England will once again head into a major football tournament with the entire nation behind them and backing them all the way to glory from home and in Brazil.
Previous tournaments have ended in disappointment for the Three Lions, particularly at the last World Cup when arch rivals Germany tore England apart in ruthless fashion in the second round stage of South Africa 2010. Penalties have also been England’s Achilles heel, with six of the last twelve tournament eliminations coming in games that have gone to a penalty shootout – England lost all six. Roy Hodgson will lead England to this summer’s World Cup with the belief that they can do their country proud and perform to the best of their ability, thus avoiding the disappointment felt by fans that see a team of top quality players fail to deliver when it matters. Many bookmakers have already written off their chances even before the 2014 england world cup squad is announced, but there is every chance that England can surprise the odds and go far in Brazil.
While football will always remain a team game where a collective effort is an essential ingredient for success, each of the thirty-two participants in Brazil will have a variable number of players who have the ability to transform a game on their own. Wayne Rooney will, once again, be integral to England’s hopes of glory in Brazil 2014 as he is the one player that every nation fears. The Manchester United star makes England tick in attack, and possesses unique creative qualities that can help change a game in an instant. There are, however, concerns over Rooney’s current fitness, with a toe injury raising fears that England could once again be set to enter a tournament with their best player not fully fit.
Roy Hodgson will hope that talismanic captain Steven Gerrard can carry the best form of his career with Liverpool long into the summer. The dynamic midfielder has been utilised in a deeper role this season by Brendan Rodgers, but has profited from Gerrard’s superb array of passing and ability to dictate the play, whilst also chipping in with crucial goals arriving late into the box. Club team-mate Daniel Sturridge may also have an important role to play at the World Cup, as the striker has finally realised his potential and has contributed 20 goals to Liverpool’s push for the Premier League title. Joe Hart is also vital to England’s chances of doing the nation proud in Brazil, as the England number one has impressively recovered from a dip in form to return to his mercurial best. Hart has established a commanding presence in goal and must keep the defence in front of him organised, as well as being on hand to block shots and snuff out chances.
The World Cup provides the perfect platform for unknown quantities to make a name for themselves in front of a worldwide audience. Although many of England’s players who are likely to be included in the 23-man squad for Brazil are well known overseas, others may spring a surprise and represent their country with pride. There is increasing support for the inclusion of Adam Lallana, Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley in Roy Hodgson’s team, with the midfield trio enjoying wonderful campaigns in the Premier League for their respective clubs. Lallana impressed in a recent friendly against Denmark, with the creative midfielder offering something different in an area where England have struggled in recent years to create chances on a regular basis. Sterling has come on leaps and bounds at title-chasing Liverpool, with the winger-cum-central-midfielder possessing an abundance of pace and trickery that could pose a considerable problem to any nation participating at Brazil 2014. There is great hope that Barkley can progress into a world class footballer, with the Everton man showing maturity beyond his years under the guidance of Roberto Martinez who has given the 20-year-old the opportunity to shine and demonstrate his undoubted potential.
For England to progress far at the World Cup and surprise those who have wrote off their chances, they will have to qualifying from a potentially tough group that will be an instant test of their mettle. Although it could have been a lot worse, facing Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica will not be easy for an England side that will look for a much improved performance than in the previous World Cup in South Africa. Being knocked out by Germany was bad enough, but there was a lack of harmony within the camp that was reflected through lacklustre performances on the pitch as England barely made it out of a group in which they were expected to dominate. Restoring pride in the England team will be the main priority for Roy Hodgson in Brazil, as expectation levels amongst the fans have diminished in light of a lack of spirit, passion and effort that has often depicted what it means to wear the Three Lions shirt. If England start off positively in their opening game against Italy, they have the quality in the squad to potentially go far in Brazil 2014, and could surprise all odds by going all the way.