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There has been a lot of talk during the group stages of the Qatar World Cup, which has swung between England being the best team in the world and being drab and pathetic no hopers. Most people would fall somewhere between those two extreme markers. Actually though, with all teams having now completed their groups, the Three Lions are statistically the best team in Qatar. And that remains true following their comfortable 3-0 win over Senegal in Sunday’s last 16 tie.
How has England’s campaign started?
The group stage as a whole unfolded pretty well for England. They blitzed Iran 6-2 in the opening game with Bukayo Saka taking the headlines. A painstakingly dull draw with the US followed meaning Gareth Southgate and co still has work to do as they went into their final group game against Wales. Ultimately though, England over came their British neighbours to advance to the next round of the tournament. The round of 16 matchup with African champions Senegal ended up being plain sailing. England won and kept a clean sheet in the process, despite a couple of nervous moments in the first half.
Aliou Cisse’s men finished second in Group A having amassed six points from their three games against Qatar, Ecuador and the Netherlands. Despite this World Cup being loaded with shock upsets, most notably Germany exiting the tournament already, most people expected England to get through.
It is what comes after Senegal that has a few England fans quaking in their boots. We’ll see a quarter-final clash between England and France. Golden boot leader Kylian Mbappe, in particular, is considered a real threat in this World Cup hence France are amongst the favourites to lift the Jules Rimet Trophy. Despite that, the group stage suggests that it is indeed France – and every other nation – that should fear England.
What do the stats say?
Label the World Cup in Qatar controversial if you so wish – we sure know our stance on that front – but the football has been sensational to this point; that’s indisputable. As part of that unpredictability not a single team emerged through the group stage with an unblemished record. On the flip side, only Qatar and Canada, whose manager’s future is now in doubt, failed to bank a single point.
At the top end of the group performance there were 10 teams that amassed six or more points. Three of those sides banked a tournament high of seven – England were one of them. In fact, England are the best of them. England’s 0-0 draw with the US saw Southgate slaughtered but avoiding defeat in that game, whilst bookending it with comprehensive wins saw the Three Lions chalk up seven points and a goal difference of +7.
The next best hauls in the group stage came from Group A winners Netherlands, who took seven points for a goal difference of +4 and surprise package Morocco; they also racked up seven points but hold a goal difference of just +3. With that in mind, maybe the England fans need to cut Southgate some slack and just enjoy the ride; it could be a damn good one!