As the excitement builds towards the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, we take a look at England's fixture schedule and wonder if we are finally in with a chance of lifting the trophy.
Originally called the Jules Rimet Trophy (England won this in 1966, as if you didn't know) but, since 1974 the teams play for the iconic gold FIFA World Cup Trophy. When Brazil won the world cup in 1970 for the 3rd time, they were allowed to keep the original trophy as stipulated by Jules Rimet. This was subsequently stolen in 1983 from the Brazilian Football Confederation HQ.
So to the 2018 tournament to be held in Russia. There are 8 groups of 4 teams with the top 2 in each group qualifying for the round of 16. This is then followed by the 14/finals, semi finals and then the final. So to win the trophy you need to qualify from the group stage and then win 4 more games.
England are in group G, along with Belgium, Panama and Tunisia. I always enter the world cup or Euro's with optimism and see no reason why we should not progress from the group stage. The current world rankings for group G are as follows
World Ranking 3 - Belgium
World Ranking 13 - England
World Ranking 14 - Tunisia
World Ranking 55 - Panama
Belgium are clear favourites to win the group but with many players from the Belgium team plying their trade in the Premiership, familiarity may be to England's advantage. Tunisia are one of the most improved teams at the tournament and may prove a sticking point for England. Panama are a tough tackling side and will be hard to beat. Having said that i expect England to qualify in 2nd place along with Belgium.
The betting for the World Cup is interesting and offers good value this year with Germany and Brazil joint favourites at 9/2. Latest odds from Skybet on 16th May 2018
Brazil - 9/2
Germany - 9/2
France - 6/1
Spain - 6/1
Argentina - 9/1
Belgium - 10/1
England - 16/1
Portugal - 25/1
Uruguay - 28/1
Croatia - 33/1
Colombia - 40/1
Russia - 40/1
66/1 or more for the remaining teams
One striking price above is for the home nation at 40/1 who could surprise a few, as the group stage looks easy enough and then they are likely to face Portugal or Spain in the last 16, both of those tend to be scratchy early on in a tournament so could be ripe to pick off.
England's fixtures are as follows
Group Stage - Group G
v Tunisia - 21:00, Monday 18th June
v Panama - 15:00, Sunday 24th June
v Belgium - 20:00, Thursday 28th June
Then assuming England do get out of the group they are likely to face either Columbia or Poland. If they get through to the 1/4 finals it could be either Brazil or Germany, so at this stage i will not look further into the draw. Lets hope England overachieve for once as too often we leave the party too soon.