The 2018 World Cup kicks off on Thursday 18 June as hosts Russia entertain Saudi Arabia on the opening night, before a weekend packed of action that includes Portugal-Spain on Friday night, France-Australia, Argentina-Iceland and Croatia-Nigeria on the Saturday, and Brazil-Switzerland and Germany-Mexico on the Sunday.
England are not in action until the Monday when they start their Group G with Tunisia, hours after Belgium have entertained debutants Panama.
The big talking about heading to Russia surrounding the England squad is who the first choice goalkeeper will be.
Manager Gareth Southgate has been coy over the past couple of months, with both Jordan Pickford and Jack Butland getting an opportunity in their two friendlies so far this year.
Joe Hart had been the first choice goalkeeper for several years and even started nine of England’s 10 qualifying matches. However, the 31-year-old has dipped drastically in form during his loan spell at West Ham United this past season.
Whilst on loan from Manchester City, Hart has made several errors that resulted in him ultimately losing his place to Adrian. Both goalkeepers started 19 Premier League games each in 2017-18 with the Spaniard finishing as the first choice under David Moyes.
However, the Betfair World Cup 2018 betting market suggests Joe Hart will be part of Southgate’s 23-man squad as they have the 75-time England international at 8/13 to be included.
Many expect Hart will be the third choice goalkeeper for England over in Russia and the odds back this up completely. That’s because Stoke City’s Jack Butland and Everton’s Jordan Pickford are both priced at 1/50 to make the final cut.
Indeed, it appears to be down to the two more inexperienced goalkeepers to battle it out for first choice. They have each made a start in England’s two friendlies in 2018 whilst Butland is the more experienced goalkeeper of the pair, with seven caps, compared to Pickford’s two.
Burnley’s Nick Pope seems to be out of the question as he has yet to receive a single international cap. Though he is coming off an excellent season with the Lancashire club it was also his first in the Premier League, aided by Tom Heaton’s injury.
Gareth Southgate has two more friendlies left before England take on Tunisia in their World Cup opener on Monday 18th June which could us some clues as to who the former Aston Villa and Middlesbrough centre-back is going to select between the sticks.
Football stat man Barrie’s View ran a Twitter poll over the weekend to ask fans who they believe should be England’s first choice this summer. Jordan Pickford won the vote with 46%, whilst Jack Butland was down in second, receiving 30%. Interestingly, Nick Pope (19%) received more votes than Joe Hart (5%).
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