As 3rd favourites at 6/1 to win the tournament, behind only Brazil and France and following the summer at Euro 2020, expectations are high for the Three Lions. This is arguably the first World Cup in a considerable time that carries true expectation for England rather than just false hope and media fanfare.
After the slightly unexpected run at WC 2018 and then the heartbreak of Euro 2020, can England take that final step and bring home the silverware? The conditions will be tough and for me will be the toughest opposition that England face, more so than any other of the squads that are there.
England will be more experienced at World Cup 2022
The main difference will be that this England team will have another season of experience behind them and most crucially, a real experience of tournament football. Yes, many of the players such as Kane, Maguire, Sterling etc all had that experience, but such a significant and key group of the squad had no tournament history, such as Kalvin Phillips, Declan Rice, Jack Grealish and Mason Mount just to name a few.
Using those players as example, Rice will go to the next tournament having now also played European football. Jack Grealish is learning more under the best manager in the world and is playing Champions League football. The difference to next winter, in comparison to Euro 2020 should be tenfold and that should give England fans plenty of confidence that we can at least go to the latter stages.
More talent is sure to blossom in that time as well, the change in our squad in the past few years has been incredible with some of the stars of Euro 2020 still being in the early days of their international careers. The emergence of key players like Rice & Phillips completely changed our side, then you’ve got younger players like Bukayo Saka who will only improve. There will also be opportunities for other uncapped youngsters who could grow into important players, Emile Smith-Rowe could be an example of that. You’ve also got players who have moved to new challenges such as Jadon Sancho or the recently recalled Tammy Abraham following his fine form at Roma. The signs are positive.
What would be deemed a success for England at World Cup 2022?
The questions will come should England not be successful at this tournament, but what would be a success? Is anything other than a trophy not good enough? Because I’ve seen numerous people saying that Southgate must win a trophy, or he’ll have to go. Dependent on the draw, would the semi’s or a final not be enough? I guess it remains to be seen who we play. That’s the most common criticism about WC 2018, that we failed our only ‘test’ against a team who we still should be beating.
As I’ve mentioned numerous times too, we’re at the mercy of the conditions slightly too. I’ve no idea how this will affect the players, footballers now are fitter, healthier and better engineered than ever before. They’ll have top scientists, coaches and dieticians doing everything to prepare the players for Qatar. Whether that’ll be enough, we won’t know until we’re there but all we can do is hope it doesn’t impact the lads too much and the focus can be on the quality of football.
Success is largely based on feeling. If we only made it to the quarter finals but made it out of a group of death and then beat someone like Germany in the knockouts before going out to a Brazil or France, that would be seen similarly to a semi-final or final loss where we had favourable draws.
Who are England’s main competitors at World Cup 2022?
The two main ones are of course France and Brazil, but there’s also Belgium, Argentina, Spain and of course Italy all have rights to consider themselves serious competitors for the trophy. There’s always a surprise package too and people will have their dark horse fancies.
I think only France can compete with us when it comes to the depth of the squad and the quality we have across the pitch. Of course, other sides have players who would stroll in to our starting 11, but tournaments are won by squads, not starting 11’s. We’ve got so much quality, particularly in attack.
Kane, DCL, Ings, Watkins, Bamford, Abraham are all top strikers but likely only 3 of those will go. In attacking midfield you’ve got Sterling, Grealish, Mount, Saka, Sancho, Rashford, Foden, Barnes, Lingard, Maddison, even players like Demarai Gray & Emile Smith-Rowe. We really do have a wealth of talent to pick from. I’ve probably missed a couple out there as well. So many of those players are interchangeable in terms of their ability and each of them can offer us something different in terms of shape and tactics.
We saw that in the summer, someone like Grealish helped us pick apart defences, but we used Saka to help nullify stronger teams as he’s far more capable defensively than someone like Phil Foden. With these options we become unpredictable, both prior to and during games and that’s a great way to be.
Do I think we can win it? Of course, I’m English. So much is up in the air and the tournament is still some time away, things could change a lot between now and then but my hopes are high.