There didn’t seem to have been as much hype and expectation surrounding the England camp, as they made their final preparations ahead of the opening game at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Ahead of the opening Group G fixture against Tunisia, there seemed to be a more relaxed atmosphere, although there are still some who believe Gareth Southgate’s side could go far at the tournament.

Although hopes amongst fans will undoubtedly be as high as ever, as the Three Lions carry the hopes of a nation into every match they play at the tournament, there doesn’t seem to have been the same frenzied level of expectation amongst the tabloids, with England regarded as more of a side with burgeoning potential, rather than one that could be lifting the trophy in July.

Image Source: @England via Twitter

Taking a look at the odds, the bookmakers would seem to agree. William Hill has made England a 16/1 outsider to win the World Cup, although reaching the knock-out stages should at least be a formality for Southgate’s team, at 1/8 odds to qualify from Group G with little difficulty. From there, much will depend on the rivals the Three Lions are paired against, as they try to forge a pathway to the final.

Nevertheless, one interesting voice has suggested that the time may have finally come for the Three Lions, and it’s quite a surprising one at that. The Independent quote Vicente del Bosque, the World Cup-winning manager of Spain at the 2010 tournament in South Africa, as having chosen England as one of his favourites to lift the famous trophy in July. “I’d put England this year, this is their moment,” he responded when asked to choose potential winners at Russia 2018.

Cameo role for Arsenal man?

When it comes to the attacking capabilities of England, much of the focus has been placed on Spurs striker Harry Kane, who Southgate has also chosen to captain the Three Lions at the 2018 World Cup. Boasting an impressive record of 30 Premier League goals last season, the 24-year-old certainly has strong credentials, but he isn’t England’s highest scorer amongst the 23 players in the squad.

That honour still rests with Danny Welbeck, who has scored 16 goals in 39 international appearances, with the latest coming during England’s warm-up encounter against Costa Rica before the squad travelled to their World Cup base in Russia. The Arsenal man is certainly a figure of heated debate amongst fans at the Emirates, but put him in an England shirt and he usually produces the goods.

Image Source: @Squawka via Twitter

Despite having scored just 27 goals in 112 appearances in all competitions for the Gunners, since arriving from Manchester United in 2014, Welbeck’s record when representing the Three Lions is much better. The 27-year-old has scored 16 goals in 39 international appearances since debuting in 2011, making him arguably one of the most reliable options Southgate will have at his disposal.

Nevertheless, Welbeck will likely have to settle for a cameo role at the 2018 World Cup, with Southgate expected to utilise him as an impact player from the substitutes bench. That said, there’s an interesting anecdotal coincidence to bear in mind. His first international goal back in 2012 came against Belgium, who will pose the greatest threat to England’s chances of qualifying from Group G. Wouldn’t it be great if his journey comes full circle with a decisive goal to beat them again.