England’s preparations for next summer’s World Cup get underway when they host Germany at Wembley in an International Friendly on Friday (20:00 GMT, live on ITV).
England made relatively light work of their qualifying group, securing their World Cup place with an unbeaten record of eight wins and two draws. The hard work now begins as Gareth Southgate seeks to form a team capable of performing well in Russia.
It is necessary to go back to the 2006 World Cup to find the last time England progressed beyond the first knockout round of a major international tournament. At Brazil 2014, they suffered their first group-stage elimination since 1958. If they are to improve on that showing, making the most of the seven months of preparation time that remain will be crucial.
Southgate seems to have decided upon the use of a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 system, which should provide defensive stability and allow England to get the most out of a batch of full-backs who are very comfortable moving forward into advanced areas. The makeup of the team in the final third is not yet well-defined, aside from Harry Kane as the starting striker.
Kane will, however, miss out through injury on Friday, as will his Tottenham Hotspur teammates Dele Alli and Harry Winks. Kane and Alli have been regulars for England in recent times and it will be interesting to see how their absences are covered.
Southgate made it clear upon selecting his squad that he needs some of the more experienced members of his group to be playing regular first-team football if they are to be considered. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Chris Smalling, Daniel Sturridge and Jack Wilshere were all left out this time around. In their place, younger players such as Joe Gomez, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Tammy Abraham have been given a chance to impress.
It is likely to be a relatively fresh England XI who take to the field at Wembley. A more established set of players showed up quite well in a 0-1 defeat to Germany in Dortmund in March, particularly during the first half. Friday’s line-up may struggle against a talented Germany side who are very comfortable in their approach.
Whereas England have struggled to make progress on the international stage in recent times, Germany have been a pillar of consistency. They are the current World Cup holders and have reached the last four in each of their last six major international tournaments. Victories at the 2017 European Under-21 Championship and with a reserve squad at the Confederations Cup in the summer showed that there are still more players coming through.
Joachim Low’s side sailed through the qualifying process, winning all 10 of their fixtures while scoring 43 times and conceding just four. Including friendlies and the Confederations Cup, they are unbeaten in 19 matches since their 0-2 defeat to France in the semi-final of Euro 2016.
Germany’s squad for Friday’s match and their home game against France next Tuesday does feature some notable absences due to injuries. Bayern Munich pair Manuel Neuer and Thomas Muller miss out, as does Borussia Dortmund winger Marco Reus. But it also sees the return of both Ilkay Gundogan and Mario Gotze after long-term fitness problems.
In truth, Germany have enough strength in depth to cover a few absences. Since the 2006 World Cup, they have consistently added new touches to their tactical approach and benefited from a regular supply of young players capable of ensuring that no major generational transitions have been required. The older players drop away, those below take on more importance and another group of young players steps up to fill the gaps they have left.
It is a model that England would like to replicate. Successes this year at the Under-17 and Under-20 World Cups and in the European Under-19 Championship suggest that could one day be a possibility if the right structure and development path is put in place. But for now, it is Germany who hold the advantage over their long-time adversaries.
Our Preview’s England v Germany Betting Tips’ Selections
While it should be an attractive encounter, it is the Germans who are most likely to come away with victory on Friday.
- Bet on Germany to win @ best odds of 23/20 with William Hill.
- Back over 2.5 goals @ 19/20 with Bet365.
Compare England v Germany Odds from Best Bookies