White sandy beaches, blue skies for miles around and an exhilarating carnival atmosphere like no other. England aren’t spending the summer in Blackpool. No, they’re heading to Brazil.
Yes, the panic’s over. Roy Hodgson’s men passed the Montenegro and Poland test like Stephen Fry resitting his eleven and have booked themselves a place amongst the world’s best.
And whilst England’s hopes have been muted this time round, with very little “WE ARE GOING TO WIN” headlines plastered across newspapers, and no excited Gary Lineker bouncing about the Match of the Day studio grimacing “This is the year Alan!” There is a distinct lack of optimism which is why bookmakers such as Coral are offering 26-1 for our home nation to win the biggest prize in global football.
Expectations are at an all-time low. No hope for a team that contains the world-class Wayne Rooney, Jack Wilshere and Steven Gerrard. No hope for the exciting young talent of Andros Townsend and Daniel Sturridge who are currently setting the Premier League alight. Despite the top scorer in the world’s greatest league being English, and the fact they are unbeaten in 10, England have no chance.
Bu wait a moment. Surely it would be unrealistic to believe England can’t do something special come June of next year?
What is certain to test the water ahead of the trip to Rio is the upcoming friendlies against Germany and Chile at Wembley next month. With both teams already qualified, England will get a good idea about South American opposition as well as the chance to test themselves against, arguably the world’s best.
There’s no doubt the Three Lions have the individuals to do well in the tournament. Rooney has put his troubled summer behind him and has looked in fine form for Manchester United, whilst Daniel Sturridge has been out-performing Luis Suarez at times this season. But can they gel together as a team?
Always England’s problem, the Gerrard / Lampard debate still rages on, but Hodgson seems to have finally given England some order. Defensively very solid, the qualifying campaign and friendlies against Brazil and Italy proved that, whilst in the last few games, the former West Brom boss has instilled an attacking prowess that has risen fans and left defenders fallen. It’s just ensuring England’s young starlets aren’t intimidated by the world’s elite. Germany will be the ultimate test.
But looking forward to next year, get through the group stages and England could surprise many a sceptic. During Roy’s reign they have become incredibly difficult to break down and could pinch a win against anyone. And, if they don’t, well, they’ll probably just get beat on penalties.