Latest England news from Qatar
By Jeremy Wilson
Arsene Wenger believes England should make “at least” the semi-finals of a tournament that will be the last chance for the greatest players of this generation to win the World Cup.
Wenger, who is Fifa’s chief of global football development, will head an innovation in Doha called “Enhanced Football Intelligence” which will use 80 data analysts based largely in Wales to provide cutting edge insights to fans and coaches within hours of every game finishing.
The former Arsenal manager says that major trends since the 2018 World Cup already include the importance of football-playing goalkeepers and defenders, strikers who press off the ball and much higher defensive lines. And he fully expects Gareth Southgate’s team to be among the main contenders, despite their recent dip in form.
“If you look at the last few years, England should be in the semi-finals at least,” said Wenger, who was offered the England
manager’s job after Roy Hodgson resigned in 2016.
“They got to the semi-finals in Russia and then the final in the Euros. The doubt comes from what has happened over the past year. If they can get over that doubt in their own minds, the team is good enough to reach the semi-finals.”
England’s Group B opponents
Wales reached the World Cup finals in dramatic style via the qualifying play-offs, after beating an impassioned Ukraine side in Cardiff in June. Victory for Wales’ talent-studded golden generation booked them a trip to the nation’s second ever World Cup finals – their first since 1958.
USA also make their return to the tournament after an absence, albeit a less protracted one. After failing to make it to Russia in 2018, USA came third in Concacaf qualifiers to secure their place in Qatar. More so than ever, team players will be familiar to Premier League fans, due to the league’s recent influx of American players, including Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson at Leeds, Antonee Robinson at Fulham, and USA captain Christian Pulisic, who plays for Chelsea.
Whilst Wales and the USA could cause group upset and jostle for runners-up spot, Iran are the underdogs of Group B. Although a Fifa ranking of 22 suggests they are by no means one of the weakest sides in the competition statistically, preparations have been marred by infighting while head coach Dragan Skocic has been replaced by former manager Carlos Queiroz, who oversaw the team’s group stage knock-out in Russia.
World Cup schedule
If England win Group B
The winners of Group B will play the runners-up of Group A – Qatar, Holland, Ecuador, and Senegal – with the Afcon winners their most likely opponents.
France are favorites to win Group D, over Denmark, Tunisia and Australia, and would face the Group C runner-up out of Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico or Poland to win the chance to face England in the quarter-finals, should Southgate’s men make it out of the last-16 knock-out round.
If England reached the semi-finals, they could meet either Belgium or Portugal, strong contenders in Group F and H, and a potential final could see England meet Spain, Brazil, or Germany.
If England finish as runners-up in Group B
This would set up a clash between the winner of Group A, and if England were to beat Holland, they could face Argentina or Denmark in the quarter-finals.
In this scenario, should England make it to the semi-finals, their opponents might be one of either Spain, Germany, or Brazil, the cream of the crop from Groups E and G, to set up a possible final against France, Belgium, or Portugal in Lusail.
The first two quarter-finals will take place on Friday, December 9, at 3pm and 7pm, and will be played at Education City Stadium and Lusail Iconic Stadium. The remaining quarter-finals are on Saturday, December 10, at 3pm and 7pm, and will be played at Al Thumama Stadium and Al Bayt Stadium.
The semi-finals will take place on Tuesday, December 13 and Wednesday, December 14, at Lusail Iconic Stadium and Al Bayt Stadium, with both matches taking place at 7pm.
The World Cup final will take place on Sunday, December 18 at 3pm at Lusail Iconic Stadium.
Who is in the England squad?
Southgate has named a 26-man squad for the tournament, including call-ups for James Maddison and Conor Gallagher.