Roy Hodgson prepares for his second major tournament with this England squad and the boss will be hoping for better fortunes than he experienced at Euro 2012. The English last lifted the trophy on home soil back in 1966 and having been placed in a tough opening group, Hodgson’s men are a long shot to win the tournament at 33/1.
The term ‘group of death’ has rapidly become a footballing cliché but if it were to have a dictionary definition, it would point to Section D for Brazil 2014 which sees England paired with Uruguay, Costa Rica and an Italy side that knocked them out of the Euros two years ago. Clearly that’s a seriously tough group and it’s the main reason why England are priced so highly.
The Uruguayans have, in Luis Suarez, the joint highest goalscorer in all qualifying but at least English players are aware of the danger that the Liverpool man poses. Italy will be strong as always, while Costa Rica are something of an unknown quantity but will certainly be dangerous in the early stages of the competition.
Joe Hart may have had his issues at Manchester City this season but he remains Hodgson’s first choice keeper and rarely looks like letting his side down. The back four are also fairly settled although some would like to see John Terry end his international exile and join forces with his club team mate Gary Cahill.
Leighton Baines and Tottenham’s Kyle Walker have been paired at right back in recent games and England’s defensive record in the qualifiers was undoubtedly an impressive one.
Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard have been in good form for their club sides this season and can form a strong partnership in the centre of midfield. England need some creativity down the flanks and Hodgson should arguably take the bold decision of making 19 year old Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling one of the first names on his team sheet.
Liverpool’s Sterling has enjoyed a breakthrough season at Anfield and has been behind much of the exciting play that Brendan Rodgers’ team has delivered this season. To play in the World Cup finals at such a young age would undoubtedly be a daunting prospect but England just need an exciting, creative ‘spark’ and Sterling is the player most likely to deliver it.
Hodgson has problems up front after the injury suffered to Theo Walcott and while the manager has a fairly settled front two, there is a lack of experienced cover. Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck will travel with the squad but after that, the positions are far from certain.
Southampton’s Rickie Lambert has scored twice in four full internationals but has since lost form with his club side. Jermain Defoe is now playing in the MLS with Toronto FC while his former team mate, 20 year old Harry Kane scored three goals in his first three league games for Spurs and has an outside chance of making the plane.
Pressure is therefore on Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney who is at 50/1 to finish as the tournament’s leading goal scorer.
Odds on England Winning World Cup 2014
England were placed in the worst possible group but with Uruguay, Costa Rica and Italy having the potential to take points of each other, Roy Hodgson’s men may only need one win and a draw to progress. If they can make it to the knockout stage, those odds of 33/1 will definitely shorten.
However, we expect Italy and Uruguay to qualify from this section with England just not having the quality to get out of this toughest of draws.