England head to Brazil this summer with somewhat low expectations from the nation, which could in theory work in the favour of Roy Hodgson’s men.
The English national team have had a monkey on their back since the summer of 1966, as past squad’s flattring to decieve has haunted the current crop.
Hodgson, who took the hotseat in the summer of 2012, before the European Championships, has stamped his own image on a squad who were still be beleaguered from the 2010 World Cup campaign in South Africa.
England won their group two years ago, however, Hodgson has seemed to have given youth more of a chance this summer within regards to his squad selection, with the likes of Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling, Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana all impressing for their club sides this campaign, on a regular basis.
Shaw’s inclusion has also seen the international career of Ashley Cole come to an end, with the Chelsea man not in the squad heading to Brazil.
With low expectations this summer, this could be a stepping stone for the European Championships in France in two years time.
Qualification and Group
The fact that England qualified with so much ease fo the finals, topping their group ( and not losing a game ) has unfortunately meant that FIFA have decided to un-seed the Three Lions for the World Cup, which will mean that Hodgson’s men will have to play Italy, Uruguay, and Costa Rica, in a real tough group.
England will start their campaign with a game against four time winners Italy, managed by Cesare Prandelli, in the Amazon City of Manaus, deep in the Brazilian rain forest, before taking on Luis Suarez and Uruguay, before their final group game against Costa Rica.
Favourites for the group Italy head into the clash with England next month fully prepared with their squad selected, and boss Prandelli has already started a war of words by stating that “none of the England team could get in the Italian side.”
This by many people, could been seen as a ‘group of death’, as at least one ‘top footballing nation’ will not make it past the group stage with many supporters, and pundits, already writing off England already.
Jet lag could prove pivotal in the final standings in this group, with England having to travel for around a total of 15 hours to play their three games in different parts of Brazil, with Manaus, Sao Paulo, and Belo Horizonte.
Hodgson must realise that anything from those two games will be a bonus, heading into the final group phase fixture in Belo Horizonte.
England have only reached a World Cup final once, which on that ocassion they won the tournament as hosts in 1966, after a 4-2 win over West Germany at Wembley.
Other than that, it has been fairly limited really, with England only getting past the quarter final’s once since then, as England lost on penalties to West Germany in the Semi final at Italia 1990, a game historic for the tears of Gazza.
England’s last World Cup campaign ended in a 4-1 defeat against Germany in 2010, in the round of 16 in South Africa.
England have failed to even qualify, on three ocassions, with those coming in 1974, 1978, and 1994.
Hodgson has selected his 30 man provisional squad that will head to Brazil, with most of the players called up having never featured at a major International tournament before.
Ross Barkley has been included in the squad after a fine season at Everton, with Hodgson focusing on the youthful side of the squad, picking several up and coming players.
Barkley scored seven goals in 38 games in a superb campaign for Everton, and will be hoping that a good set of performances in the World Cup can help him nail down a regular place in the England squad.
Southampton trio Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and Rickie Lambert have also been included in the squad, after fine seasons at the Saints, helping the South Coast side to an eighth placed finish in the Premier League.
The form of both Lallana and Shaw for their club have attracted interest from both Liverpool and Manchester United, with Liverpool ready to sign winger Lallana, for a fee of £25 million.
19 year old Raheem Sterling has also been selected after a fine season for Liverpool, with Arsenal duo Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere also making the squad.
Both Chamberlain and Wilshere have endured tough season’s for the Gunners, having struggled with injuries.
Chelsea’s veteran midfielder Frank Lampard, 35, has been included, with captain Steven Gerrard, 33, Phil Jagielka, 31, Lambert, 32, and Foster, 31 are the only players over the age of 30 in the squad.
Kyle Walker has been left out the squad, after suffering a pelvic injury in the March of this year.
The Tottenham fullback wrote on Twitter.
“Gutted to miss the World Cup because of my injury. I’m still a few weeks away from being fit so I understand why the gaffer has left me out. We’re taking a strong group of players to Brazil. All the best boys, I’ll be supporting you!.”
Theo Walcott is also out of the showpiece with a cruciate ligament injury he sustained in an FA Cup tie against Tottenham Hotspur in late January.
Other players not in the squad are Ashley Cole, who has retired from international football following the news that Luke Shaw pipped him to the seat on the plane.
Tom Cleverley has also been left out after a poor season at Manchester United, with Andy Carroll, Jermaine Defoe and John Ruddy also overlooked.
Goalkeeper Fraser Forster is included over Ruddy, with the Celtic goalkeeper becoming the first player to be selected for an England World Cup squad whilst playing in Scotland.
Goalkeepers: Fraser Forster (Celtic), Ben Foster (West Bromwich Albion), Joe Hart (Manchester City).
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).
Forwards: Rickie Lambert (Southampton), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Danny Welbeck (Manchester United).
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).
England will play Peru at Wembley on 30th May, before playing Ecuador and the Honduras in Miami in early June, before flying out to Brazil.
By Ben Reardon