World Cup - England

What is England's route to the World Cup final?

Euan Burns
Gareth Southgate will be leading England once again
Gareth Southgate will be leading England once again / James Gill - Danehouse/GettyImages

With just one Premier League set of fixtures left before it all stops, the focus is starting to shift in England towards the 2022 Qatar World Cup and what the Three Lions could achieve.

Optimism is perhaps much lower around Gareth Southgate's England side coming into this tournament than it was heading into Euro 2020.

England have not won in their last six matches and were unceremoniously relegated from the top Nations League bracket. They will hope to put that behind them in Qatar and get to the latter stages.

England route to 2022 World Cup final

One of the major sources of interest ahead of a World Cup is examining the groups and working out who your team can and can't face in each stage as things progress.

In terms of the group stage, England have been given what is generally seen as a favourable draw, but it is far from a foregone conclusion to say that they will top the group.

Leonardo Bonucci, Raheem Sterling
England were recently beaten by Italy in the Nations League / Nicolò Campo/GettyImages

USA, Wales and Iran are the opponents that stand between England and a place in the Round of 16. Every team has some superb players, but England are absolutely the strongest collective on paper. The game against Iran comes first and three points will be crucial to take the pressure off before facing the USA and Wales.

Winning Group B would see England get paired up with the runners-up from Group A which contains Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal or Netherlands. The widely held assumption is that Senegal would be the opponent in the Round of 16.

Coming second in the group would most likely lead to a game against Netherlands in the next round.

Beyond that, it becomes more hypothetical. Should France and England top their groups and the French beat potential opponents such as Argentina, Mexico or Poland in the Round of 16, they will be facing England in the quarter-final.

That also means that Argentina or Denmark are very possible opponents if England were to win or come second in the group.

Harry Kane
Much of the England squad will be the same as Euro 2020 / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/GettyImages

If England reach the semi-finals having won the group, the path means they would likely face the winners of Groups F and H. They are Belgium and Portugal, two formidable opponents.

Coming second would likely set up a tie at the semi-final stage with one of Spain/Germany, or Brazil.

It is almost certainly one of those three above teams that will be left in the tournament for England to contest in the final should Southgate's side make it that far having won the group.

If they are on the group runners-up path, France, Belgium or Portugal are the likely opponents in the final on December 18.

England’s record in major tournament finals

Despite always being discussed as a team that can potentially get to the final of every major tournament, England have only actually competed in two major tournament finals, with a 50% success rate.

The most famous of course is the 1966 World Cup final triumph on home soil against West Germany. The game was infamous for Sir Geoff Hurst's extra-time goal which did not cross the line but was still given. He followed it up with another goal at the end to make it 4-2 and clinch England's only ever World Cup triumph.

Harry Kane, Kieran Trippier and Reece James of England wave...
England were left heartbroken in their last major final / Insidefoto/GettyImages

The other major final was much more recent as it came at Euro 2020 at Wembley. After a wonderful run to the final, England came up against an Italy side who had surprised many. Despite taking an early lead, England couldn't hold on and were later beaten on penalties by the Azzurri.

Coming into the 2022 World Cup, England are likely viewed in that second bracket of potential winners, behind the likes of France, Argentina and Brazil.

There are some problem areas in the squad and some out-of-form players who will still be starting the group games, but there is no question that there is enough talent in the squad for England to get to the latter stages and perhaps surprise some people.