Excitement was high all across England as the 2034 World Cup was upon us. I think we have a massive chance of a first World Cup win since 1966 and firmly believe we have the best team at the tournament.
The final 23 players had been announced and the players donned their fancy national team suits to board the plane to South Korea. The players boarding the flight were as follows:
The key players remain sharp shooting strikeforce Philip Cohen and George Clarke, along with midfielders Phil Foden and Andy Stockbridge. But there’s so much strength in this squad that we have to be among the favourites.
We warmed up for the tournament by beating Burkina Faso 5-0 with a Clarke hat-trick and Venezuela 3-0 with a totally changed eleven.
World Cup group
We’d been given a relatively decent draw up against Peru and Cameroon in the group stage, so I was hopeful of breezing through.
However, things did not start well in a crazy opening game against Peru. We found ourselves two goals down inside 12 minutes but won a penalty that Clarke converted, then he doubled his tally with a wonderful solo goal to draw us level after half an hour.
Bizarrely, Peru then had two players sent off in two minutes before the break. And that obviously took its toll as we dominated the second half but only converted two of our dozens of chances through a Stockbridge screamer and a Cohen goal.
Game two was far more routine as Clarke scored an eight-minute hat-trick inside 16 minutes, then 6ft 8in striker Edward Bennett addeed another to make it 4-0.
World Cup knockout stages
Our draw for the second round was much tougher than it could have been as we took on Turkey, although it could have been much harder considering Belgium faced Germany!
We got the perfect opportunity for a great start with a penalty after 9 minutes but Clarke smacked it against the outside of the post and wide. But Lewis Pearson-Elsdon saved his bacon with a sublime curled free-kick then Cohen scored 20 seconds into the second half to seal a solid 2-0 win. Unfortunately, we lost centre-back Stuart Josey-Hopkins to a three-week injury.
It certainly didn’t get easier in the third round as we were drawn with Portugal. However, this Portugal team isn’t great and we stamped our authority early as Cohen scored on 6 minutes then won a penalty that Clarke converted this time. And it stayed that way through to the end for another 2-0 win.
The win was pleasing, of course, but we lost both centre-backs Will Reddie and Braulio Jose – Josey-Hopkins’ replacement – to suspension and midfielder Stockbridge to a minor injury. And all of that meant we only had 4 available defenders!
A huge tie in the quarter-final saw England drawn with Scotland, who we know are a decent side from our Euro qualifiers with Denmark. And they proved it in a very tight affair. We dominated early proceedings but couldn’t finish the chances we created until Cohen stabbed home from close range on 34 minutes. However, Man City striker Dean Martin equalised a minute later.
We continued to boss the play but just couldn’t finish our chances and it ended in a 1-1 draw. I demanded more from the players and made several changes, including bringing on Mason Greenwood only for him to have a shocker so I replaced him with Muhammad Khan, who’s just signed for Spurs for £72 million from Norwich. And it was Khan that proved the match winner with a looping back-post header that floated into the far corner in the 113th minute.
That sent us into the World Cup semi-finals, which promised to be a classic up against Brazil, who’d beaten France 3-1 in the quarters. The good news was that Reddie and Stockbridge back, but now Trent Alexander-Arnold was suspended. And it turned out to be the classic expected.
Cohen again got us ahead early then Brazil had a player sent off, but we gifted Kaio Jorge an equaliser just before half-time. I gave the boys a stern talking to at half-time and they delivered as Stockbridge scored a trademark screamer then Clarke poked home after their keeper dropped a Phil Foden corner. And it looked to be done.
However, we somehow allowed Jorge to score another then Braulio Jose, who had a stinker at right-back, gave away a penalty on 88 minutes. Jorge stepped up looking for his hat-trick but Liverpool goalkeeper Ejolfur Gulfason pulled off a huge save. And we held on for a 3-2 win that sent England to the World Cup Final!!
World Cup Final
The good news was that we had no new suspensions for the final, but right-winger Gavin Adebayo – who had admittedly done nothing all tournament – picked up a knock in the semi. Our opponent would be Italy, who beat Belgium 4-2 in the semis, and here’s how the sides lined up.
We once again made a great start to the match as Stockbridge nodded home from a corner after just 3 minutes. What a start! We survived a few good Italy chances with Gylfason making several key saves and held on to half-time at 1-0. And another good start to the second half saw Clarke double the lead on 51 minutes.
We looked solid but Reddie went and got himself sent off on 71 minutes to make things interesting. But I dropped Cohen wide and brought the just about fit Josey-Hopkins on for Greenwood and went defensive. And it worked nicely as we held on to seal a famous English victory. 68 years of hurt were finally over…
England were World Champions for the second time!!
After the tournament, 35-year-old Alexander-Arnold announced his international retirement after racking up 155 caps and scoring 16 goals. What an absolute legend!
There’s no doubting the main men the nation needs to thank for this World Cup success. George Clarke – who now has a ridiculous 53 goals in 64 caps – finished the tournament as the joint-top scorer with 8 goals, while Philip Cohen – now 61 goals in 94 caps – was joint-5th with 5 goals. And the duo had the most shots in the tournament with Clarke having 45 and Cohen 33 and the joint-2nd most key headers of 18 each.
Clarke came 2nd in player of the tournament and Gylfason won the goalkeeper of the tournament award. While 7 of the England team and our Dortmund defender Adolphe Gérard were named in team of the tournament.
On top of 9 domestic titles and 10 domestic cups, I can now add an international trophy in the World Cup! And, to boot, I have a 92% win record from 26 matches as England manager.
It remains to be seen whether I continue as England manager after this success. I’ve achieved the international pinnacle but wrapping up the European Championships in two years would also be nice. And, I’d like to lead Cohen past Marcus Rashford’s record England goal tally of 73.