How will England play at the World Cup?

How will England play at the World Cup?
(Image credit: Getty)

After failing to make the most of their feted "Golden Generation", England have recently become one of the more successful sides in tournament football – albeit without lifting any actual silverware. After reaching the semi-final of Russia 2018, the Three Lions lost in the final of Euro 2020, and will be among the favourites to go one better in Qatar. 

Under Gareth Southgate, England have tended to be stubborn as opposed to spectacular, but still boast a dazzling collection of forwards, and some of the best youngsters in world football. 

But how will England play in Qatar, what is their best formation and where do their strengths and weaknesses lie? FFT brings you the lowdown...

What formation will England play in Qatar?

How will England play at the World Cup?

(Image credit: Future)

At Euro 2020, England switched between a 4-2-3-1 and a 3-4-3 formation, depending on the strength of the opposition. However, it appears Southgate has settled on the latter formation in recent months and it is likely England will predominantly utilise this formation in Qatar. 

Jordan Pickford is a shoe-in between the posts, while John Stones and Harry Maguire are among the manager's most trusted players and will bookend the back three. The third defender is slightly more of a mystery but recent fixtures indicate Eric Dier will operate in the central role. 

Wingbacks Luke Shaw and Kieran Tripper look fairly set in stone (particularly with Reece James an injury concern), while Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham have performed well together in the autumn friendlies. Unless Kalvin Phillips can get up to speed quickly at Man City, following a lengthy spell on the sidelines, it's unlikely he'll start. 

In attack, Harry Kane is England's captain and best player and will certainly be fielded centrally. Who flanks him is more debatable. Despite a slow start at Chelsea, Raheem Sterling is a trusted goalscorer from the left and will likely play a key role, while Bukayo Saka has shone for club and country in recent seasons. 

What is England's style of play?

How will England play at the World Cup

(Image credit: Getty)

Under Southgate, England have tended to favour a more defensive set-up, with three defenders screened by two industrious central midfielders. This tactic congests the centre of the pitch and makes the Three Lions tough to play through. 

England utilise a variable pressing game, pushing high against weaker opponents while allowing more technically savvy opponents to bring the ball further up the pitch before the press is initiated. 

In possession, wingbacks are relied upon to add width and attacking threat. The crossing ability of Luke Shaw and Kieran Tripper has been key to England's successes of late and will likely be pivotal again in Qatar. 

Up top, Harry Kane has a tendency to drop deeper into midfield, where he can collect the ball and pick passes for the wide forwards to run onto. The Tottenham forward and Sterling will be crucial in terms for finishing chances around the box. 

Strengths and weaknesses 

Harry Maguire holds his head during England's 1-0 defeat to Italy in the UEFA Nations League.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

England's biggest strength is Harry Kane. The 29 year old is one of the world's best creators, finishers and penalty takers. He is an experienced scorer on the biggest stage, having won the Golden Boot in Russia and scored four times at Euro 2020. If he is fit, England always have a chance, regardless of the opposition. 

Another strength is set pieces. In Tripper, England possess a world-class striker of dead balls – be it corners or free-kicks – and the Newcastle defender has an impressive number of aerial threats to aim for, including Kane, Stones and Maguire.

Strength in depth, particularly in attacking midfield, is another string to England's bow. From the bench, they could summon the likes of Mason Mount, Marcus Rashford, Phil Foden, Jason Sancho and Jack Grealish. Few other International sides will have such an array of creative options to call upon.

Weaknesses include central defence, with neither Stones or Maguire, England's most experienced defenders, first choice at their respective clubs this season. The team also lacks a deep-lying creative presence in midfield; a player who can dictate tempo in the style of Luka Modric or Joshua Kimmich, say. This has been their undoing at recent tournaments. 

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