The prospect of England World Cup glory was dramatically enhanced when they hired a coach they can genuinely trust.
After the false hope of Sven-Goran Eriksson’s reign, and Steve McClaren’s failure to qualify for Euro 2008, the Football Association appointed someone with a better track record than those two put together, someone who will not be influenced by the frenzied English media, and someone famous for instilling discipline and tactical awareness into his squads. They appointed Fabio Capello.
Their reward was comfortable qualification for the World Cup, a new-found confidence in the squad and a respect for the coach, not apparent in previous regimes. It is extreme to say Capello rules by fear, but he likes things done a certain way, and woe betide those who bring their mobile phones to squad gatherings or wear flip flops and shorts in public.
There remain concerns. In friendlies, Capello’s England have lost to the likes of France, Spain and Brazil, while drawing with Holland. These are the caliber of teams England will need to beat if they want to go all the way to the final in Johannesburg. England have become adept at disposing of the lesser nations but can they make that extra step up in quality when it matters?
- Best World Cup Result: Winners (1966)
- Best European Championship Result: Third Place (1968)
- Record Scorer: Sir Bobby Charlton (49 goals between 1958 and 1970)
- Most Capped Player: Peter Shilton (125 caps between 1970 and 1990)
- Coach: Fabio Capello
- Captain: Steven Gerrard
23-man England World Cup Squad:
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Manchester City), David James (Portsmouth), Robert Green (West Ham)
Defenders: Jamie Carragher (Liverpool), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Michael Dawson (Tottenham), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Ledley King (Tottenham), John Terry (Chelsea), Matthew Upson (West Ham), Stephen Warnock (Aston Villa)
Midfielders: Gareth Barry (Manchester City), Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Joe Cole (Chelsea), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Aaron Lennon (Tottenham), James Milner (Aston Villa), Shaun Wright-Phillips (Manchester City)
Forwards: Peter Crouch (Tottenham), Jermain Defoe (Tottenham), Emile Heskey (Aston Villa), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
Group Matches:Saturday, June 12, 2010 v USA
Friday, June 18, 2010 v Algeria
Wednesday, June 23, 2010 v Slovenia
Prediction: Semi-FinalsSo much rests on Wayne Rooney. Should the mercurial Man Utd forward pick up one of those pesky metatarsal injuries that have troubled he and other squad members in the past, Capello’s plans could be thrown into disarray. In Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, he has goalscoring midfielders in their peak years, so finding the net should not be a problem, especially early on.
Defensively, Capello will hope John Terry’s lack of pace is not exposed and that the injury prone Ledley King can last the course after Rio Ferdinand was ruled out of the tournament with knee ligament damage seven days before kick-off. Glen Johnson will almost certainly start at right-back, but there is a worry that the Liverpool man’s marauding runs forward could come at a cost if he is up against a pacy left-winger.
Capello’s side look likely to win one of the weakest first round groups, and will hope Germany do not finish second in Group D, otherwise a meeting between those two old foes will take place in the second round. More probable is a second round match against Australia, Ghana or Serbia, and despite the many strengths of these sides, England would be favorites.
England cannot meet Brazil, Italy, Spain, Portugal or the Netherlands before the semi-final stage. Some bookmakers have them installed as third favorites for the World Cup behind Brazil and Spain, and with many players going into the tournament at their peak, a semi-final appearance looks possible.
To find out more about the tournament, visit the World Cup section.