England: World Cup 2014 Team Preview
Best Ever Finish: Winners (1966)
Captain: Steven Gerrard
Manager: Roy Hodgson
Despite going through the entire qualifying campaign undefeated, England supporters were left sweating on whether or not the team was going to qualify for the 2014 showpiece right up until the final two games.
The team stuttered through their early matches and failed to establish a winning groove early on. Draws away to Montenegro and Poland, and a tie at home to Ukraine meant the team were a little short on confidence and unable to establish any kind of rhythm. But they got there in the end, with a dour 0-0 draw in Ukraine setting up two must win games against Montenegro and Poland. Inspired showings from England new boy Andros Townsend eventually saw Roy Hodgson’s side finish top of their group.
For the first time in many a major tournament, the hyperbole about England potentially lifting the trophy is absent. As the ‘Golden Generation’ is ushered out, young players are coming in, and with that has come an acceptance that England aren’t really major contenders for the title. But they are by no means the no-hopers many in the English media make them out to be. There is pace, power and a little bit of genius in this team.
A quarter final showing will be seen as success here, and the experience gained by players like Townsend, Ross Barkley and Jack Wilshere will be key to their developments. They’ll certainly need it if England are looking to triumph in 2022!
Key Player - Wayne Rooney
After a turbulent summer punctured by ongoing transfer chatter, you would have been excused for having fears about Wayne Rooney this campaign. But England’s talisman looks back to his sparkling best under David Moyes.
For many, the Manchester United man is England’s only world class talent and a big performance at a major tournament is long overdue. Indeed, it is hard to believe this World Cup will mark ten years since the then-Everton player took EURO 2004 by storm. Since then, problems with fitness, form, indiscipline and off-field dramas have plagued his major tournament build up.
But he seems mature, fit and settled at Old Trafford this season and there is no reason why he can’t carry his glittering form up until the World Cup. When he’s on it, Rooney is a hugely inspiring figure for England, and some strong showings in Brazil will go a long way to the Three Lions achieving their ambitions.