There is no doubting that Fabio Capello's England have a new found steel to them. Disciplined and harder to breakdown, the three lions have converged on the road to South Africa with relative ease. Lampard and Gerrard look happier as a couple than ever before, while Wayne Rooney remains productive in his role as England's perennial go-to man.
But, in a group where the nearest challengers to the summit were Croatia, it would be foolish of any England fan to get ahead of themselves and think that the team are worthy this time of a spot beyond the last eight. Machine like and efficient they may be, England still lack a certain dynamism that readily possesses Spain, Brazil, France and Argentina, the big guns, two of whom though, have yet to qualify.
Although many might not agree, Terry and Co still occupy a spot among the world's second tier nations, vying with the likes of Portugal (even with Ronaldo), the Netherlands and Germany. In truth, any one of those three along with England could go on to lift the trophy but have failed to show a marked improvement in certain areas, something that Spain appear to have achieved over the past two years.
The champions of Euro 2008 added that much needed resistance to their game and coupled with their sublime interplay are now among the world's elite. They like France, are Europe's two best rounded teams and have a strong blend of creativity. One only has to look at their attacking options as evidence of this. Torres, Villa, Silva, Iniesta, Xavi, Fabregas and not forgetting Raul. As for the French; Benzema, Ribery, Gourcuff, Nasri, Anelka and of course Henry.
Aside from Greece's anomlous triumph in 2004, major championships are often won by attacking sides, that can in effect out score their oppostion and score when least expected, or late on. Even hardliners Italy provided flair in lifting the world cup in 2006.
So where does this leave England..heavily reliant upon Rooney and Gerrard. There just isn't room for Lampard's free scoring Chelsea nature to surface. But all is not lost. England can come away victorious this summer. Though they must give faith to their younger, less experienced attackers...Walcott, Lennon and Carlton Cole. all of whom should be given permanence in the current side.
While, providing he is fit, Owen Hargreaves should be employed as the holding midfileder. His ability to cover every blade of grass and greater teneacity means that England's midfield can rampage forward with more defensive assurance.
South Africa 2010 holds much promise for England, but promises can be broken...fingers crossed though.
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