A 2-0 win over Poland at Wembley Stadium was enough to ensure that England finish top of Group H and hence qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup directly. No tricky play-offs, no ugly fall-out from failing to qualify altogether… for the moment at least, English football has managed to avoid a crisis. Roy Hodgson will be a relieved and happy man having masterminded an undefeated qualifying campaign, even though his England side looked far from convincing at times. However, now that England have successfully qualified for the World Cup, the one question on everyone’s lips is: are England good enough to win the World Cup?
For many years now, England have always been underachievers at the international level. They are the inventors of the game yet they have only a solitary World Cup victory to their name, despite almost always having talented players in their ranks. Over the last two decades, England have gone into every World Cup and European championships as one of the favourites to win the tournament, yet the Three Lions always flattered to deceive. Countless managers have tried to find a winning formula and failed. Even England’s ‘Golden Generation’, despite being important players for their clubs, hardly ever seemed to turn up for their country.
The current generation of young English footballers are not world-beaters. Players like Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck aren’t regulars at Manchester United and Jack Wilshere, despite being hailed as England’s next big thing, is still nowhere near as good as the country would want him to be. Michael Carrick had an excellent 2012/13, but has never really a regular in the England set-up. England still rely heavily on experienced war-horses like Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole despite the fact that these players are now in the twilight of their careers.
This isn’t England’s Golden Generation; however, England do possess a few talented players. Wayne Rooney is yet to replicate his club form for his country on the big stage and will be looking to do just that when he leads England’s line during the World Cup. Daniel Sturridge has been in excellent goal-scoring form ever since his move to Liverpool and will also be an important player for England. Andros Townsend will be hoping to do enough to get on a flight to Brazil next summer, as will Ross Barkley. Wilfried Zaha has struggled to even make the bench for United this year and his World Cup chances look slim at the moment. What England do have at the moment is a mix of youngsters and veterans. It will be up to Roy Hodgson how he chooses to use the players at his disposal.
England will definitely not be going into this World Cup as favourites, although that might actually help them. They aren’t as technical as Spain, nor do they possess the flair of Argentina and Brazil. They don’t have the talent that Germany do, neither do they have big-name stars like most European countries. At the moment it’s hard to see England being able to do enough to win the World Cup. However, anything can happen in football so write them off at your own risk.