Time for the World Cup to remember England were there

England's 2018 World Cup preparations begin their final countdown on Wednesday as the squad begin training at their base near to St Petersburg after arriving in Russia on Tuesday.

Gareth Southgate spoke of 'sending people to work happy' with his side's performances after overseeing a build-up free of controversy and gradually gaining in anticipation after decent results against some of the stronger nations in friendlies and two fairly comfortable send-off victories last week.

Whatever happens, and the nature of the draw means England are expected to reach the quarter-finals of the competition, Southgate's squad look capable at least of leaving an impression on the tournament which is something the Three Lions have failed miserably to do in their last two attempts.

A dismal 2010 campaign in Bloemfontein, with off-field griping from the players and manager Fabio Capello desperately trying to pad out his squad beforehand with the recalled-from-retirement Jamie Carragher, saw just one narrow victory against Slovenia and a humbling from Germany at the first knockout stage.

Roy Hodgson's 2014 squad seemed more together and had a tougher group to deal with but again left no mark on the world stage as they left for home with just a solitary point to their name.

Both World Cups were better for England's exit and the very least we can hope for this time is a game to remember even if it ends in defeat, like West Germany in 1990 or Argentina in 1998.

Early banana skins await in the form of Tunisia and Panama but Southgate and his backroom team have, seemingly, timed their preparation to perfection with each tweak to formation and personnel leading to this moment.

 

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