Bundesliga legend and former World Cup-winning captain Lothar Matthäus thinks that England could cause some surprises in Russia, but that the tournament comes too soon for Three Lions to dethrone Germany as world champions.
England punched their ticket for the 2018 edition – like Die Mannschaft – without tasting defeat in their UEFA qualification group. Gareth Southgate has since named a youthful squad with Ashley Young, Jamie Vardy and Gary Cahill the only players who have already seen their 30th birthdays, but Matthäus thinks England’s relative lack of experience will count against them this time.
"I think England have a good generation but not for this World Cup,” the former Bayern Munich star told bundesliga.com. “England always have good players but I think they don’t have the experience in the tournaments, nor the results. It’s the same with the coach. He’s a new coach and it’s his first World Cup.”
England moved up a place to 12th in the latest FIFA World Rankings released on 7 June, but that still leaves them some way behind top dogs Germany. English youngsters won the U20 and U17 World Cups over the last year, either side of sealing the European U19 title, but with Bournemouth’s Lewis Cook the only player involved in those successes now in contention – and at that only on the standby list – Matthäus thinks 2022 glory is a more realistic aim.
“Looking forward I think England have a good chance in Qatar in 2022,” he said. “But for now I just see them as outsiders. They can only surprise but I don’t see them as a favourite.”
If Germany win Group F in Russia with England second in Group G – as FIFA rankings would predict – the sides could meet in the quarter-finals. If both win their groups, the showpiece in Moscow on 15 July is the soonest they could face off. Matthäus is more concerned about running into other nations in 2018, though.
“Germany always has a chance to win but we know it’s a tough tournament and we have other good teams in the World Cup,” he concluded. “Especially Brazil, Spain and France, maybe Argentina if [Lionel] Messi can play well over seven games.”
“It’s a tough World Cup, it’s a big tournament, a long tournament and little things can make the difference. But Germany, I think, for sure, are ready to win again!”