February 3, 2023

Phil Foden gets his first World Cup start alongside Kyle Walker, Marcus Rashford and Jordan Henderson in a refreshed England line-up to face Wales.

After sticking to the same starting eleven in his first two games, Gareth Southgate is now expected to make the changes following England’s sub-par draw against the USA on Friday, with qualification for the last 16 still uncertain.

Foden’s absence during that stalemate was criticized by the media, but the Manchester City man will now get his chance from kick-off against Wales at Al-Rayyan.

Walker arrived at the World Cup still recovering from a groin injury that kept him out of the final few weeks of Manchester City’s home pre-tournament season.

Marcus Rashford celebrates England's fifth goal with teammates
Marcus Rashford scored England’s fifth goal against Iran

He was only deemed fit enough for a spot on the bench in England’s first two games and will play his first minutes since October 2 against Wales.

Henderson was introduced from the bench against the US to replace Jude Bellingham and was initially expected to replace the Borussia Dortmund midfielder on Tuesday, but it now appears that both players will start in a midfield of three.

Rashford was another second-half arrival in that tie, having already scored in the opening win over Iran. His starting spot will mark a strong comeback for the Manchester United man, who had not played for his country since the Euro 2020 final before the start of the tournament.

Those four are all expected to be England’s changes, meaning captain Harry Kane will keep his place despite questions about his fitness and form against the US. The reigning Golden Shoe holder has yet to find it in Qatar.

More to follow…

How England qualifies for the eighth finals on Tuesday

England are currently top of Group B with four points after the first two rounds of play but Iran, Wales and United States can all still qualify.

While Wales must beat England on Tuesday night to have any chance of moving out of the group, Gareth Southgate’s team will go on to win as group winners. A draw is also enough to top the group if the US vs Iran also ends in a stalemate.

As long as England avoid defeat by four goals or more against Wales, they will be certain of reaching the last 16. But a defeat against Wales will leave Gareth Southgate’s side vulnerable to go through as runners-up – and a possible draw in the last 16. against The Netherlands.

How Wales, Iran and the US can still qualify

A Wales win over England and a draw between Iran and the US would see Wales progress, but defeat by four goals or more is the only scenario where England fail to progress. It is also possible that England lose to Wales and still finish top of the group.

Iran will definitely advance if they avoid defeat to the US and Wales fail to win, while the US needs to beat Iran to reach the last 16.

Head-to-head record is the third tie-breaking method at this tournament, after goal difference and goals.

As it stands now: England’s potential opponents in the round of 16

If England won Group B, their round of 16 tie would take place at Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, on Sunday 4 December, where they would be paired with the runners-up in Group A.

If England progressed but failed to win the group then the Group A winners would be England’s first opponent in the knockout stages, with that round of 16 taking place at the Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan on Saturday December 3.

The Netherlands currently tops Group A with four points and will face already eliminated hosts Qatar in their final group game. Ecuador are also second and face on four points Senegalwho have three points, in their last group game.

But would England be better off second?

If England went through as group winners, they would probably become world champions France in the quarter-finals on Saturday, December 10, provided the 2018 World Cup winners led their group and Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico or Poland in the last 16.

But as Group B runners-up and winners of the last 16, England would continue their journey – assuming they beat Group A winners a week early – on the other side of the draw and could be paired with Poland or Australia in the quarterfinals on Friday, December 9.

If England were to push their way into the semi-finals as group winners, the likely winners of Groups F and H – Belgium or Portugal – could stand between them and a spot in the World Cup final on December 14.

England’s journey to the World Cup semi-finals after finishing second in the group stage could potentially see a draw in the last four against Spain or Brazil.

England’s potential route to the World Cup final as group winners (Last updated: Sunday 27 November based on current group tables)

Round of 16 – Sunday, December 4
England against Ecuador – Start at 7 p.m

Quarterfinals – Saturday, December 10
England against France or Argentina – Start at 7 p.m

Semifinals – Wednesday, December 14
England against Croatia/Japan/Portugal/Switzerland

Potential England route to World Cup final as group runners-up (Last updated: Sunday 27th November based on current group tables)

Round of 16 – Saturday, December 3
The Netherlands against England – Start at 3 p.m

Quarterfinals – Friday, December 9
England against Poland or Australia – Start at 7 p.m

Semifinals – Tuesday, December 13
England against Spain/Morocco/Brazil/South Korea – Start at 7 p.m

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