England World Cup 2014: Team Guide for FIFA Tournament
As England once again attempt to win the World Cup, this time in Brazil, there's an unusually calm air amongst their supporters and across the media. The usual frenzied, misplaced optimism has been replaced by feet-on-the-ground pragmatism. No one expects England to win the tournament and that, perhaps more than anything, will help them exceed expectations for once.
They also travel to Brazil with a young, talented squad. Gone, it seems, is the over-reliance on the "Golden Generation", with only a few experienced heads surviving the cull. There's a fresh focus and England will see the benefit of this approach in the future, if not this summer.
For England or, indeed, any European side to win the World Cup on South American soil will be difficult, and their group will be tough to negotiate. But manager Roy Hodgson has in his midst a group of talented young players who may spring a surprise or two.
Road to the Finals
England were unbeaten in Group H, taking 10 points from their last four matches to finish one point ahead of second-placed Ukraine.
England started the campaign with a 5-0 win away against Moldova back in September 2012, before a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Ukraine a few days later set them back somewhat.
They again took four points from their next international double-header—a 5-0 home win against San Marino and 1-1 draw in Poland. England looked difficult to beat but weren't building up the kind of momentum they would have liked.
The 8-0 win away at San Marino came next—with Jermain Defoe grabbing a brace and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also on the scoresheet—before yet another draw, this time away to Montenegro.
The four-points-from-two-games pattern continued into the next round of matches: a 4-0 home win over a poor Moldova side and another draw with Ukraine, this time 0-0 in Kiev.
But England had two home matches left and they won them both, beating Montenegro 4-1 and Poland 2-0 to finish with 22 points, having scored 31 goals and conceded just four.
Defenders: Leighton Baines (Everton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Luke Shaw (Southampton), Chris Smalling (Manchester United).
Midfielders: Ross Barkley (Everton), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Southampton), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), James Milner (Manchester City), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal).
Standby: John Ruddy (Norwich City), Jon Flanagan (Liverpool), John Stones (Everton), Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Tom Cleverley (Manchester United), Andy Carroll (West Ham United), Jermain Defoe (Toronto FC).
Unusually for a British manager, Roy Hodgson has enjoyed a successful career managing teams abroad. He won silverware during stints in Sweden and Denmark, before an impressive period in charge of Fulham which culminated in a UEFA Europa League final appearance.
He started life at Halmstad where he took them from relegation candidates to two-time title-winners in what was a remarkable period in his career. The job he did at Halmstad is still remembered as one of the great managerial performances of all time in Sweden, and it saw him establish a reputation as an astute operator capable of bigger and better things.
After brief spells at Bristol City and IK Oddevold, he returned to Sweden and took over at Malmo. He led the club to five consecutive league championships and was offered a lifetime contract. His influence on Swedish football will be remembered for many years to come, with his tactical innovations seen as central to the style of football still seen there today.
Xamax in Switzerland was his next adventure, guiding them to third- and fifth-placed league finishes before taking charge of the Swiss national side. He took the Swiss team to the 1994 World Cup in the USA—their first qualification for a major tournament since 1966—where they lost to Spain in the last 16. He also led them to Euro 96, but they finished bottom of their group.
Italian giants Inter Milan persuaded him to take charge at the San Siro, and after a turbulent beginning he guided them to the UEFA Cup final in 1997. An uninspired spell at Blackburn Rovers followed, before a brief return to Inter and a season at Grasshoppers.
Eventually, he settled at FC Copenhagen where, in 2001, he guided them to their first league title since 1993, before leaving for Udinese in Italy.
Spells as national team manager of the UAE and Finland followed, before a successful few seasons at Fulham saw him improve his reputation with the English press, which had been harmed during his time at Blackburn. He saved Fulham from relegation initially, before cementing them as a comfortable Premier League side and taking them to their first ever major European final in their 130-year history.
However, a disastrous spell at Liverpool followed, before a move to West Brom saw him repair the damage done at Anfield. He was finally offered the England job after Fabio Capello's resignation in 2012.
He has built a reputation as a sound tactician, but his caution has attracted some critics. However, it's clear from his past that he is a manager capable of building successful teams and exceeding expectations—exactly what England need right now.
Although Wayne Rooney has struggled to live up to the hype that surrounded his emergence on the international scene in 2003, when he made his debut as a 17-year-old, there's still few doubts that he is the most valuable jewel in England's crown. He was their top scorer in qualification with seven, and possesses the kind of quality which allows him to produce moments of match-winning brilliance out of nothing.
He's had a strange season at club level. Praised by many for his work-rate in a Manchester United side bereft of a spark, those who have watched him at close quarters feel he is way short of his best and that, in fact, his hard work is a detriment to his game.
Much like Paul Scholes writing in his first Paddy Power column, they feel Rooney should be in the attacking third more often, where his direct style and ability to beat a man is best utilised.
World Cups, though, provide the greatest stage, and the greatest players usually flourish. Rooney knows his record in major finals isn't what it should be, and he will be determined to set that straight in Brazil.
One to Watch
Raheem Sterling has had a sensational season for Liverpool. At just 19 he lacks experience, but he makes up for it with his raw pace and thirst for goals, and he could well be the surprise package for England at this summer's finals.
He's likely to be used as an impact sub, adding speed and dynamism to England's attack when tiredness is setting in. He's relatively unknown on the world stage, and that element of surprise could prove useful.
He scored nine league goals in 33 matches this season, contributing five assists (via Squawka). He's creative, inventive and an excellent finisher.
And having played in a side full of freedom and attacking intent, which is exactly how Brendan Rodgers set Liverpool up all season, he arrives to the England set up on a high, ready to continue where he left off at Anfield.
World Cup Record
England have only ever won the World Cup once, in 1966 when they hosted the tournament. In fact, their record since then is poor. Even their semi-final appearance in 1990 under Bobby Robson was far from convincing, but this time there seems to be less pressure than ever before.
Did Not Enter
Did Not Enter
Did Not Enter
Did not Qualify
Did not Qualify
Group Round 2
Did not Qualify
Group Stage Fixtures
England were drawn in Group D alongside Italy, Costa Rica and Uruguay. It's a tough group, but England certainly have enough quality to make it through. All the Group D fixtures are listed below (times shown are BST).
14 June 2014
Uruguay v Costa Rica, Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza, 20:00
14 June 2014
England v Italy, Arena Amazonia, Manaus, 23:00
19 June 2014
Uruguay v England, Arena de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, 20:00
20 June 2014
Italy v Costa Rica, Arena Pernambuco, Recife, 17:00
24 June 2014
Italy v Uruguay, Arena das Dunas, Natal, 17:00
24 June 2014
Costa Rica v England, Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte, 17:00