England World Cup squad guide: Full fixtures, group, ones to watch, odds and more

We preview Gareth Southgate's England ahead of kick-off in Russia next month

Samuel Lovett
Monday 11 June 2018 15:43 BST
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England World Cup squad stats

It hardly feels like four years have elapsed since England headed to Brazil, at a time when expectations were slim and hope for success was virtually non-existent. Back then, as has been the case this time round, the Three Lions qualified for the tournament with relative ease. But is this where the similarities end?

Admittedly, hopes for this year’s World Cup are low once again. Gareth Southgate has assembled a squad brimming with youth and potential but, against the likes of Germany, Spain or Brazil, England lack the hardened know-how and world-class talent to compete for glory.

Still, unlike four years ago, Southgate appears to have propagated a genuine sense of togetherness within this England squad. As someone who has been there, done that, Southgate is a manager who can relate to his players, a manager that demands respect but, at the same time, ‘gets’ the crippling pressure that comes with representing England at a World Cup.

Having impressed with his words and tactics so far, Southgate could be the difference this time round. Only time will tell if his bright plans for this bright, young assembly of players comes to fruition – but there’s every reason to hope that Russia 2018 can mark a welcome break from the past.

Who do England play?

Tunisia vs England – 19:00, Monday 18 June
England vs Panama – 13:00, Sunday 24 June
England vs Belgium – 19:00, Thursday 28 June

Key players

Raheem Sterling: Under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola, the youngster has evolved into one of England’s most exciting attacking forces. Genuine flair is something that seems hard to come by for the Three Lions, but Sterling has it in abundance. His ability to cut through opponents with his combination of speed and trickery will serve England, and if he can improve his finishing abilities, Southgate’s men have every hope of delivering a respectable campaign this summer.

Harry Kane: England’s most important offensive component, the weight of expectation rests heavy on Kane’s shoulders. After firing blanks in France 2016, the forward went on to flourish on the domestic stage – hitting 38 and 45 goals respectively across the following two seasons. His talents are undeniable but, if he’s to prove himself as England’s saviour, he must deliver this summer. Concerns over his ankle will likely play a role in his performances.

Harry Kane carries the weight of expectation on his shoulders (Getty Images)

John Stones: So much has been made of Stones in recent years that it’s hard to draw any definitive conclusions over the player. Confident and ambitious on the ball, but inclined to the occasional lapse in concentration, the 23-year-old offers something different to the traditional English defender. Indeed, out of all England’s centre-backs, Stones is the most attuned to Southgate’s new system – but his lack of recent game-time at City will be of concern. How this has affected his self-belief and composure will be certainly put to the test in Russia. If he struggles to find his groove, this could have repercussions for the rest of the side.

One to watch

Ruben Loftus-Cheek: Physical, creative and refreshingly self-assured, Loftus-Cheek brings an extra dimension to England’s midfield. In many ways it is the 21-year-old who is the biggest joker in Southgate’s pack thanks to his box-to-box, all-round skill set which would allow the England manager to play in the system he clearly wants. Loftus-Cheek showcased his potential in last year’s friendly against Germany, in which he was named man-of-the-match, so let’s hope he can go one step further next month.

How did they get here?

The match that secured England’s to the World Cup – a 1-0 victory over Slovenia last October – has already been consigned to the long list of forgettable matches played out at Wembley by the national team. It was a game that summed up the side’s qualifying campaign as a whole: lifeless, uninspired and downright depressing.

Loftus-Cheek showcased his potential against Germany last year (Getty)

As with previous tournaments, England came through in relative comfort and never looked at risk of missing out. They won eight of their qualifiers and drew just two. But it was the nature of the side’s performances which raised concerns. Amid the hype and scrutiny surrounding Southgate’s recent squad announcement, it’s been easy to forget how much England laboured over what should have been straightforward qualification. Let’s hope the side have moved past this.

How will they do?

Gareth Southgate has repeatedly denied that he’s ‘planning for the future’ but, in truth, it’s hard to shake the idea that the foundations are being laid for 2022. England find themselves at a liminal stage, transitioning between the final vestiges of the old guard and the early promise of the youthful future.

Still, players such as Loftus-Cheek and Trent Alexander-Arnold have not been included simply for the sake of showing them the ropes – these youngsters have repeatedly impressed this season and deserve their place on merit. Southgate certainly means business, and with plenty of hardened heads among the squad – Cahill, Young, Henderson, etc – this interesting fusion of youth and experience makes for a curious prospect.

There’s hope England can make amends for the horror show that was Rio 2014 but, with Southgate’s vision still taking form, there’s only so much his side will be able to achieve in Russia. A place in the last eight seems to be the limit. Let’s hope, though, they prove the doubters wrong.

England to win the World Cup: 16/1

Full squad

Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Jack Butland, Nick Pope.

Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose, Harry Maguire, Phil Jones, John Stones, Gary Cahill.

Midfielders: Jordan Henderson, Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard, Ashley Young, Fabian Delph, Ruben Loftus-Cheek,

Forwards: Raheem Sterling, Jamie Vardy, Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Danny Welbeck.

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