Jose Mourinho: England can win the World Cup

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I’m sure Gareth Southgate will be sending Jose Mourinho a message of thanks for keeping expectations in England low ahead of the 2018 World Cup…

Speaking after the international break and ahead of Manchester United’s clash with Newcastle United on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) Mourinho has backed England’s young squad to cause an upset in Russia next summer.

Seriously. He did.

“I think England must have a chance because the players are really good. There’s a great generation of players at different ages and with different qualities,” Mourinho said. “They have good experience at club level, playing in the Premier League and plenty of them play in the Champions League too. England have great potential to do something important.”

When England crash out of the tournament in the group stage or the Round of 16 on penalty kicks against Panama, you can dig these quotes back up.

Even the most optimistic Englishman would say that reaching the quarterfinals of the 2018 World Cup would represent a big success for Southgate’s side.

Tournament favorites Germany, Brazil, Argentina, France, Belgium, Portugal and Spain appear in a league of their own but after that, you’d say England are capable of at least pushing for a spot in the quarters and given some good luck (aka no penalty kick shootouts) they could even sneak into the semifinals. That would be like winning the World Cup for England.

Expectations were low heading into EURO 2016 last summer and look what happened to England. After understrength England teams drew 0-0 against Brazil and Germany in friendly games over the international break, maybe expectations should be a little higher. Still, seeing England getting past the quarterfinals is tough.

And, more than likely, this is a ploy from Mourinho to crank up the pressure on Southgate with United’s boss reportedly unhappy that England used his center back Phil Jones on international duty despite Jones complaining of a thigh problem and then hobbling off early on against Germany last Friday.

Remember, there’s always an angle with Mr. Mourinho.