England can benefit from reduced World Cup expectations, according to a former captain
England have not won a single competitive game in 2022, but Terry Butcher does not think their poor form will continue at the World Cup.
Former England captain Terry Butcher believes the Three Lions could benefit from scaled-back expectations at the World Cup after enduring a torrid Nations League campaign.
Gareth Southgate's team are the only nation to reach the semi-finals at each of the last two major tournaments, having been beaten by Croatia in the last four at the 2018 World Cup before losing the Euro 2020 final to Italy.
Despite their strong tournament record in recent years, England arrive in Qatar in poor form after being relegated from Nations League Group A3 following a winless campaign in the competition.
However, Butcher believes England may replicate their feats from four years ago by springing a surprise in Qatar.
"I think a lot of people will see them as less looking like winners, because this year has been very disappointing for England," Butcher told Stats Perform.
"When you look at it and you step back, it's dropped the expectations. The expectation levels are down now, compared to what they were at the start of the year.
"I think a lot of that is very similar to Russia in 2018, when a lot of people were not expecting them to do particularly well.
"I think there'll be more determination with the pressure off, like it was in Russia. Then you've got the timing of the tournament and English players will be fresh.
"There's a few injury problems and concerns, but there's no burnout, and there's no mental tiredness like there is when it comes to the summer championships. This is unique for the English players as well. So I think that'll benefit us very much.
"You think well, 'you've had a taste of the semi-finals, you've had a taste of the final', they would have learned a lot from that."
Despite overseeing two memorable major tournament campaigns since taking charge in 2016, Southgate has been subject to fierce criticism in recent weeks.
However, Butcher believes Southgate's record cannot be questioned and says the depth of talent at England's disposal makes them genuine contenders to win the World Cup.
"There aren't many England managers that have won cups and titles and all that sort of thing," Butcher said when asked about Southgate.
"He's got problems in terms of who to leave out as much as who to put in. There is a plethora, if you want to use that word, of talent. It's about finding the right blend on the day.
"But it's a lovely position to be in. I just hope now that England can take the shackles off and have that belief that they can win it. That'd be really nice if they could do that.
"There's no doubt the talents there. Fitness will be there. The mental strength will be there, which I hope has been even made more acute by the failure last year to win the final."