Non League Daily

Do England Stand A Chance At The World Cup?

With the league season wrapping up in the next few weeks, footie fans across the country will be swapping the terraces for the telly to watch the world's top footballing nations duke it out for supremacy in the World Cup.

 

This year, the competition has been expanded to 32 teams, and with 64 matches across five weeks, there will be plenty of opportunities to kick back and enjoy what should be a feast of top-class football.

Despite the enlargement of the competition, yet again only one UK team has made it into the finals, with Roy Hodgson's England team as Britain's sole representative. Usually around this time of year, the England hype machine goes into overdrive, and the papers are full of articles detailing just why this could, after an ever-increasing number of 'years of hurt', be England's year.

This year, however, the pundits have been a little more muted than usual about England's prospects. With many of the so-called 'golden generation' of Becks, Scholes et al hanging up their boots, and a few more big names such as Gerrard, Lampard, and Cole coming to the ends of their careers, the current crop of players is arguably the weakest that England has had for decades. Of course, there are still a few rays of hope in there - Rooney is in good form and hasn't been injured or suspended (yet!), and the likes of Lallana, Wilshere, and Townsend have shown flickers of promise, but on the whole it would be fair to say that the squad looks short of truly world-class players.

To make matters worse, England have been drawn in a pretty tough-looking group with Italy - who are admittedly weaker than usual but still a force to be reckoned with - and a Luis Suarez-inspired Uruguay fancied to qualify ahead of England. As a result, most of the bookies have placed England at worryingly short odds not to progress to the last 16 - just 6/5 with most of them at the time of writing (bet on the World Cup at Complete Betting).

If they do manage to get into the last 16, at the very least they will have to beat Costa Rica, draw their other two games, and hope that Costa Rica can do them a favour against one of their rivals. That said, neither Uruguay or Italy can be considered unbeatable. On paper, Italy's team don't seem as strong as in recent years, with the ageing triumvirate of Pirlo, De Rossi, and Buffon as the side's only genuine superstars, and star striker Guiseppe Rossi struggling to regain fitness after injury. That said, their legendary defensive organisation should make them difficult to break down, especially given that England have hardly been prolific in front of goal in the run-up to the tournament.

In Edinson Cavani and recently-crowned PFA Player of the Year Luis Suarez, Uruguay may have one of the best strike forces in the world right now. Behind them, though, is a team that is although undoubtedly well-organised, lacking in star quality, and if England can neutralise the threat of their front pairing, they should be able to find a way past them.

If England do make it into the last 16, they will most likely face the Ivory Coast, who have a fairly fearsome strike force of their own in the form of Didier Drogba and in-form Swansea striker Wilfried Bony. As the most fancied African team at the World Cup, England will have to be at their best to overcome them, but again, England should have enough quality to be in with a chance.

If all goes to plan, England would face a much sterner test in the quarter finals, with tournament favourites Brazil or Louis Van Gaal's Holland team as the most likely opponents. In the last couple of decades, this has traditionally been the point at which England's World Cup adventure has ended, and the odds of this happening again range between 6/4 and 7/4 at the time of writing.

If by some miracle they get through to the semis, they will most likely face their old nemesis Germany - better start practicing those penalties, boys! And while very few people expect them to make it into the final - with odds of around 12/1 - they could face reigning champions Spain or an Argentina side featuring none other than Lionel Messi. At which point, you might expect the words of Danish coach Morten Olsen to be ringing in their ears: "Good luck at the World Cup, you'll need it!"

 

 

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