England’s World Cup Group Assessed
England got off to a solid start in their big to qualify for next year’s World Cup, held in Qatar. A comfortable 5-0 win against San Marino gave the Three Lions three vital points. In this article, we take a look at England’s opponents in Group G and looking ahead, who are the likely candidates to lift International football’s top prize.
Poland should be England’s main competition to qualify from the group, but nothing should be taking for granted. We have already seen surprises this week, even in England’s group, and it’s likely we shall see many more before qualification is secured. Let’s take a closer look at the teams that England will face.
Polish Likely to Rival England
Odds on winning World Cup: 200/1
England’s record against Poland (all competitions): Won 11, drawn 7, lost 1.
Player to watch: Robert Lewandowski
Info on the team: Poland started their quest to qualify for Qatar as the second-favourites to win the group behind England. In their ranks is one of Europe’s best players Robert Lewandowski. The Bayern Munich maestro has scored forty-five goals in forty-two games, and his eye for goals makes the entire Polish team a serious contender to win the group or at least make the playoffs. They qualified for Euro 2020 comfortably, winning eight of the ten matches, scoring eighteen goals. They did, however, have an average UEFA Nations League campaign that saw them finish third behind Italy and Netherlands in League A Group 1. Poland is led by a new manager, Paulo Soussa, who has managed Leicester City, Queens Park Rangers, and Swansea. The fifty-year-old manager named seven new first-time call ups to balance experience and the energetic youth coming in the ranks. They have a chance to qualify for successive World Cups for the first time since they did so in the 2002 and 2006 competitions. Although Lewandowski will undoubtedly be the main man, Arkadiusz Milik has recently moved from Napoli to Marseille and has enjoyed a good start in Ligue 1, scoring three goals in six appearances. Poland dropped points in their first game, Lewandowski scoring in the 82nd minute to rescue a 3-3 draw with Hungary. England faces Poland at Wembley on Wednesday with the return on matchday six on September 8.
In-Form Hungary Could be Group’s Dark Horses
Odds on winning World Cup: 1000/1
England’s record against Hungary (all competitions): Won 15, drawn 2, lost 5.
Player to watch: Roland Sallai
Info on the team: Hungary started their Euro 2020 campaign on a high and successfully qualified for the competition but had to do it the hard way, via the playoffs. In the semi-finals they beat Bulgaria 3-1 before facing Iceland in the final, who they beat 2-1. Hungary also enjoyed success in the UEFA Nations League; they topped their group, securing League A promotion. They are currently on a magnificent run of three wins and three draws in their last seven matches. The two-time World Cup runners-up have not qualified for the ultimate competition in national team football since 1986, finishing third in the last two qualifiers campaign. Marco Rossi’s side can emerge as the best out of the rest and disappoint the big boys, especially that all attention is on Poland and England. They have already produced a surprise, a great 3-3 draw with Poland on Thursday in their first game. They were leading the game at 3-2 before Robert Lewandowski scored with eight minutes remaining. At one point, Hungary had a two-goal lead, had Roland Sallai, Adam Szalai and Willi Orban on the scoresheet. Attila Fiola will miss the next game after being sent off in injury time. England doesn’t face Hungary until matchday four and eight, which will take place in September & October. Potentially a very tough opponent who shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Will Albania Build on Matchday 1 Win?
Odds on winning World Cup: 1500/1
England’s record against Albania (all competitions): Won 4, drawn 0, lost 0.
Players to watch: Rey Manaj and Sokol Cikalleshi
Info on the team: Albania beat Andorra 0-1 on Thursday, a goal from midfielder Ermir Lenjani in the 41st minute the difference between the sides. They went into the game against Andorra in high spirits after securing promotion to League B of the UEFA Nations League after winning three and drawing two of their last six games in the tournament. Edoardo Reja’s side is unbeaten in the last eight games will hope they carry on this form in the qualifying campaign. They are also on their longest ever run without conceding in a competitive away game keeping a clean sheet in each of the last five. They have never qualified for the World Cup, which makes this a tough ask for the side, starting with victory against Andorra if they stand a chance to qualify for their first-ever major tournament since Euro 2016. Napoli’s Elseid Hysaj and Ermir Lenjani are their main attacking threat from wing-back positions providing width for the side. Striker Rey Manaj and Sokol Cikalleshi have fifteen international goals between them, with their goals expected to be vital to qualify. Before Thursday’s game, they won their last game 4 – 0 against Moldova. England plays Albania on Sunday, with the reverse fixture taking place at Wembley on November 12.
Goal-Shy Andorra Likely to Struggle
Odds on winning World Cup: 1500/1
England’s record against Andorra (all competitions): Won 4, drawn 0, lost 0.
Player to watch: Marcio Viera
Info on the team Koldo Alvarez has been in charge of his side for more than a decade. They have been on a rough tide for a pretty long time, winning just three of the last eighty-three games with the last victory in October 2019 against Moldova. The Tricolours only picked two points in their UEFA Nations League campaign by holding Malta and Latvia 0 – 0, finishing rock bottom in League D Group 2. They start their campaign against Albania with just one win in the last thirty games, losing twenty-eight games and shipping in ninety-two goals. Captain Marcio Viera, who earned a century cap, is their highest-profile player expected to start an advanced role behind Jordi Alaez. The side is ranked 151 in the FIFA World Ranking and have failed to score in all but one of their Euro qualifiers. The chances are this will be more of the same, and they will endure a tough campaign as the group’s punching bag. They lost their first game, 1-0 against Albania, managing just one shot on target over the ninety minutes. England plays Andorra on matchday five and seven, which will be played in September and October.
San Marino Seeking First-Ever Win
Team: San Marino
Odds on winning World Cup: 5000/1
England’s record against San Marino (all competitions): Won 7, drawn 0, lost 0.
Player to watch: Elia Benedettini
Info on the team: As we saw in England’s opening game, a 5-0 win over San Marino, this team has no realistic hopes of progression and are playing for pride. The country has just 33,860 inhabitants and has a short footballing history, playing their first game in 1990. Since then, they have competed in every World Cup and Euro qualifiers but are yet to win a single match in those games. They failed to collect a single point in the Euro qualifiers, conceding fifty-one goals and scoring just one. The FIFA bottom-ranked team’s ambitions will be modest, win that all-important first game. It feels like they could be close; in the UEFA Nations League, they managed draws against Liechtenstein and Gibraltar. You would imagine games against Andorra, and perhaps Albania will be their best shots of getting a result. Goalkeeper Elia Benedettini and teammate Nicola Nanni, who play for the Italian division three side Cesena, are the team’s most experienced players. The rest of the players are part-time professionals, juggling jobs and playing football. England plays their last qualifier against San Marino on November 15.
Likely Contenders To Win 2022 World Cup
In an ideal world, England will top their group and qualify directly for the World Cup rather than needing to go through the dreaded playoffs. But, let’s be positive and take a look at the bookmaker’s favourites to be lifting the trophy a week before Christmas, on December 18, at the Lusail National Stadium.
Will The Champions Avoid Winners Curse?
Odds on winning World Cup: 7/1
England’s record against (all competitions): Won 17, drawn 5, lost 9.
Player to watch: Kylian Mbappe
Info on the team: The reigning world champions have already started their qualifying campaign unconventionally, drawing 1 – 1 against Ukraine. Qualification is not really a doubt for Didier Deschamps’s side; the big question is whether they can defend their title and win consecutive World Cup titles. They will have to overcome what seems like a curse for reigning champions. In the last two World Cups, the holders have been knocked out in the group stage (Spain 2014 & Germany 2018). They have a formidable squad with the world’s most sort after talent, Kylian Mbappe, who won the FIFA World Cup Best Young Player award. The PSG star has been phenomenal for both club and country. He has scored four goals in the competition and will be the driving force in their campaign. Another player likely to have a big impact is Antoine Griezmann, the leading scorer at Euro 2016 and was the man-of-the-match in the World Cup final in 2018 when France won 4-2. And we’ve not even mentioned Paul Pogba, who also scored in the final and relishes the big games.
Will It Be Six For The Samba Boys?
Odds on winning World Cup: 7/1
England’s record against Brazil (all competitions): Won 4, drawn 11, lost 11. Player to watch: Neymar
Info on the team: Five-time World Cup winners Brazil will be hoping to end a twenty-year wait for glory in the World Cup. Brazil’s main man is Neymar, who will be hoping to have as much impact on the team as previous Brazilian legends such as Pele, whose individual brilliance won his side three World Cup titles. The PSG star will be thirty in 2022, so this may be his last chance to shine on the biggest stage. The Samba Boys have a plethora of talent in all areas of the pitch, with Ederson and Alisson Becker in goal. Midfield graced by Casemiero, Arthur and Fabinho, while the explosive attack of Gabriel Jesus and Firmino making them among the favourites. Other names such as Rodrigo and Vinicius Junior, Neres, and Richarlison shows how devastating Brazil can be developed in the next two years. Brazil won the 2019 Copa America, beating Peru 3-1 in the final.
Can Werner Replace Muller?
Odds on winning World Cup: 9/1
England’s record against Germany (all competitions): Won 13, drawn 4, lost 15.
Player to watch: Timo Werner
Info on the team: Germany suffered the embarrassment of being knocked out of the 2018 competition at the group stage after winning the 2014 World Cup. It was a result that sent shock waves across the world and destroyed quite a few bets in the process. Joachim Low has a lot of work to do, preparing for the competition from a tough 2020 where they won just three of their eight games, so unlike the normally dependable Germans. They had to endure more torment in the UEFA Nations League in November last year, needing just a draw to qualify for the finals; they were soundly beaten 6-0 by Spain, Ferran Torres scoring a hattrick in that win. They secured a 3-0 win against Iceland in their opening qualifier, Chelsea’s Kai Havertz and Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan on the scoresheet in a comfortable win. Write off Die Mannschaft at your peril, though! This could be the tournament that Timo Werner comes good, he’s had a slow start at Chelsea, but we feel this could be a good tournament for the 25-year-old. It could also be a swansong competition for some of their experienced players, such as Thomas Muller. The 31-year-old has been in great form in the Bundesliga this year with twenty-four goal involvements in twenty-four games.
Spain Stutter in Opening Fixture
Odds on winning World Cup: 9/1
England’s record against (all competitions): Won 14, drawn 3, lost 10.
Player to watch: Ferran Torres
Info on the team:
Any team that humiliates Germany 6-0 in a competitive game has to be considered a serious threat. Yet this team has struggled to emulate the success they enjoyed between 2008 and 2012 when they picked up two European championships and a World Cup. In the last World Cup, they were knocked out by Russia in the Round of 16 on penalties. This qualifying campaign has also started poorly by their standards, only managing a 1-1 draw with Greece. Surprisingly, they only had two shots on goal in that game, and one of those was Alvaro Morata’s opener. Luis Enrique has included Barcelona’s young prospect Pedri in the Spanish squad for the first time. The Spanish press has called the emergence of Pedri as a ‘bright spot’ in what has been a difficult time for the Spanish club. Upfront, Manchester City’s Ferran Torres is one to watch. The 21-year-old has scored four goals in four games in the UEFA Nations League, the exact same record he has this season in the Champions League. Spain is a team of immense talent; however, you do still get the feeling this is a team in transition as they move on from greats such as Xavi and Iniesta and welcome the new generation.