‘They think it’s all over… is it?’ Can Football really ‘come home’ to England?
“It’s coming home.” The three words that have been surrounding the chances of the English National Football team at 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The ‘Three Lions’ are through to their first World Cup quarter-final for the first time since 2006 and look to win the tournament for the first time since 1966. Long since the days of Alf Ramsey, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Gordon Banks and the legendary side that heroically defeated West Germany 4-2 at Wembley Stadium, with the new ‘Young Lions’ rising up to the take their place among the heroes of old. Gareth Southgate’s men have quite the uphill battle to fight with many big-name sides such as Germany, Spain and Argentina all crashing out of the tournament early on This quite possibly be the most open World Cup in history with four out of the remaining eight teams having never won the competition in their history.
Who is left to play?
Quarter Finals: Sweden
One of the greatest defensive units thus far in the tournament, Sweden have shocked the world, showing there was life after Zlatan Ibrahimović. After making it through the play-off narrowly defeating four-time world champions Italy by 1-0 on aggregate. Since then, the Swedes have looked like a compacted defensive unit, winning 2 out of the 3 group games against South Korea and coming so close to defeating the former World Champions Germany, before losing 2-1. In their Round of 16 match vs Switzerland, the managed to again narrowly qualify into the next round. Rather than play the attacking, high ball style of play they attempted to play when Ibrahimović, now Sweden focus on their back line, only conceding two goals through the whole tournament, keeping three clean sheets. England will have to go all out on the attack to break down the iron wall of Sweden, and in the last 10 games between the two sides, England have only won twice, with Sweden winning three and the rest all draws.
Semi Finals: Russia or Croatia
Russia started this World Cup like a house on fire, demolishing Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the opening match and then going on to defeat Mohammad Salah’s Egypt 3-1. They did suffer a hiccup against Uruguay losing 3-0 with Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani running the show, but in they quickly bounced back with a shock win over 2010 winners Spain in a penalty shoot-out. The Hosts have done above and beyond their expectations, as most did not expect them to get past the group stage. However, with their direct attacking, free flowing football they could prove formidable opponents for not only Croatia, but for England too.
As for Croatia, they have been one of the greatest attacking threats in the entire tournament. With an incredible midfield of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Ivan Perisic, as well a strong strike partnership of Mario Mandzukic and Andrej Kramaric, the Croatians have been one of the brightest sparks of the whole competition. After shockingly destroying Argentina 3-0 and defeating Nigeria and Iceland, Croatia looked set to make it past Denmark, but were held 1-1 and were forced to take the match to a penalty shoot-out. That shaky end of the match could have an effect on the team, which is something that England could take advantage of, if they face them in the semi-final.
Final: Brazil, Belgium, France or Uruguay
Brazil have been the bookies favourites since the start of the tournament. Even with their star striker Neymar’s questionable tactics and antics on the field, the five-time world champions have been performing at a top level since their lacklustre opening against Switzerland. With three consistent 2-0 victories over Costa Rica, Serbia and Mexico, it would be hard for England to compete with the skill and finesse of Brazil. They would have to use their physicality to try and stop the pace of Neymar Willian and Gabriel Jesus.
Uruguay have always been one of the top dark horses at any World Cup they have competed in. With a great striker partnership of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez ad well as good defence of Jos