The biggest football tournament on the planet is set to kick off in Qatar! With England looking to go a step further this year, and Wales in their first World Cup finals since 1958, the hype is building.
As the two sides have been drawn together in Group B, alongside the USA and Iran, only the top two can advance to the knockout stages.
Can this Three Lions squad emulate the heroes of the 1966 side? Or will the Dragons shock their rivals against the odds?
Stay locked in, as we’re runnin’ through the squads, the stats and the hopes that rest on both nations’ players…
The Three Lions
England’s path to another major international tournament was smooth sailing at the qualifying stages. With eight wins from their 10 games, they conceded just three times against 39 goals scored. This included a 0-10 thrashing over San Marino on the final matchday, Harry Kane bagging four in the process.
Gareth Southgate’s squad raised a few eyebrows, featuring surprise picks and interesting omissions. Leicester City fans’ prayers were answered when James Maddison was announced as a forward option, as were Chelsea fans’ when Conor Gallagher came as a shock inclusion in the middle of the park.
With Harry Maguire pipping Fikayo Tomori to a centre back spot, and Callum Wilson’s Newcastle form enough to edge out Brentford’s Ivan Toney, this England squad has plenty of potential.
Jordan Pickford will look to build on his 45-cap England career, keeping 19 clean sheets along the way.
In defence, Manchester City’s John Stones and Kyle Walker hold 60 and 70 caps respectively, the latter yet to score a goal for the national side.
While in midfield, Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson will be the experienced head to marshal his troops, also racking up 70 appearances for his country.
Captain Harry Kane stands out in attack, just two goals from equalling Wayne Rooney’s England goalscoring record of 53. What’s even more impressive is this has taken him just 75 senior caps to reach this point.
Wales’ route to Qatar was far less simple. The first matchday of the group qualifiers kicked off back in March 2021, starting up with a 3-1 loss to Belgium.
That was to be their only loss in the eight qualifying games, though, securing a 1-1 draw with the Red Devils on the final matchday to finish up a single point ahead of the Czech Republic in the runners up spot.
Coming up against Ukraine in the qualifying final, the underdogs were lifted through a Gareth Bale goal in the first half to put them ahead. Despite a flurry of chances for the Ukrainians, Bale’s sole goal put them through to their first World Cup tournament in 64 years.
Rob Page’s 26-man squad offered no real surprises, with Bale still the star of the show up front. Alongside him, the Premier League trio of Daniel James, Kieffer Moore and Brennan Johnson add a blend of youth and experience.
Recently moving to Nice, Aaron Ramsey will combine with the likes of Swansea’s Joe Allen and Fulham’s Harry Wilson for an aging yet still exciting midfield.
The only big question for starting position comes in goal. Wayne Hennessey put in one of the performances of his 100-cap career against Ukraine, but Danny Ward has started to prove himself after taking the no.1 gloves at Leicester.
Bale’s goalscoring record always makes the headlines. Finding the net 40 times in 108 caps in a side that struggles to find the net, he always comes turns up in the big games.
Defender Chris Gunter has amassed a cap more than the Welsh captain, making him the third player in this squad to reach the century milestone.
Show Your Support
England start their campaign against Iran, while Wales take on the USA. The pair then swap opponents on the second matchday before going head-to-head in the third and final game of the group stage.
How crucial will that game be? With more than just pride on the line, make sure you’re backing your side with the latest international kits right here!
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JD Football | November 21, 2023