When Eric Dier drove his penalty kick simply previous the outstretched fingers of Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina and into the again of the online, he broke a 22-year English streak of dropping on penalty kicks. The plain query now’s whether or not England can break a much more vital streak that’s lasted even longer: 52 years without winning a World Cup.
Whereas each staff within the quarterfinals has a nonzero probability of lifting the cup, this query presses on England notably for 2 causes. First, England obtained a massively lucky draw. The 2 powerhouse groups remaining within the event, Brazil and France, are each on the opposite side of the bracket. Spain was supposed to dam England’s path to the ultimate, but it surely lost on penalties to Russia. This leaves simply Sweden and both Croatia or Russia standing in the best way of The Three Lions.
And second, it’s not like England needed to knock off the world’s greatest to get right here. Drawn into a bunch with Tunisia and Panama in addition to Belgium, England was hugely favored to reach the knockouts. Colombia as a spherical of 16 draw was troublesome on paper, however the absence of superstar James Rodriguez meant that even this match was not towards a real equal.
Based on FiveThirtyEight’s Soccer Power Index as a measure of the standard of competitors,1 Uruguay and Belgium have had the lightest schedule, however every would probably should get by each Brazil and France to make the ultimate. England has confronted the third weakest set of opponents up to now, and its run to the ultimate is projected because the second best of all of the remaining contenders, ever so barely behind Croatia.2
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Nevertheless it’s not simply luck for England. As Bobby Gardiner highlighted for FiveThirtyEight, England has developed a legitimately good staff with a coherent tactical identification based mostly on urgent instantly after a turnover to win again the ball in harmful areas.
As Gardiner outlined, this tactic was developed partially as a result of most of England’s gamers ply their commerce at among the highest-pressing sides on the planet. However that’s not the one purpose: England additionally lacks a correct inventive midfielder. Not one of the top 30 ball progressors in the big five leagues is English, and the 31st, Jack Wilshere, didn’t make the squad.
The hope is that by forcing turnovers, England can get the ball in superior positions with out asking much less expansive passers like Dier or Jordan Henderson to offer development from deep areas.
To this point the outcomes have been blended. England was dominant against Tunisia and created quite a lot of clear probabilities from open play. However towards Panama, Belgium and Colombia, England relied totally on set performs to get probabilities. To this point within the World Cup, in keeping with knowledge analytics agency Opta Sports activities, England has 30 photographs from set performs, essentially the most within the event — Spain is second with 28. The place England has notably excelled is in profitable fouls in harmful areas to get photographs from free kicks, both with direct makes an attempt on purpose or designed set performs. The Three Lions’ 17 photographs from free kicks are by far essentially the most on the World Cup, with Spain and Argentina trailing at 12.
As manager Gareth Southgate has said, this success in set performs does replicate efficient attacking play, forcing opposition groups to surrender fouls in harmful areas. In different phrases, England is doing a great job of progressing the ball into the ultimate third, and the staff is being rewarded with set piece alternatives.
Nevertheless, these ways don’t go well with one in all England’s greatest gamers. England isn’t a respectable World Cup contender just because Harry Kane occurred. On the similar time that Kane was creating into one in all soccer’s greatest pure strikers for Tottenham, Raheem Sterling was making the leap at Manchester Metropolis and changing into an elite inside ahead.
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The unbelievable season that Mo Salah had for Liverpool considerably obscured Sterling’s huge enchancment in manufacturing — 22 goals and 12 assists in a bit over three,000 minutes within the Premier League and the Champions League. However set items aren’t Sterling’s sport. Whereas Kane tried 26 headed photographs final season within the Premier League, Sterling tried only one. Sterling excels at receiving balls at his toes — he was second within the league in progressive passes acquired with 6.5.
Although England’s set performs have been good for Kane — as his two goals against Tunisia demonstrated — they’ve finished nothing for Sterling, who has no goals and just one assist in his three video games performed. One of the simplest ways to get Sterling concerned can be to develop an open-play technique for getting the ball into the penalty space and permitting him to create. As long as England is determined by set performs, the staff sidelines one in all its most harmful attackers.
The Three Lions have made it this far by an easy draw with the press and set play plan. But when England intends on defeating a superpower like Brazil or France and lifting the cup, it would want each of its forwards within the sport.
Take a look at our newest World Cup predictions.