The 32 nations are ready for the FIFA World Cup in Russia
Earlier this month, we learned that Crawley’s Gareth Southgate, the Three Lions’ manager, has selected his 23-man squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Having led the Under-21 team from 2013 until he was appointed as interim and later permanent manager for the senior team in 2016, it may not have come as a surprise that the squad selected is one of the freshest for a major tournament. All the 32 national teams are now in the final preparations for the tournament, which is taking place from 14 June to 15 July.
Another former Crawley local, Dan Walker, will swap the BBC Breakfast sofa for the World Cup and join football megastars Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Rio Ferdinand to bring us all the action on the BBC. On the other hand, ITV has lined up Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane, Ian Wright and Lee Dixon plus England women’s striker Eniola Aluko, to name a few.
To get as much as possible out of the World Cup this summer, why not join in the fun by picking your global fantasy football team, predicting the winner of each game for a £100 Million Challenge prize or taking part in a friendly sweepstake with your friends?
The Opening Game
The host nation will take on Saudi Arabia in the opening game at the national arena, Luzhniki Stadium, in Moscow on 14 June. ITV has secured the broadcasting rights to this game, which according to most predictions, should be an easy home win.
England’s Group Games
England, who is ranked 13th by FIFA, will face Tunisia (ranked 14th) in their first game on Monday, 18 June. The teams have only played each other twice before, and the last time was in the 1998 World Cup when England won with 2-0 after Alan Shearer and Paul Scholes scored.
Just like the first group game for England, BBC will broadcast the second game, which takes place on Sunday, 24 June, with England playing against Panama. It should be an easy win, with Panama ranked as one of the weakest teams taking part in the tournament. They are ranked as 55th in the world by FIFA.
Following two hopefully, successful games, the Three Lions will need all their players fit and at their best for the final game in the group against third-ranked Belgium, which will be shown on ITV and takes place on Thursday, 28 June. Fifteen of the Belgian players usually play in the Premier League, so Southgate and his team will know them well. Historically, England have a good track record against Belgium, with only two defeats out of 15 matches.
Following the Action
Once you start selecting your fantasy football team or trying to predict who will win each of the games in the tournament, you may find that your allegiances are somewhat split when you are watching the various games. Perhaps you have Eden Hazard in your squad, and he scores a goal against England; while it may not be great for England, it’ll help your fantasy football team score for sure. Alternatively, you may find that you are suddenly interested in Swedish football and doing your best while pronouncing names like Augustinsson, Helander, Hiljemark and Thelin.
It’s one thing supporting a team with your heart and a completely different one to predict the right winner or selecting the best squad as a fantasy football manager. Whichever way it goes for Southgate’s Three Lions, make sure you don’t miss out on the action. Keep an eye on our events listings too to find World Cup screenings or other related football fun in your local area this summer.