Are England ready to compete in the World Cup?
By Joe Harker
England are going to win the World Cup! Nah, probably not. There appears to be a regular pattern of doing well in the qualification rounds and collapsing at international tournaments. England have won one game in the last two international tournaments, with that being a 2-1 victory over Wales that required an injury time goal to secure the win. If the Three Lions are to be ready for Russia they must find some way of replicating their qualification performances on the biggest stage.
Former England striker Alan Shearer has been brought in to help the team. Shearer, who scored 30 goals for the national team, is expected to use his expertise to help Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford up their game in preparation for the World Cup. There is a particular bond between Shearer and Kane, who is expected to be England's main striker for the tournament. It is no bad thing that England manager Gareth Southgate is calling upon experienced internationals to help the mentality of the squad, which could mean they avoid exiting in the manner of headless chickens as they did against Iceland at Euro 2016.
Gareth Southgate has already selected the hotel where England will be based during the World Cup, with the ForRestMix club near St Petersburg chosen. The Three Lions HQ is in an out of the way location that contrasts with the more flashy and opulent accommodations of previous tournaments and that may provide an advantage. England are at least ready in one respect.
The Telegraph have evaluated the progression the Three Lions have made in the year that Southgate has been in charge and the verdict is not wholly positive. There are still problems with the fluidity of the play and the attempts to play a possession based game, which suggests that England have not worked out how they should be playing. Part of the problem is that England tend to be one of the top ranked teams in qualifiers as they are seeded high and drawn with weaker teams, meaning they spend a year playing against less capable opposition before being caught out against better teams at tournaments. England are not good enough to dominate against the best teams in the world, but cannot play like they are facing superior opposition in the qualifiers.
It would appear to be unlikely that England will challenge for the World Cup in 2018, instead they are likely to leave in one of the knockout rounds. The Three Lions might win another World Cup one day, but this time they may just be lacking the quality and style to pose a threat to the biggest and best in the world.