Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions squad will be hoping to make it back-to-back finals in major international competitions later this year – and this time go one step better and lift the trophy.
Four years ago England reached the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup as the upturn in international fortunes began under Southgate, before they went the distance to the final at Euro 2020. Now in Qatar the objective will remain the same, to end the long wait since 1966 for success on the biggest stage.
Three matches in the group phase and then three further knock-out fixtures must be navigated at the finals before the trophy is up for grabs on December 18 at the 80,000-seater Lusail Stadium.
England navigated the qualifiers with ease to reach Qatar, winning eight and drawing two to finish ahead of Poland, Albania, Hungary, Andorra and San Marino. But many of those matches were merely opportunities for Southgate and his coaches to put early plans in place and get an idea of how the team can continue to be built in the pursuit of success this winter.
Here is the route England must now take to reach the World Cup final for the first time in over 50 years, and the sides they’ll face along the way.
If England win Group B:
The runner-up from Group A, so likely Senegal (over Qatar and Ecuador, with the Netherlands favored to finish top), especially as African champions.
The winner of the tie between the winner of Group D and the runner-up of Group C: Likely Franceshould they top their group – ahead of Denmark, Tunisia and Australia/United Arab Emirates/Peru – and then beat one of Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Poland.
The winners of Group F and Group H could find their way to the semi-finals to meet England should they get this far, which means a possible semi-final between England and Belgium or Portugal.
A final after navigating their way through the knock-out stages as runner-up could eventually see England play Spain, Germany or Brazil in the final.
If England finish as runner-up in Group B:
The winner from Group A, so likely the Netherlands (over Senegal, Qatar or Ecuador).
The winner of the tie between the winner of Group C and the runners-up of Group D: Argentina could emerge to face England here, should they top their group as favorites – over Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Poland – and then eliminate one of Denmark, Peru/Australia/United Arab Emirates and Tunisia.
The winner of Group E and Group G could find their way to the semi-finals to meet England should they get this far, which means a possible semi-final between England and the winner of Spain/Germany and Brazil.
A final after navigating their way through the knock-out stages as runner-up could eventually see England play France, Belgium or Portugal in the final.