England may be flying under the radar going into the World Cup, but Wayne Rooney's belief in the current squad is as well-placed as it is a good sign ahead of the team's first match against Italy.
This is the best England squad I’ve ever been involved with.
The one weakness is that we have a lot players who haven’t got any real experience of tournament football.
I don’t think anyone can predict what will happen to England in Brazil – and that’s why I am really excited about this World Cup.
I’ve got absolutely no idea how we are going to perform. We could have a massive impact on the tournament, go all the way to the final and surprise everyone. All I can say is that the potential and quality we have got in this squad is really exciting.
Rooney's comments are right on the money—no one knows how England are going to perform when the tournament kicks off.
The squad is young and exciting but lacking in big-tournament experience. England's recent history on the biggest stage has been spotty at best, and fans automatically assume the team will be overrated due to the media's obsession with the Three Lions.
This year might be different, however.
The 2013-14 Premier League season was the year of the youngster, with numerous players emerging as potential impact players for the national team.
Liverpool set the example with the trio of Daniel Sturridge, Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling, but they were far from the only team relying heavily on this new generation of stars.
Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and Ross Barkley all established themselves as the future of English football, while the likes of Leighton Baines and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain confirmed their great campaigns in 2012-13 were no fluke.
The sudden influx of youth is supported by a handful of veteran players like Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, while established stars like Jack Wilshere and Gary Cahill should be ready to go when the tournament starts.
Per The Mirror's Dean Jones, there are so many options to choose from for Roy Hodgson that he will even bench Rooney for the team's next friendly, against Ecuador.
When Rooney says this is the most talented England squad he's ever been involved with, he's not lying. But England's biggest asset may be the expectations, or complete lack thereof.
In that respect, the Three Lions are the exact opposite of the Belgian side, who have been so hyped to the point the only way they can't disappoint fans is by winning the cup.
England could lose all three group stage matches, and plenty of fans wouldn't be surprised. This is primarily a young team, after all, and Brazil 2014 will serve as a learning experience.
Rooney is one of the team's most established players, and his confidence in the team amid the news he may not even be starting isn't just something a veteran player is supposed to say in front of the cameras.
England probably won't win the World Cup. They'll have their hands full in the group stages going up against three strong sides in Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica, and progression to the knockout stages is far from a guarantee.
But it would be very wrong to sleep on one of the world's most exciting young teams, who will be travelling to Brazil with a bunch of first-timers high on momentum.
Rooney believes in this squad, as he should. And frankly, so should you.
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