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World Cup Preview: England

England v Nigeria - International Friendly Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

A full preview is a bit outside the Royal Blue Mersey scope, but everyone loves the World Cup. As such, we’re going to take a few days to preview each team that named an Everton player in their squad. First up: England.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford (Everton), Jack Butland (Stoke City), Nick Pope (Burnley)
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Harry Maguire (Leicester City), Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Tottenham Hotspur), Kyle Walker (Manchester City), Ashley Young (Manchester City
Midfielders: Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Fabian Delph (Manchester City), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Crystal Palace/Chelsea)
Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal), Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)
Reserves: Tom Heaton (Burnley), James Tarkowski (Burnley), Lewis Cook (Bournemouth), Jake Livermore (West Bromwich Albion), Adam Lallana (Liverpool

System

Despite not having a great set of central defenders, Gareth Southgate has been consistent with his usage of the 3-4-3/3-4-1-2, with an emphasis on playing out of the back in order to facilitate the attack. This involves one of the world’s best right backs - Kyle Walker - at center back, possibly multiple defensive midfielders, and two fullbacks deployed more as wide midfielders.

It remains to be seen if these tactics will be enough to break down the teams England could face in the knockout rounds, but credit Southgate for at least sticking with something he believes in.

Strengths

Up front, England are in good shape. Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling were the two best attackers in the Premier League this season not named Mohamed Salah, and are more than capable of carrying the load. Jamie Vardy and Marcus Rashford provide an excellent change of pace, and Danny Welbeck won’t play.

The Three Lions are (for once) strong in goal, too. Pickford looks set to be between the sticks for a decade, and Nick Pope had an outstanding year for the Clarets. Jack Butland is huge.

Weaknesses

Oy. England’s central defenders are decidedly mediocre, which matches the center of midfield quite nicely. The two position groups are led by the captains mediocre themselves in Gary Cahill and Jordan Henderson. Want to move the ball along in a creative manner or perhaps keep pace with the likes of Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens? Look elsewhere.

X-Factor

Dele Alli. You know what you’re going to get from Sterling and Kane, and as mediocre as they are, the defenders are at least consistent in their mediocrity. England’s midfield is what could make or break them, and Dele is the best ball-player of the group. If he can drop deep and provide service to the forwards, the Three Lions will be better off.

England v Nigeria - International Friendly Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Everton Angle

The Blues just can’t help themselves with the whole “having a goalkeeper immensely important to his national team’s success” thing. Tim Howard is gone now, but Jordan Pickford is here, and England will rely on his distributive abilities to begin attacks. He’s only got 3 caps, but Jordan Pickford is England’s number one.

Group Stage Schedule

England v. Tunisia | Volgograd | June 18 | 2:00 PM EST/7:00 PM BST
England v. Panama | Novgorod | June 24 | 8:00 AM EST/1:00 PM BST
England v. Belgium | Kaliningrad | June 28 | 2:00 PM EST/7:00 PM BST

Prediction

Out in the Round of 16. England should beat Tunisia and Panama in the group matches (who knows what happens against Belgium), but it feels four years too soon for this group, particularly when they’re likely to face an incisive Colombia side to begin the knockout stage.