PETALING JAYA, June 18 — England legend Michael Owen believes the Three Lions have been very lucky with their draw at Russia 2018 but does not see them getting past the quarterfinal stage.
The 38-year-old added that his countrymen should not underestimate Tunisia, who they face at 2am tomorrow.
“Tunisia should be one team they will get past easily, but they cannot take the match lightly. Tunisia was the first team I played against during my World Cup debut in 1998 but their performance that night impressed me.
“We should get an easy team in the last 16, but during the quarterfinals a big team will await and the likeliest outcome is we will get knocked in the last eight.
“The only saving grace is our young team, especially with Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling, so the chance is there for the taking,” he said during an interview at Resorts World Genting on Thursday.
Three Lions’ chances at the group stage
The former Real Madrid, Newcastle and Man United striker said Tunisia and Panama should be a decent challenge to the Three Lions while the game against Belgium will test England’s strength against top opposition.
“To qualify from the South American region, you must be a good team and Panama have shown just that.
“If you look at Belgium, they’re an excellent team. The squad has a lot of good players who play in the Premier League but they have yet to show how good they are as a team, and this is the right platform to do so.
Owen however believes England will still make it through past Group G, behind Belgium.
“It looks like they are the two best teams and you would expect these two to go through. You do not want to lose your first game but since England aren’t playing Belgium they should secure their spot in the knockout stages before facing them.
“My only advice is that England should not sit back they lost to Iceland at Euro 2016 and I hope they learnt from that defeat,” he said.
According to him, England and Belgium are the two dark horses of the 2018 World Cup
“England have a very inexperienced team and with lack of experience comes lack of consistency but with it comes a fearless mentality.
“If you are an experienced team you will know how to control the game and follow the tactics, while a young team can get carried away in search for goals — and that could be a good thing at the World Cup,” he told Malay Mail.
A quick look at England’s strength and weaknesses
He believes Gareth Southgate’s 3-5-2 formation is the best formation for the squad but he hopes the England manager will look beyond the formation if he needs a ‘Plan B’.
“I like the formation he’s playing and it suits the players he’s got.”
He said that Kane and Raheem Sterling will be England’s main two strikers while Jamie Vardy will act as an impact player.
“The biggest question will be in terms of Marcus Rashford. Is he going to start more often? Or is he going to come off the bench? I really can’t take a pick with Rashford.
“We’ve got Welbeck too, who always plays well for England so I think we’ve got some goals in, we look like a team that can score lots of goals and I hope that’s going to be the case.”
“My biggest worry is the goalkeeping position. Defense and midfield is alright. Fingers crossed.”
The former England international was in Genting Highlands to watch the opening match of the 2018 World Cup in conjunction with Resort World Genting’s Football Fever campaign.
Resorts World Genting will also play host to two of Owen’s teammates, Paul Scholes and Robbie Fowler during the World Cup period.