Gareth Southgate heads into Friday’s World Cup draw believing England can win the tournament – but admits they will have to be “close to perfect” to triumph in Qatar.
Confidence, experience and belief have all grown in the England squad thanks to the run to the semi-finals at the 2018 World Cup and reaching the final of Euro 2020 last summer. Southgate accepts his team are “there to be shot at” but that they have a right to rate their chances.
“We have said to the team this week, ‘if we can get to a semi-final, we can get to a final, and we did. If we can get to a final, we can win’. That’s clear,” Southgate said.
“To do that is incredibly difficult and we’ll have to be as close to perfect as can be. That’s the challenge for us, not just when we get to Qatar, because we’ve got to be in the right condition, even before that. That’s what we’ve got to work towards every day we’re together.
“We know we’ve had consistent performances over a three, four-year period and we are one of the teams – I think there are a few – that could win this tournament.”
England are in pot one alongside the other highest-ranked six nations in the draw plus hosts Qatar. Dangers lurking in pot two include Holland, Germany and Croatia, while a meet-up with Scotland or Wales is not out of the question, with those two nations grouped with Ukraine as one placeholder in pot four.
Asked how other teams might feel about facing England, Southgate said: “We’ve definitely got respectability and I think we will be a team other teams wouldn’t look forward to playing. But that’s a double-edged sword though because some teams are going to prepare differently for you.
“You’re there to be shot at and they are going to have a specific way of playing to try and stop you, but some will be a little bit fearful of you and might allow you more of the game, so from our point of view, what really matters is how it makes us feel about ourselves.”
The tournament is the first in the Middle East, which excites the traveller in Southgate, and while the compact nature of the venues makes moving around easy for fans, there are aspects that concern the England boss from a player preparation point of view.
“The ‘watch out’ for us is you don’t even move hotel the night before the game, so how do you switch the mindset from, ‘this is just another training day’ to that feeling when you go on the road and think, ‘OK, it’s match day tomorrow, we’re into a different hotel’, because that does actually switch the players’ minds,” he said.
“So we’re going to perhaps have to consider those aspects of it to make sure it’s not just a long continual.”
When is the draw?
The draw for the tournament takes place on Friday 1 April 2022, at the DECC venue in Doha, Qatar at circa 5pm BST.
You can follow the draw live on skysports.com and the Sky Sports app.
Who could England face?
World Cup seeds (Pot One – England’s group):
Pot Two (Guaranteed):
Pot Three (Guaranteed):
- South Korea
Pot Four (Guaranteed):
- Saudi Arabia
- + 3 UEFA, intercontinental playoffs
UEFA and Intercontinental play-offs:
- Wales vs Scotland or Ukraine
- Australia or United Arab Emirates vs Peru
- Costa Rica vs New Zealand
So who could England face?
Worst-case scenario: England, Germany, Senegal, Peru
Best-case scenario: England, Switzerland, Canada, Saudi Arabia