1966. The first and only time England won the world cup. One of the biggest moments in English football history, inspiring many generations to come. Beating Germany 4-2 with the crowds of Wembley roaring them on all those years ago. It asks the question: can it happen again and can it be next year?
England have suffered embarrassment in recent international tournaments. Beat by Iceland in the Euros and failing to get out of their group behind Costa Rica in the last World Cup. It’s not been a good few years for the team and the country.
However, to some, the tides seem to be turning. A new manager, players like Kane and Rashford having more experience than in the last trip to France, and a relatively easy group is enough to give a few hopeful fans belief that this will be our year, or at least have a better run than the last few times.
This optimism does seem, somewhat, grounded in reality. Harry Kane has been prolific and become more seasoned since the Euros. Pep Guardiola has turned Raheem Sterling into a world beater. Also, many young talents have come through the ranks with the obvious being Marcus Rashford, but also the likes of Harry Winks, Joe Gomez and the seemingly endless amounts of players Chelsea have out on loan, or to be more specific Ruben Loftus Cheek and Tammy Abraham. England’s squad is looking very solid.
As to the opposition England will be facing, we have been drawn into a group with Belgium, Tunisia, and Panama. Clearly, the biggest threat in the group is Belgium. Belgium have a very scary looking team, including some of the best in the premier league like Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Toby Alderweireld. Players many of the England squad share a dressing room with every week. Although Belguim do have a fantastic team on paper, they have yet to perform at the level expected of them at a tournament after getting knocked out of the Euros after a 3-1 loss to Wales. Also, Belgium will be the last team that we play in the group so England can be qualified before we even play them.
If England were to qualify in this fashion, we would still need to beat Tunisia and Panama. Tunisia are lacking any star players and play a very defensive system which will be hard to break down, but Tunisia have been recognised as the “worst African team in the competition” which is good news for England.
Panama have never been to a world cup before. They qualified due to the USA’s internationally humiliating loss to Trinidad and Tobago which left them out of the group stages and let Panama in. Their squad will be unknown to most Europeans as they all play in the Americas. All signs point towards a victory to England but as history has shown that is the opposite of definitive.
Even if England do get past the group stage, there are very difficult teams that we could come up against. Germany, France, Brazil just to name a few, and in recent years England’s form in tournaments has been nothing short of terrible.
Overall, as ever, it seems very possible that England could win but incredibly unlikely.