World Cup 2018

England 1-1 Italy: The view from the press box

It is that time of year when cautious optimism begins to creep in. The tide turns on England’s prospects, the no hopers become the outside bet. Maybe this group of players, under this manager can perform at a major tournament? 

In many ways, it is the same this time around, despite Lorenzo Insigne’s late penalty at Wembley to deny England a sixth successive clean sheet. Gareth Southgate’s inauspicious start has been largely forgotten, as England have become a defensive force and a side with attacking verve, not overly reliant on Harry Kane. The manager is at ease with the press, his players look comfortable and he commands the respect of his men. 

WATCH: Nizhny Novgorod City Preview

England's World Cup fate has been decided. Gareth Southgate's men will have to navigate their way through a group containing Tunisia, Panama and Belgium to go one better than four years ago and reach the knockout stages. 

Of the three cities England will play in, Nizhny Novgorod is without doubt the most appealing. Centrally located, with excellent transport links and a rich history dating back to 1221, it is simply more enticing than Volgograd or Kaliningrad. England will play Panama in Nizhny, on paper their easiest fixture, so it could really be a city that the players and fans will enjoy. 

An Outsider Looking In: The Lowdown on Homophobia and Racism

Two deep-seated concerns have resurfaced in the world’s media this week, with regard to Russia’s capability of hosting two major sporting events: the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and the 2018 World Cup. As ever with an the Olympics, people have questioned the cost and time management of Sochi’s organising committee, but on this occasion, it is the social problems of homophobia and racism that are attracting the headlines. Given my current location, I want to offer an insider’s view on both of these issues.