Why England look in good shape ahead of 2018 World Cup
England look in good shape ahead of 2018 World Cup thanks to some promising talent in the Premier League
The year 2016 has been a horror show for the England football team, with serious embarrassments on and off the pitch.
No betting tips, however pessimistic, predicted England would be unceremoniously dumped out of Euro 2016 by Iceland in the last 16.
Roy Hodgson was duly sacked, and replacement Sam Allardyce lasted just 67 days and one match before he too was sacked following a journalistic sting that saw him filmed discussing how to help reporters posing as representatives of a millionaire investor circumvent rules prohibiting third party ownership of players.
But they now have the opportunity to put all that behind them and forge a new identity under the more sober leadership of Gareth Southgate. The former England centre half, who has previously managed Middlesbrough and the England under 21 side, is not a controversial type, not as blunt as Allardyce.
He is seen as a safe pair of hands who can ensure England qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia without too many bumps along the road. Many experts offering betting tips are backing holders Germany at 11/2, Lionel Messi’s Argentina at 10/1, or France, Spain, Brazil or Italy.
But England under Southgate could be dark horses. True, they haven’t reached a semi-final since 1990, and the 30 years of hurt Frank Skinner, David Baddiel and The Lightning Seeds sang about in 1996 will be 52 years of hurt by the time Russia 2018 comes around, but there is some cause for optimism.
England have a lot of good young players coming through. Tottenham have a core of excellent young English players that have flourished under the expert tutelage of Mauricio Pocchetino, while at Liverpool and Man City the English players are learning from Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola, two of the best coaches in the world.
The Premier League is the fastest league in the world, and the game is becoming more tactical, with many English players at the heart of teams that press hard and high and never give the opposition a break. Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker play together week in, week out at Spurs, and that can only be good for the England side. Raheem Sterling is enjoying a new lease of life under Guardiola, who also believes he can turn John Stones into the next Gerard Pique, while at Liverpool Jordan Henderson is constantly improving and is all but certain to take over England captaincy from Wayne Rooney.
England’s record goal scorer is sadly looking like a spent force at the age of 31, and he is unlikely to be guaranteed of a starting place now, but up front England have plenty of options, with Kane, Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy all in contention. Joe Hart is out at Manchester City, but still looks nailed on for the number one spot, although there is healthy competition from the likes of Fraser Forster.
England may lack a true superstar in the mould of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, but they could strive to emulate Germany, by working hard, pressing, staying compact, being hard to break down and attacking with incision.
Southgate’s reign could be another false dawn, but he could be just what England need after the turmoil of 2016. England are just 1/9 to win their group, and no betting tips would suggest they can’t make it. If the likes of Stones, Henderson, Dier, Alli and Kane continue to improve at the rapid rate they have shown recently, they could be ready to take Russia 2018 by storm, and the odds of 25/1 currently available on them springing a surprise look pretty good.