5 Things That Need to Happen for England to Win World Cup 2014
England have won the FIFA World Cup just once in their history: the 1966 tournament held on home soil, where they defeated West Germany 4-2 in the final, after extra time.
Since then, every four years, the nation's collective hopes are built up that further glory is just around the corner. It generally isn't.
In fact, England's World Cup record since their sole victory barely passes "reasonable" on the success barometer.
From the 11 tournaments since they lifted the Jules Rimet trophy, England have reached the semifinals on just one single occasion (1990), and have in fact failed to qualify for the finals of three editions ('74, '78, '94).
Even so, expectation will be high once more in 2014 that the side can be successful in Brazil, giving present manager Roy Hodgson an awful lot to take care of to satisfy expectations as opposed to dampening them in his usual manner.
Here are five things that need to happen for England to have a shot of lifting the famous golden trophy.
England Qualify Top of the Group and Get a Handy World Cup Draw
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Let's not get ahead of ourselves; England have to earn the right to qualify for the World Cup first of all.
The qualifying group phase looks relatively straight-forward for England in all honesty and they should take enough points to top the group without too many problems.
Poland, Ukraine, Montenegro, Moldova and San Marino are the opposition in Group H; with England having beaten Moldova and drawn to Ukraine so far.
The next two fixtures are San Marino—which you can catch live coverage of here—and Poland away, which will be perhaps the strongest test of how easy or otherwise England will find progress from the group.
Presuming they do qualify top, England will avoid the need for a two-legged play-off which could conceivably throw up tricky opposition such as France, Belgium or Croatia.
After that, England will want a relatively nice draw within the World Cup group itself. Avoiding any of the other European teams would, generally speaking, be a help as England should fancy themselves against most, if not all, qualifiers from the Asian region and—unless they were unlucky to perhaps face Mexico—all from the North American zone.
Any South American side will pose a real test with the increase in quality from the zone in the past decade, while African sides could go either way.
Ivory Coast would be a more difficult test to, for example, Sweden, but similarly England might prefer to face Egypt rather than France.
A Central Defensive Partnership Needs to Be Established
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Now that the John Terry saga, as far as the national side goes at least, is finally over with his retirement, England need to find a new block to build from at the back.
After Sol Campbell and Rio Ferdinand became John Terry and Ferdinand, England have more or less had an established duo playing constantly—barring injuries or suspensions—for the best part of a decade.
Both of these two defenders now appear unlikely to play again for England so Roy Hodgson needs to choose the two centre backs who he feels both complement each other best and can defend well enough against the world's top forwards.
Realistically, at present it looks as though he will need to choose two from Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka and Joleon Lescott.
Ryan Shawcross is the "fourth" choice at the moment but within a year there could be something of an evolution in England's defence.
Micah Richards might continue to play in the centre for Manchester City, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling will hope to recover from injury to become far better defenders, Martin Kelly might return next season to play centrally and others such as Steven Caulker or Sam Magri might go on to have enough of an impact to warrant consideration.
The trick for Hodgson is deciding at some point between now and October 2013, when the qualifiers end, which two are the best suited to be England's bedrock.
The Midfield Learns to Keep Possession
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Defending for your lives, throwing yourself into tackles and smothering shots at close quarters is all well and good, but England need to finally learn how to pass the ball and keep it.
Any games which are played in the North of Brazil during the World Cup will sap the energy, enthusiasm and fitness from those players whose game is based solely on the athletic aspect of football, and the team as a result will suffer if they have to do far more work than the opposition.
A commonly-held up argument is that England (and Britain as a whole) don't produce enough technical footballers to out-pass and out-play the best teams on the continent.
Michael Carrick, Tom Huddlestone, Leon Britton, Jack Rodwell, Paul Scholes, Tom Cleverley, Jack Wilshere, Gareth Barry and plenty of others disprove that as nothing more than idle waffle.
Do England have an entire XI who can out-pass the likes of Spain?
But are there enough technically-able players to retain possession of the ball for important spells at a time? Absolutely, yes.
The problem for too long has been the score-with-every-attack mentality that English football holds, and it is down to the manager to change their methods of thinking in this respect when it comes to international football.
And also to pick which individuals will best do that, alongside completing the other tactical requirements he has.
Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Other Youngsters to Be Fit and Firing
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England's golden generation was considered their best chance of winning an international tournament when the likes of John Terry, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and the like were at their peak.
There's two or three issues with this: Firstly, every time the national team is "recycled" fans and media alike see the positives of the up-and-coming players and the negatives of those who have been in the team for four or five years.
Every change of personnel is hailed as a progression, an improvement, a better group of players than the last.
Secondly, the temptation is always there to keep them together too long, to give them one more chance and avoid integrating possibly impressive youngsters into the team—Joe Hart not being given the chance in the last World Cup being a prime example.
This time though, perhaps England actually do have a crop of younger players just about ready to take their stage at international level, help the team progress and be a threat in the final third against the top sides.
Rodwell, Wilshere, Kyle Walker, Jordan Henderson, Daniel Sturridge, Ryan Bertrand, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Tom Cleverley, Jonjo Shelvey, Danny Welbeck, Andy Carroll, Jack Butland, Kieran Gibbs, Andre Wisdom, Raheem Sterling and the aforementioned defensive quartet of Smalling, Jones, Kelly and Caulker are all aged 23 or under.
Some are quite considerably under 23. And then there's the rest of the under-21 squad and the like to consider.
Not all will be good enough for the highest level, not all will be personal favourites of fans and certainly not all will travel to the 2014 World Cup.
But if even three or four of them prove good enough to work their way into the national team side they could have a real impact on England's football.
A Change of Management to Get Best Use out of Best Players
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And so to the final point.
Roy Hodgson has had an admirably long career. He has been handed plaudits for his methods, for his achievements in Scandinavia, the extent and depth of his experience and for helping teams punch above their weight.
But he's not an international champion-calibre manager.
England will not play good enough football, strong enough football or brave enough football under him to win a knock-out competition like the World Cup—even if all those other points come together and the abilities of the team as a whole come together perfectly.
It is not particularly likely to happen, but England will have to replace Roy Hodgson to have a chance at winning the World Cup.
Shoe-horning progressive and talented youngsters into roles which don't suit them, in the name of not adding creativity at the expense of solidity, will not work at the highest level.
Of course, success for England at a World Cup is a relative term; reaching the semifinals could represent success in a campaign given their recent record.
But as for winning it, somebody else will have to lead the troops into battle to have a chance.