Saturday 17 November 2018

England’s route to glory at the 2018 World Cup

Gareth Southgate’s side will go into their match against Belgium with the full picture of how the rest of the knockout stage looks.

Will Gareth Southgate be celebrating in Moscow on July 15? (Adam Davy/PA)
Will Gareth Southgate be celebrating in Moscow on July 15? (Adam Davy/PA)

By Press Association Sport staff

England face Belgium on Thursday night to decide who finishes first and second in Group G.

Gareth Southgate’s side will at least be able to go into the match with the full picture of how the rest of the knockout stage looks before kick-off in Kaliningrad.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at the two routes England could take if they finished first or second, with further opponents selected by world ranking.

Route 1 – England finish top

v Senegal, last 16

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England’s possible route to the World Cup final (PA Graphic)

The Lions of Teranga are currently second in Group H with a game against Colombia to come. Liverpool forward Sadio Mane’s pace and guile would be a threat to the Three Lions.

v Brazil, quarter-final

Brazil will be favourites to beat Mexico in the last 16 and could be England’s quarter-final opponents, just as they were at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea. The South Americans appear to be moving through the gears and the in-form Philippe Coutinho and unpredictable Neymar would be obvious threats.

v Portugal, semi-final

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Cristiano Ronaldo is in ominous form at the World Cup (Francisco Seco/AP)

Should England come through a meeting with the Brazilians, Cristiano Ronaldo and co could lie in wait in the final four. A chance for revenge after penalty shoot-out defeats to them at Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup? Portugal’s ranking suggests they would overcome Uruguay and Argentina to reach this stage.

v Belgium, final

Route one ends where it began – together with Belgium again, albeit with much more riding on the outcome in Moscow than in Kaliningrad. Would Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’ prevail over Southgate’s precocious lion cubs?

Route 2 – England finish second

v Japan, last 16

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Shinji Okazaki and Japan currently top Group H (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The Blue Samurai have performed well despite sacking coach Vahid Halilhodzic in April. They are top of Group H currently and face eliminated Poland in their final game on Thursday afternoon.

v Switzerland, quarter-finals

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Stoke’s Xherdan Shaqiri is one of the best-known Swiss players to England fans (Antonio Calanni/AP)

The world rankings suggest the Swiss would get the better of Sweden in the last 16, but England would certainly prefer this to an encounter with Brazil.

v Spain, semi-finals

The 2010 winners at their best can still pass teams off the pitch, but Portugal demonstrated their weaknesses and even Iran had them rattled. The rankings suggest Fernando Hierro’s men could reach this stage by beating Russia and Croatia.

v Brazil, final

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Will Neymar be celebrating on July 15 in Moscow? (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

There’s just no avoiding Brazil, the highest-ranked team left in the competition after Germany’s exit. The South Americans would have to get past Mexico, Belgium and Portugal to get this far, but they have the pedigree to do it.

Press Association

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