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Opinion: Will England break the group stages curse?

Looking into the strengths and weaknesses of England's opponents in Group G

With the World cup starting a month today, questions have been asked over England’s ability to progress in the competition.

After exiting the 2014 World cup at the group stages, and a relatively poor performance at Euro 2016, Gareth Southgate is up against a lot of expectation.

Both England and Belgium will be heading into the group stages hopeful that they can progress through to the quarter-finals and potentially further.

Belgium are the favourites to win the group and England are favourites to finish as runners-up. This group is far easier than the one England were placed in four years ago.

In 2014 England faced Uruguay who made it to the semi-finals in 2010, and a strong Costa Rica side that made it to the quarter-finals that year. They also faced Italy who are notoriously strong at the World cup.

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England have a strong squad heading into this year’s competition with lots of depth in many positions of the starting 11.

Gareth Southgate will be looking to defy expectations and lead England to the later stages of the tournament. Against Belgium, England will need to be defensively sound and clinical in attack against a side that reached the quarter-finals at the Euros. Players such as Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling will be paramount to the attacking prowess of the squad.

In defence, England need a change between the sticks.

Both Jack Butland and Jordan Pickford have played for the national side and proved they can rise to the challenge and Joe Hart just can’t cut it anymore.

Danny Rose and Kyle Walker will provide strength and pace on the wings and with a strong centre-back partnership, there’s no reason why England shouldn’t progress through to the quarter-finals.

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