England is a constant underachiever on the international level since World Cup 1966, but the team has managed to get out of the group stage relatively easily throughout the last few World Cup tournaments.
However, the team faces a monumental challenge in 2014. Can the Three Lions play in the knockout rounds this summer? Our opinion is: They can if they manage to play at their peak throughout group stage. They have good mix of experienced and young talented players.
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Wayne Rooney is definitely the key player for England, even though his performances have not been great in past World Cups. Rooney has scored 38 goals in 98 games for England, but he has never scored a single goal in a World Cup tournament. He will need to step up in a big way if this team hopes to make a deep run in this tournament. Let's not forget that Man Utd had a terrible season so World Cup is a place where Rooney can regain his status of a world class player.
Fortunately, England has a number of other solid players. Danny Welbeck has not been particularly great for Manchester United, but he can also make an impact, on the other hand Daniel Sturridge had a great season for Liverpool and could be the major factor for England in this tournament. Ricky Lambert and Jermain Defoe have solid season behind them, but realistically they can't be a main players to rely on.
In the midfield, this team has the likes of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. Both players are well over 30 years old (Gerrard is 33 and Lampard is 35) and it is likely that one of them will be on the bench for most of the tournament. It will be interesting to see if manager Roy Hodgson gives youngsters like Jack Wilshere, Ross Barkley, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Raheem Sterling a chance to start on this team.
Gerrard and Lampard had World Cup experiences but never have played great tournament. They always were as good as England was and we know that definitely wasn't good enough. Wilshere, Barkley, Lallana, Sterling and Oxlade-Cahamberlain are surely highly motivated to show that they are the future stars of the English football. They won't lack motivation but what is questionable is their experience for this kind of competition. Gerard and Lampard maybe don't have stamina to play that many games in that short notice but they can compensate it with the enormous experience.
Our opinion is that combination of young talents and Steve G or Frankie L can be a great choice for Hodgson and we invite him to think of this in building the squad. Now let's look at the England's weakest link. The team's defence is definitely an area for concern as Leighton Baines is the only reliable defender at Hodgson's disposal.
Oh, sorry, wait there is a second guy that was awesome this season, Luke Shaw. Damn, he plays the same position as Baines. On the other side of the pitch, Smalling, Jones or Johnson nowhere near their form from the best days. So we say right backs are English weakest link on this tournament. Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka form solid central block, but they are slow players and against teams which play fast football (i.e. Uruguay) it's going to be hard for them.
Don't get this wrong, they are good defenders but nowhere near the world class status. Both had solid seasons, but both also played a lot of matches and considering the age they will be tired prior to the competition. Joe Hart will have to prove that he is as good as his recent form, he still has not proven himself to be the elite keeper he was before the Euro 2012.
Best outcome – semi finals
Worst Outcome: not reaching a knockout phase
Realistic outcome – last 16 of the knockout phase