When the World Cup comes around every four years, it is easy to be optimistic about England's chances of success, but hopes quickly come crashing back down to Earth, usually following a penalty shootout. But could the Three Lions actually surprise everyone this summer?
It's never nice to be happy about a player getting injured, but it could be a blessing for England this summer as a number of key opponents are out with injuries and others are not fully fit. One of those is a significant threat to us even getting out of the group stage - Luis Suarez. For England, bar one or two little niggles, our squad is fit and raring to go, a large number of them coming off the back of a fantastic individual season. Of course it will take more than opposition injuries to win us the World Cup, but it's a start.
After three mediocre warm-up games against Peru, Ecuador and Honduras, fans may have begun to feel a little disheartened at the lack of goals and lack of wins. However, a lot of positives can be taken from the three games as our defence showed a great deal of composure and resilience, well, when Chris Smalling and Phil Jones were wearing bibs and sitting down.
As for goals, there is no denying that Daniel Sturridge possesses a fantastic eye for goal and Wayne Rooney is a consistent top scorer for his club, he just needs to learn how to do it in the World Cup. Some of the football played was beautiful and full of flair. What was lacking at some points was team cohesion, but that is difficult to come by after only a few weeks together and when the team is changing around every game. When these players are faced with a competitive fixture on the grandest stage of them all, then there is a very good chance that they will surprise everyone.
Picking such a young team can be the key to success, or the reason for failure. If the likes of Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge rise to the occasion and realise that this is a better time than any to show the world what they can do, then we will be fine, maybe a little better than fine. However, there is always the risk that the pressure will get to them and they will crumble under the expectation. But let's not be too negative.
In fact, it seems as if support for our nation is a little subdued this year and there is an obvious lack of red and white bunting. It is even a little surprising to see a car sporting little flags in the windows. Have people written England off already thanks to a difficult group and strong memories of the past? The great thing about this is that expectation is far lower than usual. Still very much present, but far lower. The focus is on Brazil and Argentina, the nations used to playing in such difficult conditions and Spain and Germany will be fielding the best sides they have had in a long time.
We have an almost injury-free, young and raring-to-go team with little expectation that they will succeed, what else could we possibly need? Oh yes, Steven Gerrard. Although praise for him is sometimes over-the-top, he is the metaphorical glue that will hold the pieces together. It is common knowledge that Lampard and Gerrard never worked together and now that Lampard is out of favour and Gerrard has had his heart broken, narrowly losing out on lifting the Premier League title for the first time in his career, he will be desperate to win something this year.
It's easy to be optimistic about England's chances, but it's also easy to remember how terrible we usually are. This year, however, we have the potential to surprise everyone around the world. Even the seemingly inevitable goalkeeper mistake seems unlikely this year and between Rickie Lambert and Steven Gerrard, we seem prepared for penalties, although I do emphasise the word 'seem'. So before you decide to leave your giant England flag in the loft or think that your car looks far better without plastic flags hanging out of every crevice, remember that England could very well surprise everyone, even you.
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