England’s preparations for the upcoming World Cup finals get underway this weekend with an international friendly against Switzerland at Wembley Stadium.
Gareth Southgate’s team finished top of World Cup qualifying Group I to secure an automatic berth at Qatar 2022. England are amongst the top six teams in the betting odds with sports betting sites to win the World Cup, but despite the great showing at Euro 2021, there is still a lot of work to be done.
March’s international break will serve as an opportunity for the Three Lions gaffer to shuffle the deck and give some in-form Premier League stars a chance to prove their worth in the national team shirt.
According to BBC, Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster has received his first England call-up since 2017, joining his Saints teammates James Ward-Prowse and Kyle Walker-Peters in Southgate’s squad.
Forster’s sublime form at St Mary’s Stadium has earned him a return to the national team after a five-year hiatus, throwing Jordan Pickford’s place between the sticks into doubt.
The Everton shot-stopper has experienced an underwhelming season, which could spell disaster for his hopes of retaining his place in Southgate’s starting XI at Qatar 2022.
Arsenal playmaker Emile Smith Rowe has made the cut. But he had to sit out Tuesday’s training alongside West Ham United’s Declan Rice, as per the Evening Standard.
Saturday’s home encounter against fellow European rivals Switzerland will be England’s first international outing since a thumping 10-0 win over continental minnows San Marino in their final 2022 World Cup qualifier.
Like the Three Lions, Murat Yakin’s men defied the odds to seal their place at December’s showpiece event as Group C winners, leaving reigning European champions Italy in their wake.
The Swiss finished the entire 2022 World Cup qualifying cycle without losing a single game (W5, D3).
However, they have only won one of their last 23 meetings with Switzerland (D6, L16), courtesy of a 2-1 away triumph in 1981.
The two sides last met in the UEFA Nations League third-place play-offs back in June 2019, with England coming out on top of a nail-biting penalty shoot-out.
Southgate’s men head into proceedings unbeaten in their last 20 internationals (W16, D4).
Avoiding defeat at Wembley would see England go 21 matches without losing for the first time in the nation’s history.
With the captain Harry Kane called up for the ongoing international break, the Three Lions will be looking to improve their remarkable scoring record from 2021.
England netted a staggering 52 goals in 2021, setting the nation’s record for the most goals scored across a single calendar year.
Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins could partner up with the Spurs talisman against Switzerland, who conceded just twice in their eight 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
Only three days after their match against Switzerland, England will host African heavyweights Ivory Coast to Wembley for their closing March fixture.
Patrice Beaumelle’s star-studded team faltered at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, bowing out to beaten finalists Egypt in the opening knock-out round.
The Ivorians have struggled in the front third of late, drawing a blank twice in their last five internationals, which could be a problem against England’s rock-solid defence.
Southgate’s men kept as many as 14 clean sheets in 2021, the most shutouts across a single calendar year in the nation’s history.