We always knew that England Coach Gareth Southgate would be sending a young side to this summer’s World Cup and many have applauded the manager for picking form over experience.
The case of Joe Hart is a perfect example of Southgate’s ethos, as a man with 75 caps was rightly cast aside on the basis that he wasn’t playing well enough to get into his club side. The players who are on the plane represent a new era for the Three Lions and they should be around for many tournaments to come but as always, the question, for now, is just how far can they go?
England are among the outside bets to win in Russia and to end 52 years of hurt but punters can look at other options across the tournament. Southgate’s side aren’t even favourites to win their group but they could offer some value behind market leaders Belgium here.
But, with such a youthful squad, England’s key to success lies in finding the net. England’s total goals markets, along with correct score options for individual games, will be particularly interesting to follow and that’s because of a perceived weakness within Southgate’s 23.
Harry Kane’s winner against Nigeria at the start of June was his thirteenth in 24 full international games. That record makes him only the second highest scorer in this squad, behind Danny Welbeck who has 15 in 38 while no-one else in the squad has yet to reach double figures.
Compare those numbers with the 2014 squad for Brazil and they highlight, once again, England’s possible deficiency. Four years ago, Roy Hodgson had the luxury of taking Wayne Rooney – England’s all-time leading scorer whose final tally of 53 goals is just one less than the current squad had mustered between them following that win over Nigeria.
Euro 2016 Blanks
When England were knocked out of Euro 2016 at the quarter-final stage, two men shared much of the blame following their defeat to lowly Iceland. There’s no doubt that Joe Hart’s mistakes made him culpable in that match but Harry Kane came in for equal criticism at the end of the tournament.
The Tottenham striker had impressed at international level since scoring inside 80 seconds on his debut against Lithuania in 2015 but in four games at Euro 2016, Kane drew a complete blank.
Clearly, that record in tournament play will have to improve and for England to go deep into the 2018 World Cup, Harry Kane can’t afford to remain without a goal in the group stages. However, the new captain can’t do it alone and support must come from further down the field.
Raheem Sterling enjoyed a productive 2017/18 campaign with his club side Manchester City, scoring 23 goals in 46 matches but for England, he has just two in 38. Similarly, Dele Alli has found the net just twice for his country despite a respectable tally at club level with Spurs.
Harry Kane has to step up, there is no doubt, but for England to convert any profits for soccer punters at Russia 2018, there has to be more support for the captain in this lone-striker system.