England go into the World Cup in Brazil in a curiously different position than usual. For the first time in what could be ever, the English fans and probably more importantly, the English media, have accepted and come to terms with the fact England are for once, not true contenders for the World Cup.
Usually, anticipation of the success of England is commonplace with phrases such ‘the fate of a nation is in their hands’. The intense media pressure that comes with this anticipation are the usual norms for England’s World Cup build up. Preceding the last few international tournaments, England have been dubbed with having a ‘Golden Generation’ by the media. Because of these inflated hopes, when success did not come, the country experienced mass disappointment and often anger directed at the England team.
Ironically, this conceding of being contenders has come at a time when England do actually have a handful of on form youngsters who possess raw quality. There is genuine hope that the youth coming through the ranks right now could become world class. Players who made the final 23 man squad such as Luke Shaw, Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley, Daniel Sturridge, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and even Jack Wilshere are all future stars with massive potential. If Roy Hodgson decides to give these young players a chance in this tournament, England could be a very exciting side this summer and possibly spring a surprise and go further in this tournament than many expect.
As well as these exciting youngsters, England, for a change, seem blessed with attacking options, with many players in the squad having had very strong seasons for their respective clubs. England manager Roy Hodgson looks to favour a fluid attacking line with many players vying for these positions. England talisman Wayne Rooney has never quite proved himself on the world stage and a major dilemma for Hodgson is how to get the best out of England’s debatable best player. Many are calling for Rooney to be dropped to free up a system for youth to thrive, but there is no questioning that when on form, Rooney can be a devastating opponent for any side.
England look to have a settled starting goalkeeper and defensive back line, but it is the midfield where the majority of the question marks in this England team have arose. Although captain Steven Gerrard is a guaranteed starter in the first game against Italy, it is who will partner him in midfield and also if a two or three man midfield will work best for the England team. Liverpool teammate Jordan Henderson has had a fantastic season playing next to Gerrard and this successful partnership, if used correctly by Hodgson, could be transferred to England’s midfield.
Going into England’s first game against Italy, a major factor on either teams’ success could be the searing heat and humidity found where they meet in the Amazonian conditions of Manaus. This is a hugely different environment for European teams. England have recently been taking double training sessions in the humidity of Miami in the hope that the England players will become acclimatized to the intense conditions as much as possible before facing Italy.
England fans will just hope that an international tournament can finish without the dreaded penalty shoot out coming into play. England are notorious for exiting international tournaments by penalties, having been beaten this way SIX times by penalties since 1996. This has become a definite confidence knocking dark cloud looming over England for many years now. England’s captain Steven Gerrard has recently admitted that they are working on penalties in training and do have a genuine quality goalkeeper in Joe Hart between the sticks this time. This could be the tournament where the penalty shoot out curse is ended, a nation hopes…
England should qualify from their group. A draw against Italy and two wins against Uruguay and Costa Rica are not out of the realms of possibility and should ensure England qualify from the group. This would be a massive confidence builder for England going into the knockout stages.
Can England win the World Cup? I do not think so on this occasion. They could be exciting and provide some real attacking flair in Brazil as long as ALL things click into place for Hodgson. Ultimately, as history has proved, England may struggle against stronger opposition in the knockout stages. The semi-finals are a real possibility and would be considered a successful tournament for England.