Don’t say it, don’t say it, don’t say it…. IT’S COMING HOME.
Okay, so football did come home in the summer when the Lionesses won Euro 2022 on home soil and now it’s time for the men’s team to follow suit.
After what seems like months, if not years, of planning and build-up, Gareth Southgate’s team are in Qatar as one of the favourites to win the whole thing.
That’s not just England fans getting carried away, superstars of the game like Lionel Messi and Erling Haaland think the Three Lions are among the top contenders.
You have your traditional favourites like Brazil and Argentina, who look as strong as ever and the European heavyweights who have dominated recent years like France and Germany.
But there is a reason why England are right up there.
A semi-final place at the 2018 World Cup and the agony of the Euro 2020 final defeat has catapulted Southgate’s side to genuine heavyweights.
Don’t just take our word for it, though, as England legend Stuart Pearce believes we can go all the way in Qatar. We’re certainly not going to argue with ‘Psycho’.
“They’ll be there,” Pearce told talkSPORT when asked if the Three Lions can win it all. “If you look at the last ten years of English football, the women are European champions, in the men’s game, they’ve won things at Under-17s, Under-19s, Under-20s, the senior team have been to the semis of the World Cup and the finals of the Euros.
“If they end up winning it, which I certainly think they have the tools to do and the experience to now, everyone will look back and say we saw it coming. Look at the growth that’s gone on since St. George’s Park was built.
“So it’s there and for me and we’re on an upward curve. People have a tainted mentality because of the Nation’s League, I think the results had a lot to do with COVID and the Euros and the players having to play 60/70 odd games and four games in eight days last summer was a big ask for a lot of international teams.”
It’s not only past England heroes that believe there is a genuine chance that the Three Lions will be lifting the trophy on December 18.
Chelsea star Mason Mount told talkSPORT this week that there is a belief in the camp they can go all the way.
He said: “I think we’ve always had belief and that’s not overconfidence, we know what we can do. We are humble in that and continue to work hard and get better.
“We are on a good path and if we perform to what we know we can do then we definitely have a chance to progress and hopefully get to the end.
“Our goal is to go that one more step and win it and make the country proud. That’s all of our goals and we are going to do everything we can to try and achieve that.”
The days of constant disappointment at major tournaments seem to be over for England.
And with the sheer glut of young, exciting talent at our disposal there is hope that it will continue for years, if not decades, to come.
The problem Southgate has is trying to pick just 11 players from his 26-man squad. The depth runs right through the squad.
Here at talkSPORT.com, we’ve had a go at predicting the line-up for that first game against Iran.
We don’t envy the England boss having to make his decisions.
There are plenty of options in attack, and this may tempt Southgate to try a back four instead of his usual three at the back with wing-backs.
Captain Harry Kane is a dead cert, but who plays alongside him is up in the air.
The two most in form players right now are arguably Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka. Foden has seven goals and three assists, while Saka boasts four goals and six assist in the Premier League.
Raheem Sterling and Jack Grealish have struggled for form this season, while Marcus Rashford is another contender who has impressed this season.
James Maddison is the other difficult decision, but his absence from training may make Southgate’s mind up for him.
In midfield, the two best players England have are Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice and they should start.
Mason Mount, Jordan Henderson, Kalvin Phillips, and Conor Gallagher will all have to make do with a place on the bench.
The biggest question marks remain are over the defence, especially with Reece James and Ben Chilwell missing out through injury.
Kieran Trippier is the most in form, and fit, right back England have and he is likely to start with Luke Shaw on the opposite flank.
When Kyle Walker is fit, he should come into the fold.
Southgate thus has the option of Harry Maguire, Eric Dier and John Stones to choose from as his two centre-backs.
Other options further down the line, if Shaw needs a rest or needs to be rotated, is bringing Trippier over and putting Trent Alexander-Arnold in the side.
Southgate’s undisputed No.1 is Jordan Pickford, with Nick Pope and Aaron Ramsdale having to be content with a place on the bench.
But whoever starts, we’re behind them and hoping to see the Three Lions off to a roaring start in Qatar, and who knows what might happen after that.
talkSPORT World Cup 2022 Coverage
talkSPORT will be offering wall-to-wall coverage of the 2022 World Cup
We’ll be broadcasting all 64 games in the tournament live, with over 600 hours of coverage across our network.
You can tune in to talkSPORT and talkSPORT 2 via our free online streaming service at talkSPORT.com.
talkSPORT is widely available across the UK via DAB digital radio and on 1089 or 1053 AM.
You can also download the talkSPORT app, or ask your smart speaker to play talkSPORT.