They’ve never been this low. It’s hard to remember a time when England went into a major tournament with so few expectations. Average, weak and ordinary, all three words have been associated with the squad Roy Hodgson has opted to take to Poland and Ukraine.
Many talented players were unavailable for selection; Injury has robbed the former West Brom coach of Jack Wilshere, Frank Lampard and Kyle Walker, whilst Michael Carrick and Micah Richards stuck with their earlier declarations that they wouldn’t travel to Euro 2012 just to sit on the bench. But the current group is, without doubt, the weakest since the 1980?s. Liverpool, who endured their worst league campaign in 58 years, are the biggest representatives of the travelling pack with five members. It’s an indication of the struggles that many predict lie ahead for a nation that has failed to lift a trophy since 1966.
In contrast, France are in their best form in years. Unbeaten in 21 league international fixtures now, following their 2-0 friendly win against Serbia and then a 4-0 victory versus Estonia last night, coach Laurent Blanc has overseen an improvement in mentality and attitude – qualities that were lacking under the turbulent reign of Raymond Domenech. Although ten players who took part in Les Bleus‘s disastrous world cup fiasco in South Africa have made the squad for the European Championships, Blanc knows he has the respect and honesty of them all – even Patrice Evra who was perhaps the worst culprit two years ago. Blanc has played down his side’s chances of winning a first title since 2000, but outside of France, there is a growing feeling that this rejuvenated squad – the fifth youngest of the tournament – are very dangerous dark horses.
After failing to qualify for a European Championship for 24 years, Sweden reached the semi-finals of Euro 1992 where they lost narrowly to Germany. The Scandinavians have made it through to four of the five Euros’ since, where they always prove to be tough opposition. A squad loaded full of experience – the third oldest side at Euro 2012 – Erik Hamrén’s side’s 3-2 win against Holland in qualification proves how dangerous they can be. Despite missing out on the world cup, Hamrén has rebuilt his reputation through guiding his country to Poland and Ukraine – the former Rosenborg coach replaced Lars Largerback, who ended his 11-year affiliation with the national side in 2009. Only one defeat against England in 44 years – last November’s 1-0 friendly loss at Wembley – Sweden will fancy their chances of pipping the ‘Three Lions’ to the group’s runners-up spot.
Similarly to Sweden, Ukraine head into this summer’s tournament with a wealth of experience throughout their squad. They have the oldest player of any roster at Euro 2012 – reserve goalkeeper Oleksandr Horyainov – and as co-hosts, Oleg Blokhin’s men will believe they can cause an upset in Group D. Blokhin, managing his country for the second time following a spell between 2003 and 2007, has overseen five wins in six games – the only ‘blip’ being a 3-3 draw with Germany. Familiar faces in the squad include captain Andriy Shevchenko – 46 goals in 105 caps – and Bayern Munich’s versatile Anatoliy Tymoshchuk – the most capped player in Ukrainian history.
Coach: Roy Hodgson (since 2012)Captain: Steven Gerrard (91 caps)
FIFA Ranking: 6th
Euro 2008: Failed to qualify
Strengths: According to some, Europe’s best goalkeeper and left-back in Joe Hart and Ashley Cole. A centre-back partnership – John Terry and Gary Cahill – which flourished for Chelsea in the second half of the campaign. Great pace on the counter attack in the shape of Theo Walcott and Ashley Young as well as the promise of Arsenal wonderkid Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Weaknesses: Best player Wayne Rooney is unavailable for the first two fixtures due to suspension, whilst prodigious midfielder Jack Wilshere is ruled out of the tournament through injury. Right-back Glen Johnson is prone to lapses in concentration, whilst the team’s inability to retain possession could be fatal against the better nations.
Possible line-up: Hart; Johnson Cahill Terry Cole; Parker Gerrard; Walcott Young Downing; Welbeck
Prediction: Edge Sweden to second place in group. Quarter-final exit.
Coach: Laurent Blanc (since 2010) Captain: Hugo Lloris (32 caps)
FIFA Ranking: 14th
Euro 2008: Group Stage
Strengths: Genuinely one of the most talented squads at championships. A gifted spine of Hugo Lloris, Adil Rami, Yann M’Vila and Karim Benzema provides the backbone of the side. Benzema and Frank Ribery are two world-class performers in great form for their nation. Strong bench provides Blanc with many options. Settled and harmonious squad in contrast to previous tournaments.
Weaknesses: The losses of first-choice full-backs Bacary Sagna and Eric Abidal are huge – particularly as Patrice Evra’s form is a worry – whilst M’Vila’s tournament is dependent on a scan on a damaged ankle. The Rennes anchorman protects a back four which can be undone on the counter, scenarios where Philipe Mexes can look porous.
Possible line-up: Lloris; Debuchy Rami Mexes Evra; M’Vila Cabaye; Menez Nasri Ribery; Benzema
Prediction: Top group, and reach semi-finals.
Coach: Erik Hamrén
Captain: Zlatan Ibrahimovi? (76 caps)
FIFA Ranking: 17th
Euro 2008: Group stage
Strengths: Experienced tournament side, with an ability to upset big sides. The enigmatic Zlatan Ibrahimovic leads the line, a player who is capable of genius moments. Accomplished technicians in midfield too; Rasmus Elm, Kim Kallstrom and Seb Larsson are all composed in possession.
Weaknesses: Highly-rated forward John Guidetti will miss the tournament as a result of a mystery virus. Lack of a top-class centre-back could prove decisive.
Possible line-up: Isaksson; Granqvist Mellberg J.Olsson M.Olsson; Larsson Elm Svensson Kallstrom; Ibrahimovic Elmander.
Prediction: Just fall short in qualifying from group.
Coach: Oleg Blokhin (since 2011)
Captain: Andriy Shevchenko (105 caps)
FIFA Ranking: 52nd
Euro 2008: Failed to qualify
Strengths: Currently enjoying a strong run of form, wealth of experience throughout side and will have perceived benefit of being a home nation. Promising midfielders coming through. Organised and beat England in last meeting in Ukraine.
Weaknesses: Captain and top-scorer Shevchenko – despite 16 goals in last 34 appearances for Dinamo Kiev – is no longer the same player he once was. Key defender Dmytro Chygrynskiy is missing with injury, whilst Blokhin has to cope with something of a goalkeeping crisis – the second (Oleksandr Horyainov) and third (Maksym Koval) choice keepers have just one cap between them.
Possible line-up: Pyatov; Rat Kucher Mikhalik Selin; Gusev Tymoshchuk Rotan Konoplyanka; Voronin; Shevchenko
Prediction: Home support not enough. Bottom of group.
Group D Odds:
Winner – France & England 17/10, Ukraine 4/1, Sweden 6/1
To Qualify – France 8/15, England 4/9, Ukraine 7/5, Sweden 15/8
To Finish Bottom – Sweden 13/10, Ukraine 21/10, Frane & England 9/2
Three Arsenal youngsters who could help England bring football home in 2022
The Gunners’ academy continues to develop some of the very best youngsters.
After a successful tournament got the nation dreaming, England fell at the penultimate at the World Cup and may require Arsenal‘s help in 2022.
Gareth Southgate’s youthful squad exceeded pre-tournament expectations and suddenly Greg Dyke’s objectives for the 2022 World Cup seem within grasp – and the Three Lions now have four years to build towards glory in Qatar.
Come November 2022, when FIFA has confirmed the World Cup will commence, Southgate is likely to call upon a number of the players who starred for the Three Lions in Russia but changes to his squad are also inevitable.
“The two targets I have for the England team are – one, to at least reach the semi-finals of Euro 2020 and two, win the World Cup in 2022.”
Fortunately, English football is breaming with exciting young talent at the moment and Arsenal may hold the key to success with three of their most highly-rated prospects.
Bursting onto the scene in November 2017, Eddie Nketiah became an instant hit at the Emirates Stadium after netting twice against Norwich City in the Carabao Cup. Since then, the 19-year-old forward has gone on to make three Premier League appearances.
Competition for places at Arsenal is fierce, particularly following the captures of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the past 12 months, which means he may have to be patient to get his chance – but the situation is entirely different on the international stage.
In four England U21 appearances, Nketiah has scored two goals, per TransferMarkt stats, following on from eight goals in eight games at U18 level and four goals in two games for the U17 side. In just over a year, Nketiah rose to Aidy Boothroyd’s U21 ranks from the U17’s and shows no signs of stopping his rise.
Becoming a regular for Arsenal in Arsene Wenger’s final season at the Emirates Stadium, Ainsley Maitland-Niles showed his versatility by catching the eye playing as a full-back. His natural position is in midfield though and this is where he could be of value to England.
It is fair to say that England’s options in the middle of the park sitting in front of the defence are extremely limited, with neither Jordan Henderson or Eric Dier doing enough to cement their spot in the position for the long-term.
Maitland-Niles could become the man England are looking for in the coming years and further first-team experience with Arsenal looks set to follow under Unai Emery, as the 20-year-old penned a new long-term deal with the Gunners last month.
Arsenal fans have been excited about 18-year-old Reiss Nelson for a while now and saw the teenager break into the fringes of the first-team last term, as Whoscored data shows he finished the campaign with 15 appearances across all competitions.
Eight of those opportunities came as a starter, including two in the Premier League, and there is every chance Nelson could earn further action under the guidance of Unai Emery next term – especially as Alex Iwobi has not done enough to warrant continued action.
Should the Nigeria international continue to suffer with poor form, the eight-cap England U19 international could be Arsenal’s breakthrough star of the year – following in the footsteps of players like Maitland-Niles, Jack Wilshere and Hector Bellerin.
Who will bring football home? England’s predicted World Cup 2022 squad
Players from Everton, Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester United and even Bristol City feature.
England were desperately close to making it into the World Cup final, after defeat to Croatia in the semi-finals.
The Three Lions did however bring back some pride and promise from the long-suffering England fans.
With England also the World Under-17 and Under-20 Champions, the future is brighter than ever.
So who will be at the World Cup in 2022?
It seems impossible to guess four years in advance. Not many would have suggested the likes of Jordan Pickford, Harry Maguire or Jesse Lingard four years ago.
The squad, hopefully, will not change much and the experienced players in the squad will likely still be around.
However, for the sake of the article and debate, anyone who will be over 30 in 2022 has been ignored. That leaves Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, Kieran Trippier, Gary Cahill, Phil Jones, Ashley Young, Jordan Henderson, Fabian Delph, Jamie Vardy and Danny Welbeck in the cold, even if some of them will likely be present.
Eric Dier also got nudged out, as his form recently has been a concern and Nick Pope has been replaced.
So who makes the XI and the overall squad of 23?
The Everton stopper cemented his place as England’s new number one during the quarter-final triumph over Sweden. Highly-rated by club and country and with excellent distribution it will be no surprise if he remains England’s first-choice in 2022.
What a deputy. The Stoke City goalkeeper could easily be our number one. The Potters relegation will hopefully not set him back and he should push Pickford for years to come.
The son of a Scotland international has so far rejected their international calls. Recently joined Southampton for £13.5 million and will hope to cement his place as a Premier League regular.
Honourable mentions: Nick Pope, Freddie Woodman, Dean Henderson.
Despite one lapse of concentration which cost England crucially against Croatia the Manchester City man was excellent in Russia.
If he maintains a starting place at City and his career is not derailed, then Stones will be one of the leaders in Qatar.
Became a national hero this summer. A swashbuckling defender with an eye for a goal and a great meme. Should be a multi-cap England international.
Replacing Kyle Walker as the pace-man in a back three is Liverpool’s Gomez. If he can combat his recent injury troubles he will be a certain future England player. Remember how he shackled Neymar back in November.
For many people, the Newcastle captain should have been in Russia ahead of Phil Jones or Gary Cahill.
Rightly so. A brilliant leader who would slot into a back three perfectly and deserves to be in the England fold for the next four years.
The Middlesbrough defender is one inclusion that may cause derision. But this lad is extremely talented.
A reliable defender, good with the ball at his feet and a favourite at St George’s Park. Fry will hope to emerge as an England hopeful in the years to come.
Honourable mentions: Eric Dier, Alfie Mawson, Michael Keane, Ben Wilmot.
Already in the England picture and shone v Belgium. Will likely play in the ¾ play-off this weekend. In four years he might be playing in the final.
A tough call this but the Everton defender is like the Kieran Trippier to Alexander-Arnold’s Walker-like characteristics.
Whilst the Liverpool man has the pace and the power Kenny is more deliberate and his crossing is fantastic.
A favourite with the England youth management and the eventual successor to Seamus Coleman at Goodison Park.
Honourable mentions: Kyle Walker-Peters, Dujon Sterling, Steven Sessegnon.
A shoe-in for 2022 if he remains fit and healthy. The Fulham star is perhaps England’s most exciting prospect.
He might even be considered an attacker by 2022 but for now, he would be an excellent left wing-back and will hopefully make his England bow this season.
This might be the biggest swing and potential miss in the squad. The Bristol City star is wanted by a host of clubs this summer after his fantastic form at Ashton Gate.
But he is a hard-working and super-fit young man who, given the right opportunities, is easily capable of playing for his nation.
Honourable mentions: Lewis Gibson, Luke Shaw, Ben Chilwell
Absolutely adored by the England camp the Bournemouth man has already made his England debut. More positive in his passing than Jordan Henderson and more dynamic than Eric Dier, he is surely the future of England’s composed holding role.
Set for a big break at Tottenham this season he has the potential to be an England star. If he can overcome his current injury trouble he would seem like being a shoe-in for 2022.
England lacked a midfielder who could pick the locks of the Croatia defence in the semi-finals. This is the young man to do just that. The Manchester City youngster needs to break into the first-team fold but given what he has already achieved that should not be a problem.
A lot depends on his next move, as Chelsea does not seem to be the right place for RLC to develop.
Showed in all his England performances that he is a talent to keep an eye on for the future and England will surely nurture him.
May not have set the world alight in Russia, but the Tottenham star’s talent cannot be overlooked.
If he can get to the level he is capable of, then Alli is a 100-cap man with ease.
Can he continue to prove people wrong for another four years?
Excellent at the World Cup and been in fine form for Manchester United. If he continues to progress in this way, then he should still be in the England set-up four years from now.
A tough choice considering the wealth of attacking midfield talent but the Leicester newbie seems the most likely to reach the levels necessary to play at a World Cup.
The £24 million talent can play a number of positions and is a special talent the Premier League will enjoy watching next term.
Honourable mentions: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Nathaniel Chalobah, Ross Barkley, Jack Grealish, Kieran Dowell,
He divided opinion among some at this summer’s World Cup. But under the guidance of Pep Guardiola he will continue to improve.
Whether out wide or through the middle, England will surely stick by the attacker.
The nation’s current captain and front-runner for the Golden Boot award at this summer’s tournament it is hard to see how he won’t lead the line again in four years time.
If he keeps going at his current rate, Kane will surely take Wayne Rooney’s goal-scoring record for England.
Some felt the Everton attacker was unlucky not to go this summer. After thriving on loan at RB Leipzig it seemed he might make a late lunge.
This summer is big for Lookman. He needs to decide where is best to carry on his career which could be key to a future England career.
The Manchester United talent can surely only get better. If he can become a regular starter, wherever he happens to play his club football then the teenager will hope to secure a place in Qatar.
Honourable mentions: Dominic Solanke, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Eddie Nketiah.
Who did we miss? Can England bring football home in 2022?
Three Everton players who could help England bring football home in 2022
Everton have a long list of top talents coming through that could make it into the England team.
England are out of the World Cup following defeat against Croatia in the semi-finals last night. But the future looks bright for England. They had the second youngest team in the tournament and are the current under-20 and under-17 World Champions.
So who could help them bring football home at Qatar 2022?
When looking at Everton’s current crop, it is hard to pick just one.
Ademola Lookman is an excellent attacker, although could be on his way. Callum Connolly’s versatility makes him a manager’s dream whilst Tom Davies had a brilliant 2016-17 season, even if last term was less impressive.
But here are the three Everton players who might have a chance of heading to Qatar in four years time.
Like England’s summer hero Harry Maguire the 21-year-old came through the ranks at Sheffield United. Since joining Everton his progress has been astonishing.
He is already a hero for England. He scored the winner for England’s under-20s last summer as they won the World Cup.
With striking positions set to be up for grabs in four years time, DCL will no doubt be in the running.
The spindly playmaker is adored in the England and Everton set-ups for his God-given natural talent.
Stormed into a loan spell at Nottingham Forest last season, which admittedly dwindled toward the end.
But with his dexterity and ability, only injury and himself could hold Dowell back from making it to Qatar.
Dowell’s best mate and England’s trusted right-back at youth level. His cross-city rival Trent Alexander-Arnold may be catching the eye but Kenny is no slouch.
An exquisite crosser of the ball and defensively sound he is the Trippier if Alexander-Arnold is the Walker of England’s future right-back choices.
Like Dowell, eligible for Ireland, so England, must ensure the Everton pair are aware of their pathway.