(Reuters) - Factbox on the England national team ahead of the 2018 World Cup:
FIFA ranking: 13 (till June 7)
England have appeared in 14 World Cups, including the last five. Their best performance was 1966, on home soil, when they won the tournament, beating West Germany 4-2 (aet). Their best performance since that triumph was in 1990 when they lost on penalties in the semi-final to West Germany. They reached the quarter-finals in 2002 and 2006 but went out at the group stage in 2014.
Coach: Gareth Southgate
The 47-year-old Southgate was an England international defender and midfielder who played for Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough during a career which saw him win 57 caps for his country. After his playing career, he managed Middlesbrough for three years before taking charge of England’s Under-21 team. Southgate was appointed England manager in November, 2016, having previously taken temporary charge of the side following the sacking of Sam Allardyce.
He is keen to see England play a similar style throughout the age groups with more emphasis on ball-playing defenders and attacking wing-backs and looks likely to go with five at the back in Russia.
Harry Kane: The striker, who will be England’s captain, will be central to their hopes in Russia and he has something to prove after looking exhausted throughout the 2016 European Championship finals. His 12 goals in 23 appearances for his country have shown he can translate his prolific form for Tottenham Hotspur (30 Premier League goals this past season) to the international stage and with his club mate Dele Alli likely to play behind him, the Spurs link could be crucial.
Raheem Sterling: The former Liverpool winger has improved his all-round game significantly under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City and his pace, skill and ability to go past defenders could provide the moments of inspiration England will need in a squad otherwise short of stardust. The 23-year-old has not always delivered in England colors, though, and will be desperate to do so this time.
England have conceded one goal, from a penalty, in their last six games which include goalless draws with World Cup favorites Germany and Brazil, a 1-0 win over the Netherlands and a 1-1 draw with Italy. Their last loss was a 3-2 friendly defeat by France in Paris in June, 2017.
How they qualified:
In a relatively straightforward group where Slovakia finished second, England cruised through to the finals with eight wins and two draws — against Slovenia and Scotland, scoring 18 goals and conceding three.
England will be confident of progressing from Group G where they play Tunisia, Panama and, in their final game, Belgium.
The Belgians, inspired by Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, will be the biggest threat to England but both sides could be in situations where a draw might suit.
Should England make it to the second round, they will play the first or second-placed team from Group H which features Poland, Colombia, Senegal and Japan.
However Southgate’s team could be up against Brazil or Germany in the quarter-finals.
Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Ken Ferris