Who will be England’s best player?
Kyle Walker. Forget Harry Kane, he may be world class, but the pressure got to him in 2016, and there are fears it’ll happen again. Walker, however, will be playing in a far less pressured position, likely as a third centre-back. While out of position, he has shown himself to be a versatile player, possessing a range of attributes. Having also spent a season under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola, breaking an array of records along the way, he will certainly be the man to stand out for England in Russia.
How far will England get?
Quarter-finals. This is England’s weakest squad for a generation. But, the gods have been kind and the draw offers a routine route to a quarter-final. Feasibly, a win against Panama, a draw against Tunisia and a loss to Belgium would be enough to make the last 16, at which point, as group runners-up, we would face a top seed. However, with a neighbouring group possessing no powerhouses, the trickiest opponent would be Colombia. A solid outfit, but nothing spectacular. Anything other than a quarter-final must therefore be considered as a failure for Southgate’s men. From there, three wins and we’re world champions. Whisper it quietly.
Who will win the Golden Boot?
Lionel Messi? Cristiano Ronaldo? The big names will certainly play their role, but the real contender for this has to be Luis Suarez of Uruguay. Group opponents Russia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia will provide plenty of scope for the wonderfully talented Barcelona forward to grab some early goals. With their progress looking straightforward, he will have the games to get the necessary goals. As long as he keeps out of trouble, expect big things.
Which established nation will disappoint?
Belgium arguably has the best squad in the world. This is their golden generation. But there is a reason why they are no one’s favourites, they are regularly underwhelming, as the 2016 Euros would suggest. In Roberto Martinez, they have a manager who is not up to the level of his players, and with the recent decision to leave out Roma’s talisman Radja Nainggolan for suspected personal reasons, there is likely to be a lack of respect from the squad. A highly talented bunch, but a group that is likely to disappoint.
Who’ll be the winner?
This is going to be a tight and hard-fought tournament with no stand-out team. Yet you cannot look past Spain. These World Cups are won on small margins and with it being hosted in Russia you can rule out some of South America’s best; history dictates this. Spain not only do they have an array of talent in the squad, but it is perfectly well balanced. With the steel of Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique at the back they have the spine to allow Asensio and friends to create the spark needed. Throw into the mix their experience, and they have to be considered likely world champions.