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Can we really win the World Cup?

September 24, 2009

It’s been a difficult few days for English Football, with controversy surrounding the Manchester derby, the Robbie Keane ‘penalty’ debate, and Sol Campbell’s not-so-surprising departure from Notts County. But I’m here to put a smile back on your faces with a positive overview of England’s World Cup qualifying campaign and their chances of winning next year’s World Cup.

Every year the England team is branded as a team to watch out for, to not underestimate, and to possibly win the World Cup. And every year we are disappointed. When it’s not David Beckham kicking out at Diego Simeone, it’s David Batty missing a fatal spot-kick. When it’s not Wayne Rooney stamping on Ricardo Carvalho’s goolies, it’s Darius Vassell scuffing a pk straight into the hands of the Portuguese goalkeeper, Ricardo.

However, under the wily management of Fabio Capello, England have rapidly built a team that looks more capable than ever of winning Football’s biggest prize. The majority of you will have watched England’s qualifying campaign, and what a mightily impressive one it’s been too. 8 wins out of 8 and never have we looked like being beaten. A mesmeric 4-1 win in Croatia was backed up by a 5-1 demolition of Kazakhstan, before a potentially sticky encounter in Belarus was overcome with a 3-1 scoreline. The positive thing is, not only have England been slotting the goals home, but the scorelines don’t flatter them. Performances have been top class, and consistent, while attitude off the pitch seems to have improved greatly since the much disrespected Steve McClaren thankfully departed as England manager.

Fabio Capello has knitted a team who are united, and together in what they do. Team spirit seems sky high, confidence is growing with every match they play, and the work ethic is second to none. The Italian stallion certainly seems to have got the boys firing on all cylinders, and the pre-World Cup signs look very promising indeed.

The next question as far as the National Team is concerned is who will be going to South Africa? Now, every single England fan will have a different opinion on this topic, and I’m here to throw a few names out of the hat and stir things up a bit.

I’ll start with the backline.

Currently, England have many possible alternatives across the back. In goal, Ben Foster, Robert Green, David James, Chris Kirkland, Joe Hart and even Paul Robinson will be aiming to impress the gaffer in the coming months. Foster’s form of late has been dubious to say the least. A howler against Manchester City at the weekend allowed Gareth Barry to slot home, although luckily for Foster, United went on to steal the game. If he’s to be on the plane come next summer, errors like that have to be eradicated. Robert Green, David James, and Joe Hart all look pretty solid at the moment and aren’t doing a lot wrong. The key for them will be staying fit, and continuing to play well. Chris Kirkland and Paul Robinson are the outside bets. Robinson had an up and down England career before getting the boot in David James’ favour, while Chris Kirkland failed to cement a place in the Liverpool side, and has never really had a chance at International level. For Wigan he’s gone almost unknown. While not playing especially bad, he’s not exactly set the world on fire, and if he’s to push for a place in Capello’s 23-man squad, he’ll have to up the ante and really play well this season.

The defence looks very solid at this moment in time. Lead by whole-hearted skipper John Terry, who’s obviously a certainty for South Africa, England have looked hard to break down, and good going forward from the full-back positions. Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole are also stick-ons, while I’m sure Rio Ferdinand and Matthew Upson will be in the final squad. Joleon Lescott, all £24m of him, should be lurking around as well, although he’s not been at his best so far this season.

Depth in the full-back areas doesn’t seem too much of a problem, although Micah Richards, whom you’d expect to be Johnson’s back up, has looked rather vulnerable of late, and on the left side Leighton Baines is playing in an Everton side shipping goals. Stephen Warnock and Nicky Shorey will definitely be eager to stake their claim for Ashley Cole’s number 2 slot.

A few wildcards would be Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross, Curtis Davies of Aston Villa, and even Bolton’s Gary Cahill who seems to do little wrong at the Reebok. Jack Rodwell and Anton Ferdinand would be a couple of names people may not think of, but still have a decent shout at being involved in the squad. Rodwell in particular has been hailed as the next big thing, although he’s been playing in the holding role for Everton this season. One would say that if he’s to make the break through, centre-half would be his best option.

England’s midfield also looks very strong, not only on the field, but in depth too. Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, and Gareth Barry make up the heart of the midfield and have performed superbly of late. Tom Huddlestone will be looking to break into the side, as will Owen Hargreaves when he returns from injury. A fixture in the England side 18 months ago, injury has curtailed his career once again, but should he make a strong return for United, you wouldn’t bet against him making the final squad. However, would Capello drop Barry for him?

Shaun Wright-Phillips, Aaron Lennon, and James Milner look the perfect candidates to play on the wings. Ashley Young would also be in the mix – his recent performances for Villa have been nothing short of outstanding. Question marks remain over Lennon’s ability to cross the ball, but that can be worked at. Theo Walcott, who is currently out injured, will undoubtedly feature in the friendly matches preceeding the finals, and should be a strong candidate also. His hatrick against Croatia dispelled any doubts about his ability at the highest level, although they were few and far between. Joe Cole is yet to make a first team return for Chelsea, but I’m sure he’ll be featuring at some stage. A world-class player, and one 99% of England fans would have in their starting XI. He also gives 110% every single game, and that’s the kind of personality England needs all over the park.

Perhaps the biggest talking point of the England midfield is David Beckham. No longer a regular starter, Beckham has cemented himself as a kind of super-sub. Able to change the game and offer England a new dimension, Becks would be a more than capable reserve and someone who sets a great example off the field for the youngsters of the side. The model pro, someone you’d definitely pick.

We’re not looking too shabby upfront either, with Wayne Rooney and Emile Heskey currently enjoying a decent partnership. However, Jermain Defoe would probably be most people’s choice to partner Rooney upfront, especially with his fantastic early season form for Spurs. Peter Crouch and Carlton Cole have also been involved with England lately, and if Michael Owen keeps up his decent form then he’ll no doubt be in with a shout. Gabriel Agbonlahor would be a very good option too. His pace causes havoc in the Premier League and he scores his fair share of goals as well. Should he go to SA, he’d be a great option in the last 15/20 minutes of a game, with a tired defence, to try and finish the game off.

So there’s plenty of options for Capello, and I’m sure plenty of names I haven’t mentioned here will have a shout. This is perhaps England’s best chance of winning the World Cup in a very long time, certainly since I’ve been around. Lets hope it’s not ‘one of those years’ again.

My 23-man squad for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa:
R Green
D James
J Hart

J Terry
R Ferdinand
M Upson
A Cole
G Johnson
J Lescott
M Richards

S Gerrard
F Lampard
G Barry
T Huddlestone
A Lennon
J Milner
S Wright-Phillips
D Beckham
J Cole

W Rooney
J Defoe
P Crouch
G Agbonlahor

Having looked at our team, it’s time to take a little look at some of the other candidates to win the World Cup, and what England will need to do to beat them.

Italy’s recent form has been dubious. They’ve not played well, and struggled in games they shouldn’t have struggled in. Should England come up against the Italians, you’d think Capello would have the know-how to overcome them. The midfield battle would be crucial, and on paper you’d say England have the wool over Italy. Up front, Luca Toni would be a problem for Terry and the likes to deal with, but all-in-all England look a stronger side. And they’re playing better.

Brazil are obviously going to be favourites. Kaka would need to be marked off the park for England to stand a chance. Gareth Barry would have his work cut out, as would the England defence. Luis Fabiano has been in great form recently for club and country, and would be a dangerous threat. From the full-back area, Dani Alves would cause a lot of problems down England’s left. His pace and trickery means Ashley Cole would be cautious about bombing forward and leaving that left-hand side exposed. Lets hope one of the other big guns do us a favour and knock them out. Would be a cracking contest mind.

Finally, the old enemy. Germany. We dislike them severly, and that would be a major motivation for our boys to take them to the cleaners. However, sometimes that can be a bad thing, especially for Wayne Rooney. When tempers reach boiling point, Rooney gets involved in little tussles that affect his game. He has matured a lot in the last few years, especially after the Carvalho incident, but a World Cup semi-final/final would be the ultimate test of his nerve. If England keep their cool in the heat of battle, they’ll be major contenders.

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. September 24, 2009 7:25 pm

    Great post George!

    Answering your question, yes, England can really win the World Cup. But we have to remember something: favorites will be always the same and in the same order, no matter if they’re playing good or bad before the tournament. So Brazil, Italy and Germany will always be favorites to win the trophy, and we all can only wait for them to have a mistake and take advantadge from that.

    By the way, you mentioned those three like I did, but I think there are other teams to watch out, which could even be in the same position than England to fight for the World Cup. Plus I’m seeing Ivory Coast very strong lately, a tough and compact team. I know it would be crazy if they win, but you know, never say never.

    Besides, we should never discard teams like France, Portugal, even Argentina.

    After all this, my “list of favorites” to win in South Africa is:

    1. Brazil
    2. Italy
    3. Germany
    4. England
    5. France
    6. Ivory Coast
    7. Argentina
    8. Netherlands
    9. Portugal
    10. Russia, Croatia or Paraguay

    I can’t see any more teams which could fight for the World Cup, at least I can’t for now.


    Capello has a great team and he’s really improved their performances in the last two years. But I can’t feel that generation change coming and I think England really needs that. I mean, Terry, Ferdinand and Lampard are great players, as well as Crouch or Defoe, but the Three Lions seriously need to start giving opportunities to footballers like Agbonlahor, Ashley Young, Richards or Lescott. By giving opportunities I mean BEING IN THE STARTER TEAM ALWAYS, before than the “old guys” (not messing with them here, just a way to describe the idea).

    We (Spain) did that three years ago. At the beginning, it was impossible to believe that it was happening, but you know how that ended, don’t you?

    PS: Foster would be my GK if I were England’s coach.

    • Shortbus permalink
      September 25, 2009 2:09 pm

      And Spain is where?

  2. George permalink
    September 24, 2009 7:31 pm

    I agree with everything you say Diego apart from Ben Foster being number 1. He’s too dodgy in big games, and Robert Green is far more reliable.

    As for Ivory Coast winning the World Cup; How amazing would that be?!

    There are definitely a lot of teams that have the potential to win it. I’m not saying it’s between Italy, Germany and Brazil but I thought it’d take up way too much space and time if I went through all the candidates! Haha. Spain are definitely up there also. It’s going to be a brilliant tournament, that’s for sure!

  3. September 24, 2009 8:56 pm

    I think Brazil and Spain are the two favourites, but they are well beatable teams

    England have a brilliant chance, but then again we always do! I think last 4 is what we should be looking for, im not looking beyond that. Once you get to the semis its a lottery in knock out football

    My squad

    GK: James, Foster, Green

    Def: Terry, Ferdinand, Upson, Lescott, A.Cole, Johnson, Brown

    Mid: Gerrard, Lampard, Hargreaves, Barry, Lennon, A.Young, J.Cole, Beckham

    Att: Rooney, Owen, Walcott, Defoe, Crouch

    Agbonlahor needs to have one hell of a season to get in this squad. And Huddlestone? BEHAVE. I know youre a fan George.

    Wright Phillips also need to have a blinder this term..but now id take Young and Cole for the left, with Beckham and Lennon for the right

    Hargreaves is in if he hits fitness and form, but if not it would be Carrick or Milner..(prob carrick because of the position like for like) i think Milner has done brilliant last few matches for England so he may jump ahead of Ashley Young, but prob not.

    Richards hasnt featured for England and still makes mistakes..Wes Brown is streets ahead of him

    I dont think any of the three keepers are safe…performances will drive this and there is Hart or Kirkland that may jump in with great form

  4. Matthew permalink
    September 24, 2009 9:19 pm

    In answer to your question posed in headline, can England win the world cup?

    Fuck I hope not.

    we’ll be hearing about it for another feckin 40 odd years!!

    Spain have cast off their big game bottlers mentality. the quality they have is amazing. Torres. Villa. Xavi. Alonso. Fabregas. Iniesta. WOW.

    Italy won’t be close. they are a terrible aging side, and needed 2 own goals to defeat georgia. and fer jaysus sake we (Ireland) might actually have a chance of topping the group ahead of them! that we even have a chance shows how poor that squad is. because we are awful.

    I tip Spain.

    • Matthew permalink
      September 24, 2009 9:20 pm

      I actually can’t believe you put germany and italy up there ahead of spain in original article.

      madness i tell you!

  5. George permalink
    September 24, 2009 9:23 pm

    I didn’t put them above Spain, they were just a few random picks. Germany are there because they’re our main rivals. Italy because they’re reigning champions.

    • Matthew permalink
      September 24, 2009 10:23 pm

      ok, fair enough.

      to be honest, lets just hope its a better world cup this time, quality wise, last one was pants.

      brazil should be better, as should spain and holland.
      if feckin italy win by boring us all to death (rich comin from irish man considering how dull that italian trappattoni has us playin) i swear to god, i’m giving up on football. england winning could even be preferable…..

      also…givin up on football if this 4-5-1 trend continues much more. its shite, enough already.

      im a united fan, and frankly fergie, shame on you for playing it. especially against arsenal. ESPECIALLY at home. grrr.

      rant over.

      • September 25, 2009 8:55 am

        Matthew were you complaining when we beat Arsenal in the Champions League Semi last season playing 4-5-1?

        I dont get this bias against a formation..its tactics! part of the game. You play the formation you think will beat the opposition. Get over it!

  6. Barney permalink
    September 25, 2009 11:17 am

    England’s defence are rubbish!
    well, maybe not rubbish but certainly lack the concentration to last for the 90 minutes. you list the results for england above and the opposition always score (save Andorra – but they are special circumstances)!

    However i guess most of those goals came when england were several goals ahead already so i suppose it doesnt matter very much. I can see here i am disintegrating my own argument. But Rio Ferdinand is vastly overrated. deffo. :)

  7. maserati4200 permalink
    September 25, 2009 12:40 pm

    Rio’s OK as long as he doesn’t start day-dreaming.

    Mind you, the attempt at show-boating in Saturday’s derby was both a laughable and worrying development!

  8. maserati4200 permalink
    September 25, 2009 1:05 pm

    I agree with Diego – watch out for Ivory Coast. They’re talented, powerful and athletic and will also be playing on their home continent.

    They’re definitely well worth a bet at the current odds of 41.00 (Betfair).

    I’m going to risk 50 quid on them.

  9. Shortbus permalink
    September 25, 2009 2:20 pm

    Can we really win the world cup?
    No, not next year, not in 5 yrs and not in 9yrs

    • September 25, 2009 4:04 pm

      i believe we can..on paper it is all there.

      theyve just got to hit form at the right time…and then lose to Germany on pens in the semi ;-)

  10. Matthew permalink
    September 25, 2009 6:21 pm

    rob, re the tactics issue…i just hate it, and last seasopn v arsenal….we were away. and with ronaldo rooney etc, it was more fluid.

    the bias i have against it is that its DULL CITY.

    honestly, i watch football to be entertained. yes, i like to win to, but moreso for entertainment.

    for instance, gordon strachan at celtic. won 3 league titles in a row..last 16 in europe twice.
    you’d think celtic supporters would be hailing him a legend.

    but no. he played worst football i have ever seen.
    even for scottish football.
    he is almost universally despised by all celtic fans i know.

    whereas Mr O’Neill….lovely football. lots of goals. we love him.
    (he went to my school btw)

    so yeah, in my humble opinion, 4-5-1 is arse.

  11. Kevin permalink
    September 25, 2009 7:23 pm

    @ Diego, Ivory Coast, you sure? interesting analysis and even more reason to pay more attention than usual to the African Cup of Nations early next year.
    Your namesake is presently having a tough time of things as Argentina attempt to avoid qualification via the back door of a play off against Honduras or Costa Rica. South Africa won’t miss the cheating druggie though!
    My semi-finalists would be; Brazil, England Holland and Spain.

    Brazil are, well, Brazil.
    Holland have had a decent qualifying campaign, sure, they’ve been in against Macedonia and Scotland but…..
    Spain recently lost to the USA in the Confederations Cup, bit of a surprise that one. Personally, I hope they do well, when the Nation wins anything it’s mental central. The Greeks and Italians come a distant second and third when to the Spanish when it comes to celebrating.
    England have that “you want some ” swagger about them now. I think, cliche time, this could be their tourny.

    Squad – fitness permitting
    Green, James and Foster
    Cole, Terry, Ferdinand, Johnson, Upson, Lescott and Wes Brown
    Beckham, Gerrard, Lennon, Lampard, Cole, Barry and Milner
    Owen, Crouch, Walcott, Rooney and Defoe

    I ignored the lads from the Fatherland because Germany are going to be drawn against
    England and The Ivory Coast in the group stages

    • September 25, 2009 8:01 pm

      – Yes, I’m sure Ivory Coast can make a good performance in the World Cup. Let’s see if Drogba, Kone, Zokora and co. show in the tournament the great players they are.

      – Argentina will qualify for sure, they’re sooooooo lucky.

      – Spain will go home in quarterfinals, maybe in 1/16 finals or group stage if we aren’t that lucky. But I think we aren’t in the top 16 teams that will fight for the trophy.

      BUT, if Iniesta performs at his greatest level, everything can happen.

      – Italy will get in quarterfinals by doing NOTHING. Then someone will have to push them out if we (we are me and you, whatever countries we’re from) wanna win the WC.

      • Hush permalink
        September 26, 2009 2:48 am

        England have the right blend of experience and emerging talent that can get them to a World Cup final in my opinion.

        But dude, I cannot believe how pessimistic your being about Spain’s chances. They would be my favourites for the tournament, they have the best first 11 in the world. You should be really confident in your teams chances!

  12. September 26, 2009 3:05 am

    The more optimistic I am (or we are), the sooner we’ll go back home. So yeah, my feet will be on the ground at least till we have won 300 World Cups.

  13. maserati4200 permalink
    September 26, 2009 9:32 am

    Italy always start badly, but have the knack of going all the way, just as in 2006. Never write them off.

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