A Preview to the Biggest Sporting Event

Do I have a feeling that my predictions (below) for the World Cup will massively backfire in my face… Absolutely, but that’s the point of a prediction. We have no idea who’s going to win it, the anticipation for the games to kick off is immense from all corners of the globe. In this article I will be giving an insight to my thoughts on England’s competition for the crowned prize and how the tournament may pan out, and in the second half of this piece I will be discussing in further detail England’s squad, tactics and teams they will face. 

There are a lot of teams favoured to do it including the likes of; Brazil who most are picking to win the whole thing (including me), Argentina, France, England etc… I think it may come as a shock to most people that I’ve picked Uruguay to get to the final, but something gives me the sense that a dark horse may make it far (just as Croatia did in the last tournament) and with their pathway (as predicted by me), being Spain who are still young with this being Pedri, Gavi and Fati’s first World Cup perhaps the pressure will get to them. Despite being superb talent, it is clear they lack experience. France also lacks the midfield presence they had in 2018 with Pogba and Kante being injured, leaving the question who else can spray a 70-meter pass like Pogba or who else can match the intensity of tracking back and putting in a strong tackle like Kante for France? The answer is they probably won’t be able to replace them.  

On the other side of the draw, I don’t give Portugal much of a chance as I haven’t seen a cohesive style of play over the last two tournaments, not to mention the drama that surrounds Ronaldo may act as a distraction for their hopes of lifting the trophy.  Germany has a similar issue in that they don’t have an identity and lack the strong core of players they had in yesteryears. Belgium have quite simply disappointed too many times over the past years and the time of their golden generation has expired in my opinion. While the Dutch have a strong defensive core in; Van Dijk, De Light and Ake, creative midfielders of Van De Beek and De Jong, they lack a goal poacher in their team, somebody that is going to finish the end product.  Argentina has a real chance; Messi has proven he can inspire his team mates to victory in the Copa America 2021 and some of the players like Lisandro and Lautaro Martinez, Parades, Taglafico will be hungry for more.  

Ultimately, I think Brazil have the most balanced squad on paper, the maturation of Neymar’s playing style has seen him be effective for PSG this season, he is not occupied by skills or tricks like he used to when he was younger but is instead focused on leading his squad by example. Brazil will have great fluidity in the forward positions, with Vinicius and Rodrygo both of Real Madrid looking to stretch defences and getting in behind with their pace. Jesus will look to drop in deep and playing smart one-two football with solid midfield options of Fabinho and Casemiro and these two in turn are perfect to protect both the ball and the backline. Speaking of the backline, the wealth of experience Brazil possess is unmatched including the likes of Silva, Marquinhos, Militao, Alves, Danilo and the list goes on. Oh, not also to mention Brazil have two of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League in Alisson and Ederson. Brazil’s squad depth is a joke it’s that good, no team in the tournament comes even close to the jewels Brazil have been blessed with which is why they are my pick for the prize. The level of squad aside, the nation also has history with them, as the record holder of most World Cup wins (5). Since their first win in 1958 they have only had two decades without at least one World Cup win (the 1980’s and the 2010’s), that right there is dominance and in the words of Jose Mourinho ‘football heritage’. 

My World Cup Predictions 

Source: DIARIO AS, S.L. 

Now, onto England regarding their squad selection. I believe Tomori of A.C. Milan should’ve been picked over Maguire who has barely kicked a football this year and when he has, we saw him flatline German midfielder Musiala giving a penalty away. Choosing Dier over Tomori was another mistake for me as Dier is a remnant from England’s miserable 2016 team that lost to Iceland at the Euros, He’s having an okay season at best but not worthy of the England call up. As for Ivan Toney missing out on the squad, he clearly proved his point that this was a mistake on Southgate’s part by scoring twice against reigning champions Manchester City last weekend. For the most part though, certain players like Kane, Saka, Foden etc… are undisputable. I also really liked the selection of Gallagher who is willing to come on for the last 10 minutes of a game and press from the front. 

As for England’s pathway to a potential World Cup win, they have been entered into a winnable group. By no means will it be a rollover, however. Iran performed excellently at the Russia World Cup, holding Portugal to a draw in a tight contest and narrowly losing 1-0 to Spain, and thus should not be taken lightly in England’s opening fixture. As for Wales and the USA they always have something to prove when they play England. England only just beat Wales 2-1 when they faced off in Euro 2016 due to the energy that Vardy brought to the pitch, and on the other side of the pond I don’t think England fans will forget Rob Green’s howler in South Africa 2010 that led to the USA drawing 1-1 with England. Could England get through a team such as Senegal or the Netherlands in a round of 16 potential match-up? I believe so. In the latter stages of the tournament, I worry that England’s defence would be exposed, imagine for one moment Maguire has a foot race with Mbappe or Eric Dier trying to shut out Balon D’or winner Benzema or other legends such as Cavani and Suarez. 

However, I think if England play a 4 at the back system with Ben White partnering John Stones, it will tighten up the defence and if Kyle Walker can return to the field healthy it will give the Three Lions a real chance at progression. I think everyone knows that when England are catching teams on the counterattack Kane will drop deep and look for a forward pass to either Foden, Sterling or Saka but going into this tournament I think more teams will sit off on England and allow them to have the ball. Thus, for England to be successful they need to allow Mount or Maddison (whoever plays as the extra midfielder accompanying Bellingham and Rice) to have the freedom to float around the pitch, playing off a Foden and maybe even switching positions at times, or looking for Saka to open up space in the middle of the pitch as he possesses the threat to exploit opposition full backs and go down the line. We saw an example of this fluidity against Germany in the nations league when Saka commanded space setting up Mount for his goal. Allowing Rice to sit will also help prevent England from being caught on the counter themselves, and having Bellingham as a supporting midfield to the attack who can drive the ball and switch the play with his excellent passing will also help. Therefore, if England are to flood the final third of the pitch in this way, they have a real chance as they certainly have the quality of players to break other nations down. Kane is having an excellent season also, second in the Premier League top scorer list and I’m confident he can have a good tournament for England. 

Now to conclude, do I think Southgate will allow England to play with such freedom and expression? Probably not, but this is the issue at hand, he must if England are to progress to another final. The reason England lost the Euro 2020 final was because they sat deep and allowed Italy to come onto them for about 65 minutes which resulted Bonnuci getting an equaliser, leading to Italy victory. Most readers of Bath Time have agreed with my prediction of a quarter final (56%), with 24% believing a final is on the card, 18% a semi-final and 3% the round of 16. It’s not that I’m not optimistic at all I’m just trying to keep my expectations at a realistic level. England have the quality players to match up with most squads in the tournament, hopefully I will be wrong, and Southgate will be more inventive than I give him credit for, although for now my pick for this years coveted prize will remain Brazil. 

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