England squad 2018: Three Lions, true dark horses

England World Cup 2018 buildup

Ever since World Cup ’98, this 2018 edition will be the first time in quite a while that England is coming into the tournament without too much fanfare and relatively the least expectations from its homeland.

With a healthy squad that is not considered as ‘golden generation’ material and with players devoid of ‘superstar qualities’ that transcend the football pitch and the sporting back-pages, it seems that this England team has been blessed with less pressure from the fans and the media. Such a situation could be only be helpful towards a successful campaign.

Here are the reasons why:


This squad is in a transition, made up of a good mix of established veterans and very promising young talents. But it definitely doesn’t have the quality of a golden generation (at least heading into this tournament). So the pressure is much less immense compared to let’s say 2006 and 2010.

England’s main star, Harry Kane, is a forward of the typical English sort – a target man – who is expected to score goals. Nothing extraordinary there, compared to wonder-kids or geniuses of recent past like Michael Owen or Wayne Rooney who, with their immense talent, were given too much pressure to perform at the highest level with their modern style of play.

Young Marcus Rashford, who is 20 years old and has modern qualities as a forward, seems to have less pressure on his shoulders. Although it might change depending on his performances, where a stellar output in the group stage could catapult him to hero status. But as of this moment, he’s not, which is a good thing as he can fully focus on his game.

England’s ‘wonder kid’ in this edition of the tournament is none other than 19-year old Trent Alexander-Arnold. But he plays at right-back, mainly a defender, so it’s less likely that he’ll be the main centre of attention when it comes to pulling off miracles for the Three Lions.


England David Beckham

Remember David Beckham undergoing all modern, cutting edge therapy procedures to have his left metatarsal bone repaired just to make the 2002 squad?

Michael Owen England

How about Michael Owen back in 2006, when all of England held their breaths as he raced to match readiness for the World Cup in Germany after suffering the same injury (in his case the right foot) in a Premiership match on December the previous year?

England will have none of those this time.


This bunch doesn’t have a crossover power-couple like David and Victoria Beckham whose aura radiated even to other star couples of the English team.

England World Cup WAGs

Expect less media coverage that deals about their better halves which could add to the noise and distraction to England’s World Cup preparations and actual campaign.


This England squad doesn’t have to deal with household name superstars jostling for the starting eleven spot.

Most of the players making up the 23-man squad are those who are hungry and raring to make an impression in the biggest stage in international football, but at the same time seem to be the most team oriented collection of players.

With all these factors considered, the 2018 FIFA World Cup could bode well for the Three Lions.


What this squad exhibits are hunger, hard-work and a lot of points to prove, both as individuals and as a team. A good example of which is striker Jamie Vardy who used to play non-league football before being an instrumental part of Leicester City’s 2015-16 miracle run to the Premier League title.

The media (even the team and the FA to an extent), is not fanning much of the flame around the player (quite the contrary) at this moment, but there’s a chance Jamie could play a part in England’s front-line as the tournament rolls along due to his proven goalscoring ability and, most important of all, his cunning as a striker.

This 2018 England World Cup squad may be unheralded, but the thing is, hiding in their unassuming skins are the most dangerous beasts you could imagine, the Three Lions, and this makes them the most  threatening dark horses in the tournament.

The English media, Manager Gareth Southgate, and even the FA (whether intended or not) seem to be doing something right for benefit of the team.

Related article: Southgate: We need to improve