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How can England qualify for the World Cup knockout stages?

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Well, that was fun.

England were once a side that used to begin major tournaments with a whimper. Think the drab draw with Sweden in 2002, the unconvincing triumph over Paraguay in 2006, and Rob Green’s blunder against the Americans. A steady improvement would then ensue, gradually building expectation before an inevitable disappointing exit in the knockout phase.

Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions do things a little differently, however.

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Their 6-2 thumping of Iran was their third straight opening game victory at a major tournament. The comfortable triumph has left them on the verge of qualifying for the round of 16 with games against the USMNT and Wales upcoming.

Here’s how Southgate’s England can confirm their place in the 2022 World Cup knockout stages over the next week.

Expectations were tempered heading into the opening game against Iran. Carlos Queiroz-coached sides are typically stubborn outfits that lack inspiration in attack. Their game plan was predictable, but they executed it well enough in the opening stages.

England, however, played with the sort of swagger that fans have craved for so long. Their young lions roared as Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka scored the opening two goals before Harry Kane expertly picked out Raheem Sterling to triple England’s advantage before half-time.

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Iran were simply overwhelmed by a progressive and exuberant Three Lions, who continued to assert their authority after the break. Saka added a fourth before substitutes Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish scored either side of a conciliatory Mehdi Taremi brace.

The drab encounter that many projected beforehand never manifested as England produced a scintillating attacking display in a 6-2 triumph. It was the perfect start to their World Cup campaign, and there’s no doubt that Skinner & Baddiel would’ve been added to a few more Spotify playlists.

David Goldblatt & Katie Rood join Shebahn Aherne to have football’s climate conversation about the World Cup in Qatar!

England are next in action on Friday 25 November against the USA. The Americans were held to a 1-1 draw against Wales in their Group B opener, but they showed enough in the first half to suggest that they might cause a vulnerable England defence a few problems on Matchday 2.

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The Three Lions then round off the group against neighbours Wales on Tuesday 29 November. England pipped the Welsh the last time they met a major tournament in 2016, and the magic of the Red Dragon means this will be far from a walk in the park for Southgate’s side.

They’ll want to have qualification wrapped up by the time Matchday 3 rolls around.

England’s hopes of progressing into the round of 16 were further aided by USA’s 1-1 draw with Wales on Matchday 1. The Three Lions are in a great position at the top of Group B and their mightily superior goal difference means they may well only need a point from their remaining two games to advance.

However, England will be expected to win their final two group games and finish top of the group. Should they finish the group with seven points, meaning they win one and draw one of their next two games, they’ll also finish top.

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Victory against the USA on Matchday 2 will see them progress, and they’ll be all but guaranteed of top spot if Wales fail to beat Iran.

Even if England finish with five points, they will likely top the group on goal difference if both Wales and the USA beat Iran. However, should Iran win their next two and England draw both, then Queiroz’s men will top Group B from out of nowhere with England finishing in second.

Taking into account their performance against Iran and their upcoming opponents, it’d be a major surprise if England don’t top the group. Only a disaster would see them exit the World Cup before the knockouts, with even a second-place finish being unlikely.



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Player ratings La Albiceleste make it through to knockout stages

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Goals from Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez ensured Argentina’s place at the top of Group C and their place in the round of the 16 of the FIFA World Cup. Poland also squeezed through despite losing thanks to Mexico only managing to beat Saudi Arabia 2-1.

Argentina started the game brightly, getting Lionel Messi on the ball frequently in and around the penalty area – which is always the game plan for La Albiceleste. The PSG star would have the first notable shot on goal in the 10th minute, bursting into the left hand side of the penalty area before stinging Wojciech Szczęsny’s palms with a fierce strike on goal.

La Albiceleste were able to sustain that pressure with relative ease thereafter as Poland were more than happy to sit in and defend a point that would see them through to the last 16.

Marcos Acuna was next to come close for Argentina around the half-hour mark, drilling a shot just wide of the foot of the right post.

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Julian Alvarez would then force Szczęsny into a great save five minutes later, with the Juventus number one deflecting Alvarez’s effort on goal from the left side of the penalty area out wide.

Moments later we witnessed the worst refereeing decision of the tournament thus far. Argentina were awarded an egregious penalty following a lengthy VAR check after Szczęsny was adjudged to have touched (?) Messi’s face while both were up challenging for a cross into the box.

The resulting spot kick was then brilliant saved by the Poland goalkeeper, who dove to his left to tip Messi’s effort wide. Justice well and truly served.

Immediately after the second half whistle, Argentina finally got their goal. Brighton star Alexis Mac Allister would be the man to get it, latching onto a low cross from right-back Nahuel Molina to drill past Szczęsny and into the bottom right corner of the net.

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That goal would finally wake Poland up as an attacking entity and, in the 49th minute, they almost grabbed an equaliser through Kamil Glik. The veteran defender rose highest to head a set piece from the right flank just wide.

After a few tactical tweaks, Lionel Scaloni’s men firmly regained control of the game. In the 67th minute they deservedly doubled their lead through Julian Alvarez. The young forward held off two Polish defenders before firing high into the net.

It was so nearly three in the 72nd minute when Messi played a wonderful through ball into the path of Alvarez again. The forward, however, could only find the side-netting with his subsequent strike on goal.

In the 85th minute, Lautaro Martinez came off the bench to nearly knock Poland out of the competition. After latching onto a loose back pass, the Inter man stormed into the penalty area but shanked his shot on goal wide of the post.

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Jakub Kiwior then saved Poland from an early exit with a stunning clearance off the line in the 93rd minute. The towering defender got back well to head clear a dinked Nicolas Tagliafico finish to keep his nation in the tournament.

GK – Wojciech Szczęsny – 8/10 – Saved his second penalty of the group stages and looked generally unbeatable in the first half. He was finally beaten in the second, but by God what a performance regardless.

RB – Matty Cash – 3/10 – Didn’t get forward as Poland would’ve liked.

CB – Kamil Glik – 4/10 – The sort of game that suits him at this point in his career and yet he still wasn’t particularly good.

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CB – Jakub Kiwior – 7/10 – Got caught out with Molina’s cut-back cross which led to the opener. Made amends with a fantastic clearance off the line in added time.

LB – Bartosz Bereszynski – 3/10 – Struggled to defend his side.

CM – Piotr Zielinski – 3/10 – Needed to be better on the ball than he was in this one.

CM – Krystian Bielik – 4/10 – Defended quite well but generally looked hopless in possession.

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CM – Gregorz Krychowiak – 2/10 – Got stuck in when he could get near the ball…which wasn’t often because he can’t run anymore.

AM – Przemyslaw Frankowski – 1/10 – He did literally nothing and was subbed off at half-time.

ST – Robert Lewandowski – 2/10 – So, so isolated.

ST – Karol Swiderski – N/A – Did he play? He didn’t, did he? Surely not.

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SUB – Michal Skoras – 4/10.

SUB – Jakub Kaminski – 3/10.

SUB – Damian Szymanski – N/A.

SUB – Artur Jedrzejczyk – N/A.

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SUB – Krzysztof Piatek – N/A.

GK – Emi Martinez – 5/10 – He had zero to do.

RB – Nahuel Molina – 7/10 – His brilliant low cross from the right flank led to the opening goal.

CB – Cristian Romero – 5/10 – Dealt with the little threat Lewa posed well.

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CB – Nicolas Otamendi – 5/10 – An easy night at the office for Otamendi.

LB – Marcos Acuna – 6/10 – Drilled a shot just wide in the first half and got forward well.

CM – Alexis Mac Allister – 8/10 – Scored his first ever international goal at the best possible time.

CM – Enzo Fernandez – 7/10 – Another impressive performance from the young man.

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CM – Rodrigo De Paul – 4/10 – Sloppy on the ball again. Surely he shouldn’t start for this team.

RW – Angel Di Maria – 5/10 – Saw a lot of the ball but didn’t do a whole lot with it.

CF – Lionel Messi – 4/10 – Missed a penalty. He’s not very good at penalties.

LW – Julian Alvarez – 5/10 – Scored a great goal in the second half. Well deserved start for the Man City striker.

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SUB – Leandro Paredes – 6/10 – Did a decent job in midfield when he came on.

SUB – Nicolas Tagliafico – N/A.

SUB – Lautaro Martinez – 5/10 – Missed a decent chance in the 85th minute.

SUB – German Pezzella – N/A.

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SUB – Thiago Almada – N/A.

Man of the Match: Alexis Mac Allister

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Ben White leaves England World Cup squad due to ‘personal reasons’

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Arsenal star Ben White has left England’s World Cup training camp and isn’t expected to return for the remainder of the tournament.

The defender didn’t make an appearance in any of the Three Lions group stage games, and has now left the squad due to ‘personal reasons’.

In a statement released by England, the Three Lions confirmed the news: “Ben White has left England’s training base in Al Wakrah and returned home for personal reasons.

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Harry Symeou hosts Jack Gallagher and Toby Cudworth to look back on Germany ’06 as part of the ‘Our World Cup’ series. We take a trip down memory lane – join us!

If you can’t see the podcast embed, click here to download or listen to the episode in full!

“The Arsenal defender is not expected to return to the squad for the remainder of the tournament. We ask that the player’s privacy is respected at this moment in time.”

White has enjoyed a fantastic domestic season with Arsenal, becoming the club’s first choice right-back – and one of the best right-backs in the Premier League – as the Gunners have gone from top four challengers to table-toppers.

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Poland vs Argentina: Confirmed lineups

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Poland vs Argentina

France, who have already secured a spot in the last 16 of the World Cup 2022, play Tunisia on Wednesday in their final Group D matchup.

In the meantime, the African nation is last in the standings and must defeat the current champions to advance to the knockout stages.

Line-up

Poland XI (4-4-1-1): Szczesny; Bereszynski, Glik, Kiwior, Cash; Frankowski, Bielik, Krychowiak, Zielinski; Swiderski; Lewandowski

Argentina XI (4-3-3): Martínez; Molina, Romero, Otamendi, Acuña; De Paul, Enzo Fernández, Mac Allister; Messi, Álvarez, Di María

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