England tournament predictions: Three Lions still scarred by spot-kick exits
- England reached the semi-finals four years ago and finished fourth
- That was their joint-best finish since lifting the Jules Rimet trophy in 1966
- Recommended bets:
- England to go out in the quarter-finals
- England to be Eliminated by penalty Shootout
England's group draw was seen as quite favourable when their three opponents were decided in the spring.
Gareth Southgate's men avoided the likes of the Netherlands or previous World Cup foes Germany and Uruguay, but actually landed in the second-strongest section according to FIFA rankings.
Iran, who finished third and only a point behind both Spain and Portugal in the 2018 group stage, are the lowest-ranked of the Three Lions' group opponents at 21 in the world.
Opta/Stats Perform, however, have calculated that England have a 62.9% chance of winning Group B and only a 14.3% chance of failing to make it through the first stage.
They have only once failed to make it out of the initial group in their 12 finals' appearances since 1962 and, if they can finish top, could face a winnable round of 16 assignment against Senegal or Ecuador - unless Qatar spring a shock or the Netherlands slip up.
Things get much tougher at the quarter-final stage where the likes of France, Argentina or Denmark could lie in wait.
Penalty Shootout (11/2) to haunt Three Lions again
England's history of World Cup penalty shoot-outs is well known - they went out of the 1990, 1998 and 2006 tournaments on spot-kicks.
Southgate's men showed nerves of steel to come through their round of 16 clash with Colombia on penalties four years ago, only to fall to an agonising Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy by the same method in their last major tournament appearance.
The manager's decision to send Harry Kane out first in the Wembley shoot-out was a gamble that looked like it was going to pay off when Italy missed their second spot-kick.
But England missed their last three attempts from 12 yards to virtually hand the trophy to the Azzurri and leave many observers to question why a 19-year-old playing in his first major tournament was handed the tough assignment of taking the last one.
Clearly, England still have lessons to learn around the psychology of the shoot-out and if they have not been heeded then the Three Lions could be heading for a familiar gut-wrenching exit from Qatar.
Kane can land over 3.5 goals (5/4)
Harry Kane is on the cusp of breaking Wayne Rooney's record of the most goals for the England senior side. The Three Lions captain needs two more to equal Rooney and three to take the record outright with both milestones eminently achievable for him during the World Cup.
The Tottenham striker has already mentioned in interviews that he has one eye on retaining the Golden Boot he landed after scoring six times in Russia four years ago.
Three of those were penalties and his status as England's spot-kick specialist should ensure he gets more opportunities to gobble up some easy goals in Qatar.
Since VAR was introduced in top-level tournament football the amount of penalties awarded has grown drastically. There was a 33% increase in penalties at the last European Championships compared to the tournament in France five years before.
At the last World Cup a total of 29 penalties were taken outside shoot-outs - more than double the tally of Brazil 2014 and the last pre-VAR World Cup.
Kane, who has scored 16 of his 19 penalties for England, is adept at both winning and dispatching spot-kicks and that quality should give him a great shot at scoring a few goals in the next month.
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