Outright odds: 28/1
To win group: 11/5
To qualify: 8/13
Full squad: Joe Hart (Manchester City), Ben Foster (West Brom), Fraser Forster (Celtic); Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Leighton Baines (Everton), Luke Shaw (Southampton); Steven Gerrard (Liverpool, capt), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), James Milner (Manchester City), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal), Ross Barkley (Everton), Adam Lallana (Southampton), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal); Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Danny Welbeck (Manchester United), Rickie Lambert (Southampton).
Manager: Roy Hodgson
World Cup record: Winners (1966); semi-finalists (1990) and six-time quarter-finalists (most recently in 2006)
England’s World Cups have generally been lumbered by expectations beyond the team – see from the 90’s until 2006 – but this time around feet are firmly on the ground. Mind, that’s not because of a new resolution for everyone to suddenly take the pressure off – England’s last two tournaments have put expectations through the floor but there are signs that Roy Hodgson has enough to change England’s fortunes in the long term at the least.
At Euro 2012 a deep lying England had very little to offer going forward in their quarter final exit on penalties to Italy when they had just 36% of possession following a group stage campaign where they only found France too strong.
In that tournament, the World Cup, and also the qualifying for Brazil – it should be noted that England had the benefit of facing Moldova and San Marino twice in their campaign – Hodgson has not moved from his pragmatic nature but the emergence of several promising young players from the Premier League does help to give him more firepower.
Daniel Sturridge’s breakthrough season for Liverpool bought 22 league goals and a well deserved place as a new frontman for Roy’s lineup, while Raheem Sterling’s 9 goals were superbly taken although his general all round play was some of the most impressive seen in the league. Adam Lallana’s breakthrough campaign with Southampton marked him down as one of the young prospects to follow and he too offers pace and guile off the flanks, while Steve Gerrard and Jordan Henderson had a fine season playing together for Liverpool, creating an axis that proved critical in Liverpool nearly winning the league.
Hodgson has been known for keeping England deep – and he is associated with a defensive strategy – but England may not be able to rely so heavily on their rear-guard. Glen Johnson made several mistakes for Liverpool during the course of the season, and while Gary Cahill had a terrific season for Chelsea, playing with Phil Jagilelka is likely to prove very different for from playing alongside John Terry with the defensive strengths of Ashley Cole now also absent. This is a much deserved chance for Leighton Baines, but overall we may see England more exposed at the back than in previous tournaments especially with substitutes Chris Smalling and Phil Jones looking very vulnerable for United in the season, raising questions about how right back would be
In the warmup games, Ross Barkley, who had a stunning season with Everton, has proven to be the most incisive of England’s attacking options, proving pace, go forward, and the technical passing that’s required at this level in spades, and however he’s used, he could prove to be the key player of this tournament for an England side that does bring plenty of pace and go forward and has a fighting shot at making it out of the group.