England’s route to glory at the 2018 World Cup
How the next few weeks could pan out from an England perspective.
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
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 Germany, quarter-final
Joachim Low’s men have struggled but the world rankings say they should win a last-16 heavyweight battle with Brazil to set up a meeting with England. Please, please, please, no penalties.
v Portugal, semi-final
Should England come through a meeting with the Germans, 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 Russia and France to reach this stage.
v Belgium, final
Big performance today! Love playing with this team 😍🇧🇪💪🏼 pic.twitter.com/2P5lpQKLXD— Dries Mertens (@dries_mertens14) June 23, 2018
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
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
The world rankings suggest the Swiss would get the better of an exciting Mexico side in the last 16, but England would certainly prefer this to an encounter with Germany.
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 Uruguay and Croatia.
v Germany, final
There’s just no avoiding Germany. Maybe this is less route two, and more route 66 as it would inevitably bring to mind England’s one and only triumph 52 years ago. Germany would have come past Brazil, Belgium and Portugal to get this far.