England sail through, but how are their World Cup chances?

September 9, 2009

So, once again, England qualify in style. The garages can start stocking up on plastic flags of St George, the breweries can breathe a sigh of relief and the tabloids can start their gradual shift from cautious support to the crescendo of expectation that will accompany Fabio Capello and his squad to South Africa next year.

But is there any evidence that “this time, more than any other time, they’ll do it right“?

Do England really have a team capable of getting beyond the quarter-finals, let alone winning the thing?

Points in favour:

1. The rest of the world aren’t so hot at the moment. Brazil, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands are going along pretty nicely but Argentina, France, Portugal and even Italy have got problems. None of them looks unbeatable.

2. Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. These are players truly deserving the “world class” tag and when fit and on form provide England with a deadly attacking triangle capable of undoing the very best of defences.

3. Capello. The Italian’s calm authority has permeated a squad previously drowning in its own self-satisfaction. There shouldn’t be any idiotic selections and once in South Africa this squad will be focused solely on the task in hand — and that won’t be accompanying their wives on shopping trips to Sandton.

4. A winter World Cup. England haven’t played in one since 1962 in Chile. For all the high-tech kits they roll out ever two years and for all the efforts and intervention of foreign coaches, England’s all-action approach is not suited to boiling temperatures.

5. It’s about time.

Points against.

1. The number one problem. Capello says David James is his first choice goalkeeper but even if the 39-year-old year old regains fitness and has a great season his history of high-profile calamities will be in the back of everyone’s mind as England advance.

England have suffered previously from hanging on too long to ageing goalkeepers, with the concrete boots of Peter Shilton (1990) and David Seaman (2002) leaving indelible images of inaction.

The back-up cast of Robert Green, Paul Robinson, Scott Carson, Ben Foster and Joe Hart all have their talents but none inspires total confidence.

2. Second striker. Emile Heskey seems the current first-choice partner for Rooney but few teams win a World Cup with a forward who is allergic to goals. Jermain Defoe has staked an early claim to replace him but sharp finisher though he is he does not link well. Carlton Cole is surely not the answer. Peter Crouch offers all sorts of options, scores goals, has great control and an incisive pass and defenders don’t like playing against him. However, he does not seem to be Capello’s favourite, which leaves an extraordinary amount of pressure on Rooney.

3. Defence. Ashley Cole is superb and the John Terry/Rio Ferdinand partnership has proved reliable, even if showing worrying signs of positional wanderings of late. However, Glen Johnson looks like a winger forced to borrow a number two shirt and opposition coaches will attack him mercilessly.

4. Strength in depth (lack thereof). England, without Rooney in Portugal and Germany, were a team heading home. Another injury or red card for the maestro will again end their hopes at a stroke. The squad players generally look a short on class and World Cup finals are rarely won with the 11 players a manager would have pencilled in at the start of a tournament.

Maybe Capello has enough about him to craft a team able to triumph in 10 months’ time but, as ever, it looks an extraordinarily difficult task.

17 comments

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by jingo, i think we’re going to win it. get that open top bus booked!

Posted by kevvo | Report as abusive

This is an incredibly difficult task for any national squad. And I hate to admit it, but the Three Lions are looking like a devastating force. England has always had world class players, but its Don Fabio’s intellect that has catapulted the English to where they are today. Many will hate me for admitting this, but I was one of the millions that relished in Englands absence from last years Euro Cup, but now I think of how tremendous a Spain v England final would be. The only thing better would be Spain v Brazil (or England v Brazil for all you England fans). One last thing, how funny would a metatarsal injury be for Rooney next year LOL viva la Furia Roja!

Posted by The Soccer Snob | Report as abusive

[...] Reuters Soccer Blog » Blog Archive » England sail through, but how … [...]

[...] Source add it: Tags: action approach, breweries, calamities, cautious support, concrete boots, fabio capello, frank lampard, Goalkeeper, goalkeepers, peter shilton, plastic flags, quarter finals, sandton, self satisfaction, sigh of relief, Steven Gerrard, time points, wayne rooney, winter world, world cup england [...]

Interesting point about the winter world cup but u could equally say that European teams tend to do badly in world cups held outside Europe. I think semi finals I a good shout. Brazil, Spain, USA, the others to join them.

Posted by Reese weatherspoons | Report as abusive

That’s an interesting post. I think the fact that England don’t have a goalkeeper or a real centre forward is going to make life difficult for them, but not impossible. This World Cup is wide open and they are probably as good as anyone (apart from maybe Brazil and Spain).

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

[...] more from the original source:  Reuters Soccer Blog » Blog Archive » England sail through, but how … Share and [...]

And soccer snob, yes, it’s nice to have England back. And let’s trust Rooney will be with them (contrary to your somewhat morbid take on it)

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

I think England have a good chance of winning it under Capello. He will make the correct substitutions and not be swayed by media pressure in team selection.

The lack of strikers is worrying but there is little Capello can do to solve it. A big man up front creates space for Rooney, Lampard and Gerrard, which is so important to how the team operates now.

Defoe off the bench is great, so would Owen if he has a decent enough season at United.

Get on you Janner

Posted by Big Dave | Report as abusive

the last two world cups were won by a team with either no proven striker (Italy) or a weak defence/keeper (Brazil)

If you’re entire midfield are functioning as a unit, and are able to score goals plus if you have lady luck smiling at you then you don’t have to have the best team to win the world cup!

Posted by rob | Report as abusive

Good post. The conditions could prove a positive factor. The Italian meastro orchestrating affairs inspires confidence and as such the players are now showing their talents. Optimism is now genuine. However, the Rooney factor and Englands reliance on him is worrying. He can be on the field and not play at his best yet England can still win (ask Crotia) but if he’s not on the park….

Lastly, the opposition in Spain and Brazil can definately break English hearts no matter how much better we get or how well we play. It’s going to be interesting. Roll on South Africa.

Posted by Dutch Dexi | Report as abusive

As a team we are in great form, looked amazing in parts last night and very good on the whole. We seem to have gotten away from our nerves that used to hold us back for so many years but it is important that the right 23 go to South Africa. For me, if he has a good season, Owen has to go. He’s a better striker than Heskey and just knows where the goal is. Beckham also has to be there – not all teams are going to let us play at break-neck speed like the Croats did last night and we simply do not have another player as accurate with their crossing.

When it does come to pace, England need to watch Glen Johnson – fantastic performance in the opposition half, but the last two games have found him wanting at full-back (you’re NOT Roberto Carlos, Glen).

The main difference recently is that the players look like they want to pull on the shirt, they all look like Beckham has always done, even Ashley Cole, who, for years under Sven and McClaren looked as though he’d rather be at home with his feet up. This needs to continue into the world cup if we are to get beyond the quarter-finals.

Posted by Adam K | Report as abusive

To read this you would think Shrek (Rooney) is England’s strongest point. Funny as he is a tad above mediocre. England does have some strong points but if it all depends on Shrek being better than Messi, Gila, etc etc etc – best of luck. England will neither win nor make the quarters is my prediction.

Posted by Al | Report as abusive

so having over 50 caps at the age of 23 makes someone a tad over mediocre now does it, scoring over 100 goals for manchester united, winning league titles, league cups and a champions league on the way is for you someone who isnt considered world class? what team will you be rooting for in the world cup Al? And im guessin you didnt see the fact argentina lost again last night to paraguay so the chances of messi even getting to the world cup are slimmer and slimmer, also its not individuals that win world cups its teams that play together as a unit and work for each other such as italy did in 2006, currently england are performing very well as a team and when our gems are shining, rooney, gerrard and lampard, the skies the limit

Posted by maid | Report as abusive

appreciate we played well last night against croatia. however we will struggle against teams of quality even those listed that are not on great form such as france italy argentina as they come good when it counts. teams that will press and keep ball we struggle with. spain outclassed us and holland well we were lucky to get a result. frankly winning the world cup we not good enough. . yes we improved and beat a rubbish team but come on like all other years your getting a head of yourselves. hope to get into semis thats it.

Posted by mosh | Report as abusive

Al – nobody is saying that Rooney is England’s strongest point, he is however, one of them. For 23, he is big, strong, fairly quick and damned passionate about what he does. Sure, he’ll get hot-headed and sent off, but at least he cares about what he is doing. Add in the fact he has scored 25 goals for England in 50 or so games, won THREE Premiership titles, UEFA Champions League title and a host of other accolades and you have a very good player.

Are England better with Rooney? Of couse we are, otherwise he wouldn’t get a game. He brings the ability of someone like Heskey to hold the ball, the goals of Owen and will run himself stupid for the team – anyone else see him covering at left-back last night?

As for not making the quarter finals, we’ll see, but being as we have won eight qualifiers in a row, including away in Croatia who had NEVER been beaten in a competitive match at home and we have a good chance. Hell, our second-string 11 would get a game for most countries outside the top 8 in the world. We have wealth of options up front: Defoe, Rooney, Crouch, Heskey, Owen (when fit) and then a few others such as Carlton Cole, Agbonlahor, Sears and Welback etc who are playing well for club/ the U-21′s.

Posted by Adam K | Report as abusive

just to add to my previous comment i think we have greatly improved our passing game however it is not at the level of other great teams even the ones that our not playing too well to thier own standards. when we come up against teams that press and keep ball them selves we cant pass the ball around ourselves. this is where we will struggle and look to beckham to cross balls in . hope im wrong. but we will see.

Posted by mosh | Report as abusive

its a shame it takes other teams to play poor and be off form for us to reach thier level. we have great players such as rooney gerrard lampard terry ferdinand lennon but can we play football against the traditionally bigger countries.

Posted by mosh | Report as abusive

its a shame it takes other teams to weaken and be of form for us to reach thier levels. yes we have great players rooney gerrard lampard ferdinand terry lennon but how well do these guys play football against better opositions.

Posted by mosh | Report as abusive

who is your favorite english footballer?

Posted by Christina | Report as abusive