Sport and politics have long been intertwined and the decision for Russia to host this year’s World Cup has thrown up many a debate. From racism concerns to the fallout from the nerve agent attack on a Russian spy, there has been so much more than football discussed in the build up to the big event.
The first match takes place on 14 June 2018 and the final squads that will be boarding the planes to Russia must be announced by June 4 (provisional squads submitted by May 14).
The England team will again be carrying the hopes of the nation on their shoulders and since that famous win in 1966, England’s efforts in the World Cup could be described as woeful at best. You have to go as far back as 1990 for the last time they were able to lure the fans into the belief that they could go on to win before dashing their dreams with the inevitable penalty shoot-out loss to Germany. Wonder if Waddle’s penalty has come back down to Earth yet?
Rather than focusing on the let downs of yesteryear, let’s try the positive approach and look at the powers of the players likely to make the squad:
A lot of great football managers will tell you that a consistent run of games is key to a goalkeeper performing well. Gareth Southgate clearly disagrees and seems to like picking a different one each game. We’re not sure Southgate knows who he is taking; it could be Geoff, the shelf stacker from his local supermarket at this rate.
Unfortunately, England does not have the luxury of a goalkeeper that is playing for a particularly successful team. Joe Hart’s fall from grace has been surprising (we’re not even talking about the Head and Shoulders advert), with him now struggling to get into the West Ham team. Everton’s Jordan Pickford hasn’t really helped Everton’s plight this year. However, Jack Butland has certainly had practice for making saves at struggling Stoke City, as he currently tops the chart for most saves in the Premier League.
Kyle Walker has been in great form for the formidable Man City team this year so he looks a cert and his team-mate at City, John Stones, is probably going to be joining him. Ryan Bertrand and Chris Smalling have been consistent over the years and deserve a spot in the squad.
With Gary Cahill, Danny Rose and Phil Jones all being forced out of their club starting elevens, they will be there based on experience rather than form if they go. Kieran Trippier and Michael Keane seem to be favourites of Southgate so they are likely to be on the plane. Ashley Young looks like he may have fought his way into the reckoning after a while out in the wilderness.
Possible others include Nathaniel Clyne and Joe Gomez if they can prove their fitness in time after injuries, and also the lesser experienced Harry Maguire, Alfie Mawson, and James Tarkowski.
Dele Alli is one of the more talented attacking players available so he should get the nod. Jordan Henderson has been taking on captain duties for England so it would be a shock if he doesn’t make the final cut. If Jesse Lingard stops ‘dabbing’ for long enough he might be able to do great things in an England shirt. Eric Dier should expect to be there as he has played in most of the games leading up to the World Cup.
Raheem Sterling has really found his feet at Man City this year and will hopefully continue his form into June and July. Liverpool’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is another player enjoying a good run of form, although teammate Adam Lallana might be ruled out through injury. Jack Wilshere is another that might have done enough to convince Southgate to take him, although he is likely to get injured whilst boarding the plane.
I don’t think we need to add anything to justify Harry Kane’s inclusion. He is the one that the fans will be pinning their hopes on. The guy can’t stop scoring for his club team and he might just do this same for England this year. Jamie Vardy is likely to be getting on the plane based on his goalscoring exploits and the fact he has been involved in the squads for the last few years (also for his reputation for throwing a good party should they win).
Marcus Rashford will be the young but ridiculously experienced striker that could undo the opposition with his pace. Remember when Eriksson thought he could do that with a 16 year-old Theo Walcott? Well, this striker choice would be nothing like that, Marcus has proven he can do it at the top level already and doesn’t need permission for time off school.
There are a few other striker possibilities such as Daniel Sturridge if he can stake a claim in the last remaining Premier League games, as could Danny Welbeck; but former child prodigy Theo Walcott will probably be on a beach somewhere much warmer than Russia this summer.