England at the 2022 World Cup Preview
It’s that time again. Time for anticipation, excitement, and trepidation. Time for expectations to rise, and maybe, just maybe, those expectations will be met. Or perhaps, as is now customary, the hopes of millions will be shattered by a select few on the pitch. Either way, the England team is on their way to another World Cup and ready to begin their latest attempt to reclaim the biggest prize in football.
What can be expected from the Three Lions?
What can be expected is probably not what many fans would like to expect from this England team. Manager Gareth Southgate has no shortage of talent to choose from, especially in an attacking sense, and many such fans would like to see the Three Lions go to Qatar and take a front-footed approach. However, that seems unlikely.
At each of the two previous tournaments since Southgate took charge, and during his reign in general, England’s approach has been pragmatic, dogged, and often boring. Conservatism and defensive play has often been the number one priority, which is perhaps why the Three Lions failed to kick on when taking leads both in the 2018 World Cup semi-final and the EURO 2020 final.
Can we expect anything different this time around? In truth, probably not. There will almost certainly be two defensive midfielders, and creativity will almost certainly be limited as England look to keep things tight first and foremost. Such an approach has allowed the English to progress at the last two tournaments, but will it be enough for them to really leave their mark on this World Cup?
What does the recent form suggest?
Unfortunately, England’s recent form makes for disappointing reading, and if that form is anything to go by, then their stay in Qatar could be a relatively brief one.
Between June and late September, there was plenty of competitive football for European nations to sink their teeth into ahead of this World Cup. England played six UEFA Nations League games during that time. They recorded zero wins, three defeats and three draws.
The main problem for Southgate’s men during that time was, once again, a lack of offensive power. Not only did they fail to score a sufficient number of goals, failing to find the net in four out of six, but they struggled to create chances also. That’s worrying.
You could argue that the manager was rotating and experimenting, and there was a little bit of that, but a core of players remained throughout that campaign, with the likes of Harry Kane, Declan Rice and Harry Maguire starting five out of six. Raheem Sterling, Kyle Walker and Jude Bellingham started four out of six.
England’s World Cup Opponents
On paper, the Three Lions have been chucked into a relatively easy group. They’re strong favourites to progress as Group B winners at odds of 1/3 (1.33).
First up for the English will be the Iranians, who are something of an unknown quantity. We know traditionally Iran’s team features plenty of technically astute players, while there’s usually some precise dribbling and trickery on show. When it comes to substance, however, they’ll probably be lacking. England’s match-day one opponents have produced a mixed record in recent times. They showed their quality by beating Uruguay and drawing with Senegal, but they lost to Algeria and South Korea.
The English will be confident of beating the USA, though we’ve seen at previous tournaments that the Americans can mix it with the big boys, while this current USA team is definitely not one to take lightly. They’ve got plenty of players playing in Europe’s big leagues. Then again, their recent form has been poor, as they drew to both Saudi Arabia and El Salvador. They also lost to Japan recently.
Southgate’s men know all about the Welsh, and they know just how hard they can be to face. The men in red will be disciplined, they’ll keep things tight, and they’ll fight for everything. Moreover, with someone like Gareth Bale in their ranks, they’ve got the individual quality to make a difference. Prior to this tournament, the Welsh have delivered some strong performances against some top nations, so don’t for one minute think that they’ll roll over for the Three Lions.
Who can make a difference for England?
The England football team has long been crying out for somebody to make a difference when it comes to tournament football. Many have tried, but few have managed to. In recent times, the creative responsibility has often fallen to Mason Mount, who has performed with credit and always puts a shift in, but in terms of tangible end-product, he’s not really done it. Mount has scored two goals and produced two assists in his last 23 competitive appearances for England.
Both Jack Grealish and Phil Foden were expected to send sparks flying at the EUROS back in 2021, but neither nailed down a starting spot while they’ve scored just one goal between them in their last 24 appearances combined, producing seven assists during that time.
Each of those three players is likely to be on the plane to Qatar, and all of them are likely to play at varying points throughout the tournament, but is there anybody else who can step up?
Maddison’s Magic Required
Enter James Maddison. Less preferred than the three players mentioned above by Southgate so far, as far as English players go, Maddison has been the standout attacking performer in the Premier League this season. Playing with the swagger and style of a player who thrives on knowing his own importance, the Leicester man has dazzled the crowds this term.
In 12 Premier League appearances this season, Maddison has scored six goals and produced four assists. Compared with other wingers and attacking midfielders across Europe’s top five leagues. Maddison ranks in the top 9% for assists and in the top 6% for non-penalty goals.
If Gareth Southgate is looking for somebody to demand the ball in the final third and make things happen, then James Maddison is the man.
England World Cup Betting Tips and Predictions
So, for those looking to centre a few bets around England at this World Cup, what are the best options? For starters, a bet on England to win the group represents little value and such short odds of 1/3 (1.33), while anybody who fancies the Three Lions to go all the way and lift the trophy for the first time since 1966 surely can’t be taking the 7/1 (8.00) currently available?!
There are two bets that catch the eye. The first of which is ‘England Five Exact Group Points’ at an eye-catching 8/1 (9.00).
Group B won’t be the walk in the park that many expect it to be. For varying reasons, each of the sides pitted against England could easily pose a few problems, while Wales, in particular, will fancy themselves to stand strong. Consider this in conjunction with England’s recent lack of creativity and goals, and it’s easy to feel that their route through may not be the easiest.
Based on what we’ve seen at previous tournaments, offer Southgate five points now, and he’d almost certainly bite your hand off, so don’t be surprised in the Three Lions advance thanks to a couple of draws.
Secondly, ‘England Under 8.5 Tournament Goals’ looks good. At the previous World Cup, England had the luxury of having a nation such as Panama in their group, and that meant being able to sharpen their attacking tools and rack up the goals. This time around, they don’t have that luxury. The Welsh know how to keep things tight, Iran haven’t conceded more than two goals since 2019, while the USA have conceded more than once in just two of their last ten fixtures, conceding more than twice at no point during that time.
In addition, England recently went through an entire Nations League group scoring just four goals in six games, failing to score in four out of six. Even in two matches against the Hungarians, who won’t be at the World Cup, Southgate’s men scored no goals. On this basis, betting on them to do so without scoring more than eight goals seems viable.
Betting Tips & Predictions:
England Five Exact Group Points @ 8/1 (9.00)
England Under 8.5 Tournament Goals @ 4/5 (1.80)
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