The 2018 World Cup is fast approaching.
It’s little more than two weeks now until Russia take on Saudi Arabia to kick off the 21st edition of football’s grandest competition.
Brazil are the favourites to win the tournament, ahead of Germany and Spain, but it’s impossible to look at France’s squad and think that they don’t have a chance.
As for England, just signs of progress would be accepted.
The Three Lions haven’t reached the quarter-final of the World Cup since 2006 and their showing in Brazil four years ago was miserable.
Gareth Southgate has selected a youthful squad that includes the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
One of the biggest decisions the England manager had to make was which goalkeepers to select.
England's penalty preparations
He eventually decided to include Nick Pope at the expense of Joe Hart, and Pope will compete for the No. 1 jersey with Jordan Pickford and Jack Butland.
England’s preparations ahead of the competition have focussed on penalties, which is hardly surprising given their disastrous record in shootouts.
Pickford has revealed that Southgate’s players are preparing for the possibility of a shootout by practising the walk from the halfway line - an idea that England fans don’t think is going to work.
“We’ve been doing the walk from the halfway line,” Pickford said.
“We’re not looking too far ahead but behind the scenes we’re doing a lot of work to be prepared for how we’d want to go about it.”
But it’s impossible to recreate the true experience that England’s players will find themselves in in Russia, when millions around the world will be watching.
That’s what England fans are pointing out on Twitter.
“How do you practice walking from the centre circle with 50,000 people watching them?,” Twitter user @Dyounger_ said.
Of course, the obvious response to that is asking why golfers practice their putting.
It seems at this point that England are held back by the fact that penalties more often than not end in disappointment.
The Three Lions have lost six of seven competitive tournament shootouts, and Southgate himself remains haunted by his miss against Germany in the semi-final of Euro 96.News Now - Sport News