England won’t win World Cup but draw gives us chance to improve: Alan Shearer


England manager Gareth Southgate will be quietly pleased with our draw for next summer’s World Cup but let’s not get carried away – we have been here plenty of times before.

We talk about good draws and bad draws before every major finals, yet nothing ever materialises for England and history tells us that things can go horribly wrong.

So, although we are in a decent group, I am not going to start plotting our way through to the latter stages just yet.

We have not won a knock-out match at a tournament since we beat Ecuadorin the last-16 of the 2006 World Cup, which is part of the reason expectations are so low from the fans right now.

I know there are no big-hitters waiting for us in the last-16 this time, which is another positive – we would play Poland, Colombia, Senegal or Japan if we get through – but I think we have to be realistic and realise where we are at as a team.

Yes, we have a great record when it comes to qualifying – we have not lost any of our last 39 matches, going back to 2009 – but since the 2010 World Cup, our record at finals has been poor.

That’s why we should concentrate on getting out of our group first before we worry too much about who we could face in the next round, because doing that has been difficult enough in the past.

It will be key to get off to a good start against Tunisia, which brings back happy memories for me of scoring when England beat them in Marseille in our opening game at the 1998 World Cup.

In tournament football, it is always hugely important not to lose your first group match – but I think we have got a great chance of winning it, which would give us plenty of confidence.

As Gareth says, he does not know much about Tunisia or Panama. The homework on them starts now, and he will make sure the players are fully prepared.

But he will already know everything about Belgium, who we face in our final group game.