After years of misery and dismay the English fans have still approached this year’s World Cup tournament in full voice, with the well-known chant ‘football’s coming home’ echoing across the UK.
It’s fair to say initially it was rather more in optimism than realism when you consider the fact England are yet to really be tested by a tough opponent in competitive circumstances. As well as the fact they were dumped out the European Championship by the smallest nation at this year’s World Cup, Iceland. However, after going down 1-0 against Belgium, the Three Lions found themselves finishing second. A position of great comfort indeed, especially having watch the last 16 games unfold.
While of course no game is ever easy, and every opponent should be respected in their own right, it is more than acceptable to say that England find themselves in a much more favourable side of the draw having finished second.
Yesterday, Gareth Southgate and the rest of the England camp with undoubtedly of watched on as their group opposition Belgium squeezed past a resilient Japanese side to book their place in the quarter-finals. Now, at this stage it could be argued England face the tougher opponent on paper in Colombia but consider the fact that waiting on the other side of that game for Belgium was the match up against Brazil… it could be worse. Lying in wait for England should they see off Radamel Falcao and co, will be the challenge of either Sweden or Switzerland.
If you were to simply work off the world rankings, it would be expected that Switzerland should be next in line for England. A side currently ranked 6th in the world should definitely not be taken for granted.
Switzerland though, should they qualify past Sweden would be again based on rankings, be England’s toughest opponent left in a rather pleasant route to the final.
Group G potential route’s (highest possible ranked opponents)
Belgium (Group winners):
Last 16 – Japan (61st)
Quarter-finals – Brazil (2nd)
Semi-finals – France (7th)
Final – Switzerland (6th)
England (Group runners-up):
Last 16 – Colombia (16th)
Quarter-finals – Switzerland (6th)
Semi-finals – Croatia (20th)
Final – Brazil (2nd)
Obviously, as can be seen it is surely more beneficial for England that they did finish second now. Realistically, it is not often you would get to a semi-final stage of a World Cup tournament and face a side ranked 20th in the world. Let’s not forget here those routes are based on the highest possible ranked opponents. If the hosts were to pull off another shock, England would be facing the 70th best team in the world for a place in a World Cup final. Crazy.
This opportunity has been gifted to England after some shock exit’s already at this year’s tournament. Current World Champions Germany were required to pack their bags straight after the group stages having not really performed to their usual standards. Soon after, the 2010 World Champions Spain followed them in dramatic fashion, as the lowest ranked side Russia knocked them out on penalties in the last 16.
Many would argue that this could be England’s best chance at World Cup glory for years to come and with a youthful look to the setup, it really would be a spectacular achievement.
By James Miller