ENGLAND are preparing for their massive clash against France with confidence brimming in the squad.
GettyEngland are looking to make back-to-back World Cup semi-finals[/caption]
Jordan Pickford has kept three successive clean sheets although he has been well protected by the defence.
Everton’s No1 generally saves his best form for England and will make his 50th appearance against France.
He was desperately unlucky to save two penalties in the Euros shoot-out against Italy and still be on the losing side.
He will be prepared if spot-kicks are needed. Could once again be a hero.
ReutersJordan Pickford has been supremely consistent in an England shirt[/caption]
The England back four has been solid apart from a dodgy opening spell against Senegal when Harry Maguire and John Stones kept giving the ball away.
Yet Maguire, despite much criticism over his selection, has been one of England’s best players, particularly as he causes problems at set-pieces at the other end.
Luke Shaw and Stones have been decent and few would have thought Kyle Walker had not played since October 2 and needed a groin operation by the way he has played since starting against Wales.
His pace against Kylian Mbappe will be crucial.
GettyKyle Walker will be tasked with keeping Kylian Mbappe quiet[/caption]
This is the key area against France.
If they win the midfield battle then England will be through to the semi-finals.
England have looked a lot more solid since Jordan Henderson came in for Mason Mount.
This has also benefitted Jude Bellingham who has been able to push forward without worrying about defensive duties.
He has been one of the midfield stars of the World Cup and Southgate will surely keep the same midfield three.
GettyDeclan Rice and Jude Bellingham are shoe-ins to start in the midfield[/caption]
England have scored 12 goals which is outstanding but the French defence will be much tougher.
Southgate made a big call by dropping Marcus Rashford for the Senegal game but it worked.
Yet the key man is Harry Kane and the French are worried about him.
He scored against Senegal and will need to be on his A game at the Al Bayt Stadium.
It’s time for Kane to start shining in front of goal.
GettyHarry Kane scored his first goal of the tournament against Senegal[/caption]
Southgate is lucky that certainly offensively – although not defensively – he has a lot of options.
With Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka expected to start, he will still be able to call on Rashford, Jack Grealish and even Raheem Sterling – who could be on the bench after returning from England.
These players could be the key if the game is a stalemate.
GettyEngland possess a wealth of options throughout their squad, particularly in attack[/caption]
It will be tight, tense and totally nerve-shredding. But England can do this.
For the first time since I covered England, I have never known a team so confident without being arrogant.
The fact Maguire said “we have got to win the World Cup” summed it up.
Even if England do beat France, there will be no celebrations as the job will be nowhere near finished.