The team was chosen, the bags were packed and the players flew to the small Gulf nation of Qatar. The time to talk is almost over.
Gareth Southgate’s England side arrived at their Al Wakrah base ahead of their Group B opener against Iran on Monday, the start of what the manager hopes will be another successful campaign at a major tournament.
But which 11 players will wear the famous Three Lions jersey on Monday afternoon? No doubt Southgate knows, or at least has an idea, the XI he will select for the clash with Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium.
However, it can be very different from what the statistics show. Here, sports mail takes you through the team the numbers say Southgate should pick for their long-awaited opener in Qatar.
Gareth Southgate’s team have arrived in Qatar ahead of their World Cup debut against Iran.
England’s 26-man squad arrived in Doha on Tuesday, with their first match scheduled for Monday.
GOALKEEPER – Nick Pope
While Jordan Pickford is expected to get the nod for the number 1 shirt in England’s opener, statistics suggest that it should, in fact, be Newcastle’s Nick Pope between the sticks.
Pope has more clean sheets, fewer goals conceded per game and fewer defensive errors than Pickford.
The Newcastle goalkeeper has a clean sheet percentage of 50 per cent, more than double that of Pickford, and has only made one defensive error to the three made by Southgate’s favorite option.
Newcastle goalkeeper Nick Pope has surpassed Jordan Pickford so far this season
Pickford has the most saves per game, 4.29, and saves from inside the box, but the Newcastle man is ahead in every other statistical metric analyzed.
Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale is a distant third, though he has the same clean sheet percentage (50 per cent) as Pope after the Gunners’ Premier League season opener.
His goals conceded per game of 0.81 is also less than Pickford’s 1.21, although that’s largely because Everton have sent far more than Mikel Arteta’s side.
Ramsdale were chosen as the third goalkeeper apparently ahead of Nottingham Forest’s Dean Henderson, a decision supported by the statistics for the season so far.
Pope came out on top in an analysis of England’s three ‘goalkeepers’ – chart of sofascore.es
CENTERS – John Stones and Eric Dier
England’s defensive injury crisis has hampered tournament build-up for Southgate and left the England manager with far fewer options than he might have hoped for.
But at the center of defence, it is the loss of form, as well as frequent spells on the treatment table, that is giving Southgate a headache or two.
John Stones, Harry Maguire, Eric Dier and Conor Coady, with the option of an injured Kyle Walker, have been chosen as Qatar centre-backs in the England squad.
With Walker unlikely to be fit for the group stage, Southgate may be forced to play a defense of four instead of their usual five.
Eric Dier could be given the go-ahead to start at centre-back with Manchester City’s John Stones
Stones appears to have clinched one of the two starting jobs despite his patchy injury record since August.
The Manchester City defender has played the second fewest games – 11 – of the four, but has the most innings per game and is second only to Dier, who has played twice as many games, when it comes to successful duels .
The 28-year-old has the most assists with two and has also contributed a goal, the same as Coady but in three fewer games.
Stones’ partner in Qatar, if Southgate leaves with a defense of four, should be Dier, according to the stats.
The Tottenham man has the most game wins, interceptions and goals scored, and the joint most accurate long balls, as well as the second most tackles behind Stones.
But he is the only one of the four contenders to have been dribbled this season.
FULL BACKS – Trent Alexander-Arnold (RB) and Kieran Trippier (LB)
Newcastle right-back Kieran Trippier is the prominent name on the list of players analysed, which also includes Luke Shaw, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kyle Walker.
Trippier has the best data of all the statistics – combined goals and assists, great chances created, accurate crosses, accurate long balls, games won, tackles per game and key passes – in a devastation for the 32-year-old.
But Trippier is at left-back for this team, as he can play the opposite side, and he did for Southgate at the Euro, while Liverpool’s Alexander-Arnold, the next best full-back by numbers, has to be in the right.
Trent Alexander-Arnold is rarely picked for England but offers Southgate a right-back option
Alexander-Arnold has regularly come under fire for his defensive attributes, but it’s clear that Shaw uses every stat except games won.
He has created seven great chances, to Shaw’s four, and has one more assist than the Manchester United defender having set up three goals for his club in the Premier League.
Walker sits last of the four, but that’s largely because he has missed City’s last 12 games in all competitions with a groin issue.
Had he been fit, he might even have featured as the right-sided central defender in a back five, which has been Southgate’s preferred formation in the big games of the biggest tournaments.
CENTER HALF – Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham
In this formation, two central defensive midfielders are required and there are few options other than to go with Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham.
Mason Mount has also performed well, but in this system, he would be more of an attacking player than a holding player.
Bellingham has the lowest key passes per game of any comparator, but is at the top of the charts in passing accuracy, touches per game, duels won and tackles per game.
Jude Bellingham is suggested to start against Iran, and the stats back up that call
The Dortmund star comfortably has the most touches per game, 75.23, and his 8.36 win win rate is more than double that of any other contender, not surprising given his great start to the campaign for the German side.
He’s fairly even between Rice and Mount, but the West Ham man tops him by virtue of being more comfortable in a deeper role.
Mount hasn’t reached the heights of a certain Leicester man, so he’s not in the starting XI at all.
FORWARDS – Bukayo Saka (RW), James Maddison (CAM), Phil Foden (LW)
These are perhaps the three hottest spots in Southgate’s starting XI or Monday’s game.
England are blessed with numerous attacking talents and Southgate, who often opt for a defensive approach, to the chagrin of Three Lions fans, may only have room for two of them.
But the statistics show that a trio of Bukayo Saka, James Maddison and Phil Foden would be more effective for the Southgate side.
Maddison was by no means a favorite to be on the plane to Qatar despite his excellent form for Leicester. The 25-year-old outplays all of his rivals, including Foden, Jack Grealish, Marcus Rashford, Mount, Saka and Raheem Sterling, by most numbers.
No place in the statistics for Raheem Sterling’s starting XI, despite his form for England
Add seven goals and four assists, 6.36 entrances to the last third per game and 2.43 key passes, in addition to creating three great chances.
Saka and Foden are the next best on the list. The Arsenal star has played just 14 games due to injury, but he has four goals and six assists, combined with 2.14 key passes per game, second only to Maddison.
Foden has the most goals among those on the list having found the net eight times for City so far this season.
STRIKER – Harry Kane
You probably don’t need stats to tell you that the England and Tottenham captain should start the Group A opener on Monday afternoon.
Harry Kane’s only real rival to spearhead England’s attack is Newcastle striker Callum Wilson, whose injury problems have contributed to his figures being much lower than Spurs’ talisman, although Wilson has a better shooting percentage. goal conversion.
Kane has scored 13 goals, seven more than Wilson, who has played half as many games as the Spurs striker this season.
The Newcastle striker also has one fewer assists than Kane, two compared to three, in his 11 appearances.
Kane’s place in the starting XI was never in doubt, but Wilson will be next in line should the 29-year-old pick up with injury after being picked in the travel group ahead of Brentford’s Ivan Toney .