Can England qualify for the 2010 World Cup?

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Trevor Brooking thinks that the talent pool in England is so shallow that thinking about semi-finals is the stuff of fantasy – England players and fans must buckle down and focus on qualifying for South Africa first.

The FA have (ambitiously) aimed for the semi-finals of either the World Cup or Euro 2012. The press bashed the FA for setting such a ‘low’ aim, but it’s high enough to be a challenge and low enough to be realistic (especially with Scolari having gone to Chelsea).

There are many reasons why England have not lived up to the expectations, although some will say that the fault lies with the unrealistic expectations as well as the biggest frack-up by the FA in recent footballing history. For an organisation that has taken a decade to start talking about a central footballing academy, wrongfully banned certain players in their misguided efforts to ‘set examples’ and failed to administer the law in a just and fair manner (or at all, in some cases) and been bullied by FIFA into turning on its own (Game 39), to make a mistake of that magnitude with a nation’s footballing dreams is cruel.

But thankfully the past is behind us and England start with a new manager and a new challenge – World Cup qualification. Their qualifying fixtures – despite being several long-haul trips to Eastern Europe – are relatively easy with the exception of Croatia, although a Capello-powered, fully-fit England will surely be able to beat Croatia at home (where have I heard that before?).

Can England win their group? Will Rooney and co. travel to South Africa in the summer of 2010, or will they again be off to the beaches posing for the paps?

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