2018 FIFA World Cup contenders – England

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For England, the inventors of the beautiful game, the successful 1966 World Cup campaign at home remains their biggest achievement at the premier football event. They haven’t made a final since and are yet to win the European Championship since the tournament came into being in 1960 in France.

The closest that the England team have come to the final was in 1990 in Italy, when guided by the excellence of Paul Gascoigne, they made the semi-final of the competition, but ultimately crashed out of the tournament after losing to the eventual champions Germany in the last four.

In the four World Cups of the 21st century, the performances of the England national team haven’t been encouraging. They made it to the quarter-final of the quadrennial extravaganza in 2002 and were undone by a splendid long-range strike from Ronaldinho.

In 2006, they came up short against Portugal after losing in a penalty shootout to their rivals. The Three Lions, for whom penalty shootouts have been a perennial Achilles’ heel, managed to convert just once and lost to the Portuguese 3-1 to bow out of the tournament.

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In 2010, they endured a difficult campaign under Fabio Capello and barely managed to make the round of 16 after they finished second behind the United States. However, they were taken apart by the Germans in the first knock-out round and crashed out of the tournament after losing 4-1.

In last summer’s World Cup in Brazil, the England team suffered the ignominy of heading home from the group stage of the competition, without registering a single win from their three games. They lost their opening game 2-1 to Italy, and then perished by the same scoreline against Uruguay. The Three Lions managed to come home with a solitary point after holding Costa Rica to a scoreless draw.

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However, England have qualified for the 2016 European Championship in style, having won all their qualifying games. A case can be made for them being in a relatively easy group that comprised of Estonia, Lithuania and San Marino, but that will not do full justice to their good performances.

The Three Lions have often been disjointed at the highest stage and despite having exceptionally talented players like Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, John Terry and David Beckham in their recent past, they have failed to win any major trophy. In the last few years, most of the players of the so called “golden generation” have retired and have been replaced with a lot of promising youngsters.

England are expected to be at the 2018 World Cup in three years time and are likely to have a strong side to take to Russia. In defence, they are blessed talented youngsters like John Stones, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Kieran Gibbs, Nathaniel Clyne and Ryan Bertrand. Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart is likely to be the man behind the sticks for the Three Lions.

In midfield, they have the likes of James Milner, Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana, Ross Barkley and Fabian Delph amongst others. They also have some upcoming youngsters in Eric Dier and Dele Alli, who look very promising for the England side.

The rise of Harry Kane is boding well for the England forward line. And apart from the Tottenham Hotspur forward, they also have the likes of Jesee Lingard and Danny Welbeck in their ranks.

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England have a good core of players in their ranks, but the biggest question mark remains on the ability of Roy Hodgson to guide the team to success.