Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has predicted that, despite a seemingly pessimistic attitude amongst England fans, England can win the 2018 world cup. The England team will be travelling to Russia against a backdrop of difficult relations between the two countries. The number of England fans travelling to Russia to watch their side compete is, consequently, relatively low compared to previous tournaments.
In spite of the difficult circumstances regarding international relations, Mourinho believes that enough raw talent resides within the England squad to carry them all the way to the finals for the first time since 1966. While an England victory would undoubtedly be considered a surprise, Mourinho remains adamant that the “really strong” England squad can pull a shock victory out of the hat.
The England squad
Gareth Southgate, the current England manager, could not have received a more significant vote of confidence as he looks to secure England’s first World Cup in more than half a century. Mourinho has remarked that the England national team contains the perfect mix of youth, talent, and experience.
With the majority of the England squad playing in the Premier League, by far the biggest and most significant football league in the whole world, these players all know what quality football is like. Additionally, many of them have experience competing in other significant competitions such as the Champion’s League and the F.A Cup.
If England are to lift the trophy for the first time in 52 years, they will need to fend off competition from a number of other strong international teams. Looking at Russian World Cup odds, it looks as if, as always, Spain, Germany, Brazil, and France will all give England a run for their money.
The squad vs the team
In assessing England’s chances of success in Russia, Mourinho was quick to point out the slight, but crucial, difference between a good squad and a good team.
A good team refers to the entirety of its players, both those who are on and off the field. Having a good team means that there are multiple combinations of the constituent players who will be able to pull off a fine performance on the field. On the other hand, a good squad is a combination of 11 players who, when working together, are able to pull off an exceptional performance.
The problem with being reliant upon the skills of a relatively small number of players is that unexpected injury or absence can throw the entire squad into disarray.
When there is a strong team to call upon, it is possible to replace missing players with others who are just as competent.
Brazil, universally regarded as one of the finest international teams in the world, suffered significantly at the last world cup. Part of their problem was the injury of a few key players. Without the lynchpins of their squad in place, Brazil were unable to muster much of a challenge to Germany and faced a humiliating defeat.
While Mourinho does give England a realistic shot at taking home the trophy, he also thinks it unlikely that we will witness a surprise win. However, he specifically said that he didn’t expect “a country that has never won” to take home the trophy, leaving the door open for England.