World Cup 2014 Team Spotlight – England
The pressure on the Three Lions, coming from a country where the media is relentless, is always intense. However, manager Roy Hodgson and his England squad might be feeling more unburdened than past years because domestically, the expectations are low.
Group D: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy
Most capped (active): Steven Gerrard (110)
Top scorer (active): Wayne Rooney (38)
Odds to win the 2014 World Cup: 20/1
England football supporters, among the most knowledgeable in the world, know that their nation’s squad is in a crushing Group. The only easy beat in Group D is probably Costa Rica and nothing else is guaranteed.
Yet precisely for that reason, England might play a free-flowing, attack-minded style of game that could win them a match or two versus a tricky opponent.
Team captain Steven Gerrard wants to atone for a couple of mistakes late in the Premiership campaign that cost his Liverpool a shot at the title. He’ll have to shake off the recent horrors of his club football, and if he can do that he’ll be a steady veteran presence in midfield.
First and foremost, Rooney needs to have a tournament where he showcases his top form. Daniel Sturridge, his running mate up front, had a fantastic club season at Liverpool making sweet music with Luis Suarez. Rooney, England’s most celebrated striker, must become that dynamic partner with Sturridge for England to realize its goal-scoring potential.
Hodgson made a couple of selections on the squad that raised eyebrows. Twenty-year old Ross Barkley was on the plane to Brazil instead of Michael Carrick and 18-year old Luke Shaw supplanted trusty veteran Ashley Cole. However, most would agree that having some youthful exuberance in the squad is a good thing.
England’s first match is against Italy in Manaus, which is a rainforest locale that will be oppressively hot and humid. The youthful legs will be crucial in a substitution role to keep the pace lively.
The health of a couple of England’s most explosive players is in doubt. Tottenham’s Andros Townsend will miss the World Cup due to injury and Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is battling back from a groin injury. Chamberlain’s status is in doubt and Townsend really impressed during qualification, so that could leave a void.
Goalkeeper Joe Hart had some worrying times this season at Manchester City and although he usually gets more exposure for his perfect hair than for his play, he still has the ability to be one of the world’s premier ‘keepers.
Other experienced players like defender Glen Johnson and greybeard midfielder Frank Lampard should make an impact in a stressful moment. In all, Hodgson has selected a nice mix of experience and youthful pizzazz.
Prediction: 2nd in Group D
Due to the fact England must play both Italy and Uruguay, the expectations are less than if the Three Lions were in a group they were expected to steamroll. The millions of people watching in the pub will perhaps be a little more understanding than their usual critical selves.
England must capitalize on this position and win at least one game against the two considerable foes.
If England do that and take care of business versus Costa Rica, it will be enough to vault the Lions into the knock-out stage of the tournament.