England's route to World Cup 2018 final: Possible opponents for Three Lions in Russia

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England’s emphatic win over Panama in their second game at this summer’s World Cup ensured they joined Belgium in qualifying for the knockout stages with a game to spare.

That spare game against the Red Devils is now a straight shootout for top spot in the group, with England currently ahead on the fair-play ruling.

As much as finish top of Group G is what all in the England camp will want, it’s hard to ignore that the route through the knockout stages could be easier should the Three Lions finish second.

With the likes of Germany, Brazil and Argentina faltering in the group stages, it seems second place is the one to go for.

So what could England’s route through the knockout stages look like…

Round of 16

England’s first opponents in the knockout stages will come from Group H, which is shaping up after Colombia's win in the final game of the second round of the group stages sent Poland home.

(REUTERS)

Should Southgate’s side finish top of the group - meaning they will play on Monday, July 2 - they will face whoever finishes second out of Japan, Senegal and Colombia. If the Three Lions take finish second - which would mean playing a day later - that would see them face whoever finishes top of Group H.

Quarter-finals

This is where the problems with finishing top begin to crop up.

Before the tournament everyone was wary of England finishing second and thus, should they get to the last eight, facing either Germany or Brazil because, of course, they’re not going to slip up.

(AP)

Well they have, which means finish second and you’re more likely to be getting a game against either Serbia or Mexico to book your place in the semi-final: finish top, and the two big boys crop up again.

Semi-finals

Get this far and it really is a lottery, and the way things are shaping up it’s likely to be Spain or Croatia standing in Southgate’s way.

Final

Now we are in dreamland. Should they use Toni Kroos’ goal as a springboard the Germans are likely to face France in their semi-final, meaning the winner of that will await Harry Kane & Co.

(AFP/Getty Images)

All in all, nothing too much to worry about, then.