Weighing Up England’s World Cup Prospects
England fans have dreamt of winning the World Cup for over 50 years, and for most of that time, it’s been something of a joke. But with strong recent performances, suddenly it seems rather plausible. Can England win the Qatar World Cup in 2022?
What Do The Bookies Say?
English views on the football team’s prospects at the World Cup has, historically, been a triumph of optimism over realism, hope against expectation, dreams that do not survive contact with reality. It is something quite odd, then, to reflect that this has genuinely changed. In the most recent international tournaments (the last World Cup and the last Euros) England has finished top four in both, narrowly missing out on winning the European title altogether. Suddenly it’s not just hardcore fans who are talking about England perhaps winning the World Cup. It’s serious pundits and bettors who have England on the list of countries that could credibly take the tournament.
One of the biggest changes, and new advantages, that England enjoy over previous teams is a certain degree of psychological resilience. The country is football mad, it’s the number one sport by a long distance, and this means there’s always a lot of pressure. This is not, of course, unique to England (just as Brazil and Italy love the sport) but, in the past, English teams even with promising lineups have crumpled under the pressure. Now there seems to be a greater spirit of unity, with players gelling together much better and a sense of camaraderie between not only the players but Gareth Southgate, the team boss.
Sports betting odds always vary a little from one bookie or betting exchange to the next, but right now England are around third favourite, just behind joint-favourites Brazil or France. Using the decimal system of odds, those other two countries are on 7 (6/1 in old money) with England a hair behind on 7.5. This may sound too short (they’re actually shorter than Italy, 9, who beat them in the Euros final) but England has been top four in the last World Cup and the last Euros, which is a very high degree of consistency. A problem sports bettors face is that the draw won’t be made until 2022, so assessing who has a rough group is not currently possible, and that will have a material effect not only on chances of escaping the group stage but the potential path to the final. The major advantage England has over the other three named teams is that it has been the most consistent performer in the last two international tournaments. But how might the other teams fare?
Among the Commonwealth nations, England is clearly heading the field but it’s not the only name in the game. Looking at the other home nations (Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland), the latter needs a miracle to qualify, and Scotland has odds of 251. Wales, meanwhile, is 151, so while England’s nearest neighbours would dearly love to upset the apple cart it seems unlikely on this occasion.
On the other side of the world, Australia is renowned for its love of sports and achievements in different categories, particularly rugby and cricket. Football, alas, is another matter, as Australia’s odds are out at 201. New Zealand, however, are even longer at 501, so unless something very unexpected (and lucrative, if you fancy a long shot) happens, they’re not really in it.
In 1986 Canada achieved its only qualification for the World Cup, to date. Right now they’re so unlikely to win in 2022 you may have difficulty finding a bookie offering odds, although qualification is still possible. However, by being joint hosts with Mexico and the United States in 2026, Canada will probably (although it’s yet to be officially confirmed) get the automatic chance to perform on the global stage then.
It’s never been more convenient for Canadian online casino players to engage in sports betting, with this new bill that legalizes single game sports betting making things much more straightforward. Sports betting, odd as it may sound to non-Canadians, until that bill the only way to bet was to make multi-stage parlay bets (also known as multiples or accumulators elsewhere).
The Other Favourites
Likelihood to win a World Cup is only a relative measure. If one of the top four falters in the group stage then the other three favourites will see their odds shorten. So how are England’s title rivals shaping up? Brazil is one of the names almost always in the mix to take football’s greatest prize. But last time out they were beaten by Belgium in the quarters (Belgium would go on to finish 3rd overall, beating England in the third-place playoff match). Not so hot. But in the 2019 Copa América (hosted in Brazil, which may have conferred a small advantage) the team topped Group A before getting to the final without losing a goal. There they faced and beat, Peru to take the title.
France is another fancied favourite, and they won the last World Cup. Interestingly, they faced a scare against Argentina in the Round of 16, just scraping through, and this was repeated with the opposite result in the Euros when they were knocked out by Switzerland. France are contenders but they may stutter. In addition, although warmer than England, the French may be another team that finds the heat of Qatar tricky.
Italy won the last Euros, including narrowly beating England in the final, but they didn’t even manage to qualify for the 2018 World Cup (and in 2014 were eliminated at the group stage, although the same can be said of England). In short, the Italian football team has taken a path even more inconsistent than the French side, winning one recent tournament and not even appearing at the other. This degree of inconsistency might make it better to back England for the title simply because it appears they’re more reliable than other sides.
England’s relative weakness is versus teams ahead of them in the rankings, losing half their matches to such sides under Southgate (winning a quarter and drawing a quarter). This may make it a good bet to back England for the title but bet against them when they encounter the big guns. Don’t forget that there are more categories out there than just the straight title bet.
The Team And The Players
The tournament also comes at a helpful time for England, with the majority of its stalwarts in their prime and only a handful (Henderson, Walker, and Trippier) currently over 30. This means England does not have the problem of untested young bloods or old stagers who are capable but showing their age a bit. Italy’s defensive pairing of Bonucci and Chiellini are getting a little old, while Brazil’s Neymar is world-class but not surrounded by players of the same calibre.
The calm and pragmatic approach of Gareth Southgate isn’t only about how events unfold on the pitch but also about a state of mind and this, more than anything else, has led to England taking the step from being theoretically possible of winning tournaments to actually being capable of it.
On this score, England are in a good position, both in terms of how they stand as a side and by way of comparison with other teams that are not in the same place.
Handling The Heat
One of the reasons there was controversy over heading to Qatar for the World Cup is the temperature. The summers are brutal, hitting average highs of 42C (108F) for three months of the year. This has led to a rescheduling of the tournament from its traditional summer slot to just before Christmas when temperatures may range from lows of 16C (61F) up to 30C (86F).
A major question is how the stadia will fare. Teams from hotter countries (Brazil standing out among the favourites) may find these easier going than national sides from places not renowned for warm temperatures (of the favourites, England has the coolest climate). Cooling systems are intended to cut stadium temperatures by around 20C (36F) but the effectiveness of such systems remains to be proven.
In the best case scenario this will be a level playing field, but if the cooling is not up to scratch this should be a problem for England more than other top teams (how much of a problem is hard to assess). It may be wise to keep an eye on social media and regular news for both this and breaking injury news which could significantly shift matters in England’s favour, or against the team. However, they’re unlikely to be as affected as countries with especially cold climates such as Canada, Sweden, or Iceland.
Weight of Expectation
England seem set fair to qualify and it’d be quite the shock now if they didn’t, but that’s still possible. ‘England Expects’ might be a patriotic headline (and harks back to the days of Nelson) but it also produces immense pressure. No other sport has the standing of football in the UK but in recent memory, they’ve had world cup wins in rugby and cricket, yet the solitary football triumph was back in the mid-60s.
So far, the team seems to be doing pretty well on this score, which is a little bit of a pleasant surprise.
Overall, England may actually be a good bet to win the World Cup, strange as that is to write. If you’re feeling a bit nervous about jinxing it, then backing them to reach the final or top 4 might be good alternative bets.