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Why England can win the World Cup at Russia 2018

After years of high hopes, a lack of optimism can work in their favour

Image Credit: Reuters
Gareth Southgate
Gulf News

Dubai: Manager Gareth Southgate has a rare problem as England prepare for the World Cup finals in Russia this summer. He does not have a clue who will be playing.

Beckham, Lampard, Owen, Robson, Shilton ...

In years gone by, England bosses had the luxury of world-class players all over the pitch and most knew what their ideal starting XI would be as the Three Lions and their fans rode into the finals on a wave of optimism.

And every time they would head home with their dreams shattered and a new host of players to point the finger at.

Now Southgate must stare at his squad and throw darts to decide who is starting.

England face the Netherlands and Italy over the coming week with Southgate hoping some players will step up to cement a place in his side to face Tunisia in their World Cup opener in June.

Lets take a quick look at the uncertainties.

The goalkeeper is one of the biggest headaches. ‘First choice’ Joe Hart has been dreadful since he was shipped out to Torino in 2016 by Manchester City. He cannot be a credible option.

So that leaves Burnley’s second-choice keeper Nick Pope (who?), Jordan Pickford (leaking goals) and struggling Stoke City’s Jack Butland.

England’s central defence could feature a right-back in Liverpool’s Joe Gomez, plus Leicester’s Harry Maguire. They have five caps between them.

The rest of the defence includes relatively unknown and untried names such as James Tarkowski, Nick Pope, Alfie Mawson and Lewis Cook.

The midfield could see established names such as Dele Alli, Jordan Henderson and Eric Dier, but with Adam Lallana and Jack Wilshere included in the current squad it shows Southgate is still hunting for that creative spark, despite neither player getting substantial playing time for their respective clubs.

Then there is the dilemma up front.

England have a strong strike force, but if Southgate plays the ‘wrong’ man, the axes will be getting sharpened.

Spurs’ Harry Kane is crocked and Southgate may run the risk of rushing him back for the Tunisia match without match practice. He must be hoping Jamie Vardy will put his hand up and bang in the goals against the Dutch and Italians. There are also the options of Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford, who are both in good form for the blue and red sides of Manchester.

Such uncertainty and lack of optimism can work in their favour.

As I said delusions of grandeur in the past have often been England’s undoing as they ended up packing their bags early and heading home from many a World Cup.

But with so many players fighting for positions, opposition facing unknown entities in the white shirts of England, and many fresh faces ready to stand up for their country, everything might just click for once and we can all look forward to decades of ‘just like 1966’ commentary.

I can’t wait ...

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