Yes, England can win the World Cup. Of course they can—they have as good a chance as any other outsiders in the tournament. But I don’t think they will, and if they reach the semi-finals it would be reason to rejoice.
However, anything is possible. Remember how Denmark won the Euros in 1992, when they came off the beach having not even prepared for the tournament?
I don’t foresee such an occurrence happening again, mind you.
My main area for concern is in defence—especially central defence, where, you would assume, Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka will be the first-choice pairing in the absence of John Terry.
For that reason, I think, tactically, it is going to be very difficult for Roy Hodgson to play an attacking style of game. He cannot afford to open himself up to the counter-attack. That would be England's Achilles' heel.
We are talking about very, very good Premier League defenders, but the big question mark will be whether they are World Cup-quality defenders when they are up against the best forwards in the world. I think you have to be honest enough to say that the jury is still out on whether they can be.
I hope that they can prove themselves to be international-quality defenders, it could be the key to England's entire World Cup.
My belief is that it is possible for England to reach the quarter-finals—from there, who knows how far you can go?
But international football is vastly different to the Premier League, and World Cup football is a further step up, especially if England get through the group stages and into the knockout phase. England's hopes for progression depend on Cahill and Jagielka taking their game up a notch.
At the World Cup, you are up against the cream of the world's attacking players. Roy simply cannot afford to be anything other than cagey, and he must set up to use the pace that exists in the side in order to catch the opposition out on the counter-attack.
But England cannot break with pace up the pitch without support from midfield, which may prove to be a problem if they are defending too deep.
Roy has been doing a grand job with England, and he would do well to make sure the country put the team's ambitions in this tournament into perspective.
No European side has ever won in South America, and I cannot see it happening in Brazil. Spain might be Europe’s best hope, but I would only put their chances at 25 percent, so you can imagine where I would put England's.
You have to be realistic.
But there is always a lot of emotion with England and the fans' expectations are usually far too high. That might work in Roy Hodgson’s favour, with the forthcoming World Cup one of the rare occasions when expectancy isn’t roaring as high as it usually is before a big tournament.
For England to have an exceptional World Cup, so much will have to go in their favour—refereeing decisions, everyone staying fit and avoiding unnecessary injuries, avoiding suspensions, not conceding penalties and getting a few themselves. In other words, a lot of the rub of the green.
I think the World Cup needs to be used to give as many youngsters international football tournament experience as possible in preparation for Euro 2016.
If England reach the quarter-finals, as I believe they might, then there is a huge temptation to try to play the best side and keep going, but I feel the reverse should be true, that the best of our young players need to experience a quarter-final and possibly even a semi-final.
I have always seen this World Cup as a platform to build for two years further down the line, as we do have some very exciting young talent.
I can see the same with Belgium, who also have a lot of very good, outstanding young players. They will have a wonderful squad, but they won’t be ready to make a real impact in terms of challenging for trophies for another two years.
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