England World Cup Scenarios: How good or bad could it be?
With lower expectations than ever, coupled with being in Pot 2, England has the unfortunate risk of being drawn against one of the favourites, including France, Brazil or Germany. However, the lack of optimism could serve to be a blessing for Gareth Southgate’s team as it will alleviate any pressure or expectations of doing well. At the end of the day, 2018 ought to be the ushering out of the current crop, along with the influx of new.
Best case scenario
Poland played the system and managed to find themselves in Pot 1 (kudos). But in all fairness, every team in the other three pots would want them. However, with a proven hitman in Robert Lewandowski and the solid midfield base of Grzegorz Krychowiak, they should not be taken lightly.
Iran have progressed to make their fifth World Cup appearance. Their pedigree at World Cup level is shocking, with just the solitary win, against the United States (of all teams). It was a game of epic proportions more due to the political hostility between the two enraged nations at the time as opposed to the teams. They were united on the pitch and it was an intriguing game, won by the Iranians. There won’t be a repeat because they look arguably the weakest team in pool three and Team USA will be only watching from home.
Panama’s qualification is probably the surprise story of the whole Russia 2018 campaign, coupled with the USA’s failure to qualify. As a realist, I don’t expect Panama to progress beyond the group stages: I don’t believe they’ll win a game. However, most English pundits thought the same of Costa Rica when drawn in the same group as England in 2014. They were billed as England’s dead rubber, winnable, easy game. Yet somehow, they were right about it being the dead rubber, but the Three Lions were already out and the Costa Ricans already through.
Worst case scenario
Imagine, five-time champions with one of the best attacking quartets that could be assembled, representing the World’s most successful footballing nation. Imagine Willian, Coutinho, Neymar supporting Gabriel Jesus. Then, Roberto Firmino and Douglas Costa lie in wait to come off the bench. In their full backs, they have the world’s best over the last 10 years, coupled with the second best in each position as their understudies. Brazil will be hard to stop next summer.
Add to that group Egypt. The most successful country at the African Cup of Nations, led by arguably the Premer League signing of the season so far. Mo Salah is the player to watch from this side. Add to this the continuity that recent Egyptian sides have had and a disciplined defence and midfield general in Mo Elneny, the Pharaohs will be hard to beat.
Finally, add a small nation named Serbia, boasting former Premier League winners in Matija Nastasic, Branislav Ivanovic and Aleksandar Kolarov. In addition to that, a midfield containing Nemanja Matic, Dusan Tadic and Benfica’s Andrija Zivkovic. Eastern European sides are always difficult to break down, as inherited from their previous Yugoslav counterparts.
It’s very safe to say that this would be England’s definition of the “Group of Death”.