will be required to step up and perform as a leader this summer in Russia, if England are to have a chance of progressing far into this tournament.
- Dele Alli (Spurs) – A teammate of Kane’s, Alli has linked up spectacularly with the striker both this season and last, and is showing potential to be a world-class player in the coming years. Having developed well under the guidance of his club coach Pochettino, Alli is a regular for both Spurs and England. Lightning quick and nimble-footed, he is fantastic at catching teams on the counter attack, and has the ability to play decisive through-balls to create chances, in addition to getting into positions to score himself. He can be a key player for England at the World Cup, if he can manage to keep his discipline.
Gareth Southgate – Appointed in September 2016 after Sam Allardyce resigned in controversial circumstances, Southgate guided England to World Cup qualification in a solid manner, going unbeaten in 10 games, and only conceding 3 goals. Having proven he is not afraid to make bold decisions, this summer will be a true test of his management capabilities.