It is just a matter of days until Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions head east on the back of a preparation camp as smooth as anyone at the Football Association could have hoped.
The England manager has some tough calls to make ahead of the Group G opener against Tunisia, but many believe he has already settled on Jordan Pickford as his starting goalkeeper.
The Everton goalkeeper’s ability on the ball appears to have given him the edge over Butland, who has long been viewed as Joe Hart’s successor having performed so impressively for club and country over the years.
Despite Pickford being handed the number one shirt for Russia, the Stoke shot-stopper has not given up on starting the June 18 opener and spoke eloquently about the importance of the ‘goalkeepers’ union’ this summer.
“You are all in the same boat,” Butland said.
“Whether you play or whether you’re on the bench, or however it may be, at some point in your career you will be one of those three roles.
“You will either be a young, up-and-coming goalkeeper watching the experienced one, you’ll either be on the bench or you’ll be in goal yourself.
“We all understand the importance of the support, the importance of the group that you have around you because no one person can succeed fully if you don’t have the support of everyone else.
“It’s important that you’re humble and that you’re respectful and you put all pride aside. Whoever gets selected can’t succeed without the support and backing of the other two.
“Regardless of what happens, I want to be part of a successful England team and if I have to swallow my pride and disappointment at not being the number one, then I’ve got to do that for us to be successful and obviously to help whoever is in goal perform at their best.”
Pickford started last weekend’s 2-1 friendly win against Nigeria, with Butland getting the nod for Thursday’s 2-0 defeat of Costa Rica at Elland Road.
“Obviously there’s no official release or indication as to yet exactly who that starting line-up is going to be for Tunisia,” 25-year-old Butland said.
“So, until then, until that changes, I am going to continue to try and stake my claim and train and perform as well as I can.
“And if I get the opportunity, I will be ready to take it. And if not, I’ll be as good as a supporting player as I can be.”
Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope came off the bench for his debut on Thursday and completes an inexperienced goalkeeping trio boasting a mere 12 caps between them.
Butland accounts for eight of them and has gone away with his country on a variety of occasions, having been in the squad for Euro 2012, the London 2012 Olympics and a variety of development team tournaments.
“It feels like a long time coming,” said the 2010 Under-17 European champion.
“It feels like something I’ve always been striving for and throughout the age groups I’ve always been lucky enough to be part of the young tournaments.
“But this is what we’ve always wanted to be a part of since a kid. Wearing the England shirt is amazing but wearing an England shirt at the World Cup is as good as it gets.
“So, yeah, it’s something that I think we’ve all dreamt of, whether we were fans or a player, so to be a part of that is awesome. It’s my first opportunity to go to a senior World Cup.
“I’ve been to an Under-20 World Cup in Colombia, which was insane. It was bigger than I ever thought it could be and I know this World Cup is going to be incredible.
“To be able to watch, to be a part of it, the excitement is obviously through the roof from everyone.
“Embrace and enjoy it as much as you can because these are special moments as a fan and as a player.”
No team coming into this World Cup has had a stranger build-up than Australia.
First there was the marathon qualification process where they set a new record for the most games ever played to qualify for a World Cup. The Socceroos required 22 games, stretched over 29 months and travelled over 250,000 kilometres to reach.
The longest and hardest qualifying campaign that any nation has endured in the tournament’s history finally culminated with a 3-1 win over Honduras on November 15 last year at the Olympic Stadium in Sydney, the venue of so many famous victories for the green and gold over the years.
And once the team had finally sealed their place as the 32nd side at this tournament – the coach, Ange Postecoglou, promptly resigned claiming he needed a break from coaching.
The holiday didn’t last too long as Postecoglou announced less than a month later he would be returning to management immediately with Japanese club side Yokohama F. Marinos.
With just over seven months to the World Cup, Football Australia had to quickly find a manager and the man chosen was former Holland manager Bert van wijk, who took the Netherlands to the 2010 World Cup final and had led Saudi Arabia to this year’s tournament before falling out with the country’s federation.
He himself will be replaced by Graham Arnold, the former Sydney FC manager, after the summer. Van Marwijk has a difficult task
with Australia predicted to lose all three matches against France, Peru and Denmark.
If he can match the Socceroos’ best-ever performance at a World Cup – reaching the Round of 16 – in Germany in 2006, it will be a considerable achievement.
At Australia’s three other World Cup appearances they did not make it out of the group stage.
He has an aging squad with his best source of goals still 38-yearold former Everton striker Tim Cahill, spent most of his time on the bench at Millwall last season.
The defence isn’t much better, as was seen in the 4-1 loss to the non-World Cup bound Norway in March. The midfield is stronger and van Marwijk does have options – but not enough to do more than salvage a draw or two.
The 27-year-old Huddersfield midfielder is one of the few players in the Australian squad who is a regular starter in one of Europe’s top leagues. An exciting player when given time and space, and one of the main reasons for the Terriers being promoted and remaining in the Premier League, Postecoglou did not find a way to fully unleash his talents at national level. Hopefully Van Marwijk will have better luck.
Bert van Marwijk
Drafted in to perform a rescue mission after the sudden resignation of Postecoglou just six months out from Russia 2018. He has World Cup credentials, leading the Netherlands to the final in 2010. Coached KSA from 2015 to 2017, leading them to World Cup qualification.
Captain courageous, and former Crystal Palace hardman, Mile Jedinak is the go-to man for the Socceroos. Not a noted goalscorer, but when Australia really needed him he popped up with a hat trick in the final qualifier to ease the Socceroos past Honduras 3-1.
The name of 19-year-old Arzani was the last to be read during the squad announcement but now will be the first on excited fans’ lips. The Iranian-born teenager lit up the A-League season with some stellar performances for Melbourne City. The World Cup may be a tougher stage.
KEY FACTS AND STATS
– This is Australia’s fifth World Cup following on from 1974, 2006, 2010 and 2014
– They were the last nation to qualify after a marathon qualification process of 22 games
– Australia have reached the knockout stage only once (2006)
71 DEF 72 MID 69 ATT
World Cups competed at
5 (First in 1974)
World Cup record
P13, W2, D3, L8
Round of 16 (2006)
P22, W14, D6, L2
Goalkeepers: B. Jones (Feyenoord), M. Ryan (Brighton), D. Vukovic (Genk).
Defenders: A. Behich (Bursaspor), M. Degenek (Yokohama Marinos), M. Jurman (Suwon Bluewings), J. Meredith (Millwall), J. Risdon (Western Sydney Wanderers), T. Sainsbury (Grasshopper Club Zurich).
Midfielders: J. Irvine (Hull City), M. Jedinak (Aston Villa), R. Kruse (VfL Bochum), M. Luongo (Queens Park Rangers), M. Milligan (Al Ahli), A. Mooy (Huddersfield Town), T. Rogic (Celtic).
Forwards: D. Arzani (Melbourne City), T. Cahill (Millwall, T. Juric (FC Luzern), M. Leckie (Hertha BSC), J. Maclaren (Hibernian), A. Nabbout (Urawa Red Diamonds), D. Petratos (Newcastle Jets).
Drawn in a tough group, any improvement on Brazil 2014, where they lost all three matches, would be seen as acceptable.
Mohamed Salah has reportedly told Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, that his recovery is going well following his injury in the Champions League final, suffered when tangling with Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos.
The Liverpool star’s World Cup participation was put in doubt when he tearfully walked off after suffering a shoulder injury in that match, but reports out of the Egypt camp have consistently affirmed that Salah will be ready for the Pharaohs’ first appearance at the footballing showpiece since 1990.
“The president was reassured on the health condition of the player ‘Mohamed Salah’, who affirmed that his condition is improving notably and that he is on his way to recovery, god willing,” presidency spokesman Bassam Radi said on Saturday.
Salah, who scored 44 goals for Liverpool across all competitions in a stunning debut season for the club, was included in Egypt’s final 23-man squad having undergone treatment for his shoulder treatment in Spain.
The country’s football federation said their star player was expected to be out for “not more” than three weeks in total, which could mean he misses the Pharaohs’ World Cup opener against Uruguay on June 15.
He could conceivably return for Egypt’s next match, against hosts Russia on June 19, or their final Group A fixture against Saudi Arabia on June 25.
Egypt fly out to Russia on Sunday after a final training session at home on Saturday night.