How far can England go at the World Cup?
Every four years, Three Lions fans seemingly get their hopes up about England's chances at World Cup glory.
As we all know, England has been some way off the pace at international level for decades now, despite having supremely talented players in pretty much every squad.
Personally, I put it down to the fact that the Premier League is so culturally diverse. It means that homegrown talents are given limited opportunities, but if you're asking me if I'd change that, I wouldn't. The English top-flight is the most exciting in the world, and that's due to the aforementioned diversity. Anyway, that's a conversation for another day.
I'd like to look at just how far Gareth Southgate's England could go during Russia 2018. It's not going to be easy, nor fun to watch, but, realistically, I think we have to be positive about our future.
Group Stage Draw
England has been drawn in a group alongside Belgium, Panama and Tunisia. The immediate thought is that Belgium is an excellent side who'll be difficult to beat, but the Red Devils are a nation that has underperformed themselves, particularly when it comes to the big-time. It's a fixture that England should be looking to get at least a draw in.
Then you have both Panama and Tunisia. If we're being brutally honest, England should be winning these games comfortably with absolutely no questions asked. Southgate has to get his players properly prepared, motivated and hungry to win against mediocre international sides like these. With that said, there is no guarantee when it comes to victory, just look at what Iceland achieved during the European Championships eighteen months ago.
The playing squad
Although on paper, England's playing squad may not be anywhere near as talented as Spain, Germany, etc, but they have some brilliant footballers on their books - led by Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane. Without question, the striker is up there amongst the best in the world at finding the back of the net, and with him in the team, the Three Lions will always have a chance.
Helping out Kane, Southgate can call upon his Spurs teammate Dele Alli, Manchester City's man of the moment Raheem Sterling, and the hugely talented Marcus Rashford. That's a front four that will strike fear into opposing defences, largely due to the frightening pace that they all possess, particularly on the counter-attack.
What concerns me is the defence. Unfortunately, England will concede goals. Their best bet is to try and outscore the opposition and take the reigns off a little bit. Will they do that? Who knows, but at least that'd be entertaining to watch rather than the utter dross we've been served up since the turn of the century...
In all reality, the best England can probably hope for is a quarter-final place. They have a good chance at winning their group and facing off against a runner-up in the final sixteen. After that, though, things get tough and that's when Southgate's boys will start coming up against the elite international teams. With some luck, the Three Lions may get past one top side and make it to the semi-finals, but I'd be surprised if they went any further than that.
Whatever happens, it's going to be interesting...