World Cup permutations: Who England will face in the knockout rounds if they finish first or second in Group G
Three Lions roared into knockout rounds with Sunday's 6-1 demolition of Panama, but who will they likely come up against if they make it all the way to the final?
After a 6-1 demolition of Panama on Sunday, England are into the World Cup knockout rounds.
The Three Lions have not won a tournament knockout game since 2006, but with Harry Kane on fire and Gareth Southgate leading a new brand of confident, dynamic football, could 2018 be the year they go all the way?
If they draw in the final game in Kaliningrad on Thursday, the teams will have to be separated by disciplinary points, with England currently sneaking ahead by two yellow cards to Belgium’s three.
Due to upsets in other groups involving big hitters, the team finishing second in Group G could in fact have the easier route to the final – although both Southgate and Belgium counterpart Roberto Martinez were keen to stress they would not be throwing the final game.
Finishing top could mean a potential quarter-final against Brazil or Germany, while the team coming second would likely be handed a tie against Mexico or Switzerland in the last eight – a considerably more favourable proposition even with the big teams’ stuttering starts.
So while there are of course ‘no easy games in international football’, what would be the best way for England to reach the final in Moscow on July 15?
IF ENGLAND FINISH TOP OF GROUP G (possible opponents):
Round of 16: Japan, Senegal or Colombia (July 2, 7pm, Kazan)
Quarter-final: Brazil or Germany (July 6, 7pm, Kazan)
Semi-final: France, Portugal or Spain (July 10, 7pm, St Petersburg)
Final: Portugal or Spain (July 15, 4pm, Moscow)
Winning the group would maintain momentum and demonstrate England’s ability to beat the big teams, but the Three Lions are in Russia to win the World Cup, not just Group G, and a pragmatic approach may be required.
While no-one in the England camp would admit that they are deliberately trying to finish below Belgium, do not be surprised if Southgate rings the changes against Belgium, under the disguise of resting his key players.
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IF ENGLAND FINISH SECOND IN GROUP G (possible opponents):
Round of 16: Japan, Senegal or Colombia (July 3, 7pm, Moscow)
Quarter-final: Mexico or Switzerland (July 7, 3pm, Samara)
Semi-final: Croatia, Portugal or Spain (July 11, 7pm, Moscow)
Final: France or Spain (July 15, 4pm, Moscow)
Finishing second, due to Germany’s slip-up against Mexico, brings by far the easiest route to the final.
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