England Should Coast Through Group G

England Should Coast Through Group G article feature image
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Pictured: Harry Kane

The Odds

  • To win the World Cup: +1800
  • To win Group G: +115
  • To advance to Round of 16: -855

Bet to Watch

Draw vs Belgium +225 (Bovada)

There’s an unnerving sense of optimism around England ahead of the tournament, and not because there is any expectation that they should be able to compete with the favorites, but just the opposite in fact. Instead there’s a real feeling that there is less pressure on this squad than there has been for many years, and there are a number of reasons for that.

The first is testament to the work of the manager in dealing with a national media renowned for hammering the side at any given opportunity. The overriding emotion of England players when they did win in the past was one of relief rather than joy, and while the balance hasn’t swung entirely, it is at least evening out. Gareth Southgate is a former international to have faced more than his share of negative press in the shirt in the past and knows the importance of taking stress off of the players where possible by tempering expectations.

He has done so for the most part by naming a young squad that have relatively little experience in major tournaments, let alone World Cups, and he appeased the fans by attempting to build a style of play that’s worth watching and at the very least identifiable.

A formation change to a back three with the onus on playing the ball out from the back has seen some attractive football played at a high tempo, clearly benefitting from the high pressing approach adopted by the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham in particular. Both sides are well-represented on the squad, but the absences of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana due to injury and fitness issues, respectively, have unquestionably taken something away from the way that Southgate wants the team to play.

Jesse Lingard has certainly profited from their misfortune, however, and looked at home in the shirt under his former boss at the under-21 level, while in Harry Kane England have a striker that would be the envy of some of the very best teams at the tournament. Where this side have struggled, however, is to maintain performance levels for more than an hour, or a half more often than not. They tend to set a good pace but drop off late on in matches, and that will need to change this summer.

There’s no question the draw was kinder to England this year than it was in Brazil, and while they are deservedly second favorites to top the group behind a superb Belgium side on paper, matches against Tunisia and Panama in particular have presented the Three Lions with the chance to book a place in the round of 16 before their meeting with the top seeds.

Anything can happen under the spotlight of a World Cup, but England and Belgium should have six points apiece ahead of their clash, leaving the side with the greater goal difference the opportunity to top the group with a draw. A stalemate in that marquee match to close the group stages in Russia would be my bet for England as a result. Should they qualify, regardless of whether they finish first or second in the group, there’s a winnable match in wait in the following round, and a quarterfinal spot should be up for grabs. Anything beyond that would be a great success.


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