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Remind me next time

Do you think England can win the World Cup?

It’s a question that will stir the passions over the coming months. Yes, they need to improve and it’ll be far from easy. 

But I know what my answer is.

Too right they f*cking can!

Look, I know the Nations League games were a damp squib and, in the case of that second game against Hungary, a f*cking disaster.

But having read the fallout from those matches and heard all the comments, you’d think England had no chance. People said they were too ponderous, too wasteful, and lacked dynamism.

But listen up boys and girls. Those games came at the end of a long season. If they were friendlies, as is usually the case pre-World Cup, then no-one would’ve batted an eyelid.

Now, I’m all for competitive games - and much prefer Nations League matches as opposed to friendlies. It means there’s something on the line.

But let’s get some context.

Not just were these matches after a tough season, but the changing of the team can always make things unbalanced - and when you look at the chances they had to score, some of those games should have been wrapped up.

Okay, that Hungary debacle showed a worryingly brittle England, probably for the first time under Gareth Southgate’s charge, but they were chasing the game and it became one match too far. They cannot be written off because of that.

Look how they got on in the last World Cup - they reached the semi-finals. Look how they got on in the Euros - they reached the final.

Yes, the naysayers will talk about the teams they faced to get to that point and the opportunities wasted again Croatia in the World Cup and then Italy in the Euros - England could have and should have won both matches.

But most tournament winners have their share of luck in the draw - and Gareth and his backroom team will have learned from those games which went against them ultimately.

Let’s praise the fact they got in that position in the first place - and let’s get behind England.

And mark my words, no stone has been left unturned in getting the Three Lions in the best place at the right time.

Their base in Qatar looks perfect and, with the earlier start to the season and the winter break, the clubs have been well prepped.

Southgate will have been in contact with the club managers and they’ll know the score - and I’m sure will work with him. Sure, their own club interests come first, but the players themselves will want to be at their best, too.

And d’you know what, I reckon they will be.

Usually these tournaments come at the end of the season - and for those involved in important matches and cup finals it’s already a long season even before they head to a World Cup or a Euros.

Not this time, this is unique.

When the players head to the airport, they’ll be at the peak of the powers. It’ll almost be mid-season and these boys will be flying. I know it’s the same for others, but the Premier League is the best league in the world and it can take its toll. But not this year.

outrights

So who are the players who can win England the World Cup - or at least get us close to winning?

Those lovely people at Easyodds told me to select three players who might get England over the line. So here goes.

I’m starting with Harry Kane.

Harry’s a fantastic player who keeps on improving.

He puts the ball away, has broken most goalscoring records out there, but is also getting better and better as a footballer. He knits up the play well, turns defence into attack quickly, is a tremendous passer of the ball - and is just all over the pitch. 

Next man I’m putting up is Declan Rice.

England are blessed with enormous young talent in the shape of Foden, Bellingham Alexander-Arnold, James, Mount and Saka - and many others coming through. And Rice is the leader of that pack. He makes West Ham tick and will increasingly make England tick - he’s their rock and their base.

My third player is Raheem Stirling.

Hugely experienced now, a much-mooted move back to London looks perfect for Raheem, especially in a World Cup year.

He will get more game time and more responsibility wherever he goes - and he remains a player who just opens up defences, makes runs, and gets into goalscoring positions.

Who do you think will shine in Qatar? And do England have a realistic chance? Let me know.

I’ll be cheering on Wales and England in the World Cup - and I’ll be looking at Wales’s chances closer to the time.

Next week I’ll be concentrating on the Women’s Euro 2022 - and weighing up England’s chances of bringing it home.

Have a good week boys and girls,

Vinnie.