England

Population: 53 million (Census 2011)

Area: 129,720 sq km

Capital: London

Currency: Sterling (the pound)

Federation: The Football Association created in 1863, affiliated to FIFA in 1905

Registered players: 1,486,000

Kit colours: All white (home), red shirt white shorts (away)

Team nickname: Three Lions

World Cup record: Winners (1966), Semi-finalists (1990), Quarter-finalists (1954, 1962, 1970, 1986, 2002, 2006), Second round (1982, 1998, 2010), first round (1950, 1958)

European Championship appearances: 8 (1968, 1980, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2012)

European Championship record: Semi-finalists (1968, 1996), quarter-finalists (2004, 2012), 1st round (1980, 1988, 1992, 2000)

How they qualified for FIFA World Cup 2014: Won Group H with 22pts ahead of Ukraine 21, Montenegro 15, Poland 13, Moldavia 11, and San Marino 0 – plyd 10, won 6, drew 4, lost 0, 31 goals for and 4 against.

Top clubs: Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea

For once England can go and enjoy a World Cup finals without the players, the fans and the media all believing that they can win it. There was even a sense of achievement that they actually qualified for Brazil 2014.

England’s top scorer Wayne Rooney scored seven goals in six starts as England squeezed past Ukraine, Montenegro and Poland to win Group H with a fresh faced, fast evolving side.

England had gone to South Africa 2010 thinking they had a chance of lifting their first trophy since 1966.

But they were thrashed 4-1 in a second round rout by Germany, albeit with a sob story of Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal, which crossed the line and came out, and would have left the sides at 2-2 at half time.

The England team is now led by a thinking man’s coach – and kindly uncle figure – Roy Hodgson, a veteran with a largely bare trophy cabinet, and who took over as England boss just before Euro 2012, where they fell at the quarters to a slick Italy.

Central defensive dinosaurs John Terry and Rio Ferdinand have been nudged out with no shortage of replacements knocking at the door. Hodgson’s preferred pair would seem to be Chelsea’s Gary Cahill and Everton’s Phil Jagielka. Even Ashley Cole has been overlooked in favour of Everton’s Leighton Baines and Southampton youngster Luke Shaw. The maturing Glen Johnson will slot in at right back.

England’s last line of defence is the resurgent Joe Hart. The Manchester City stopper has made some high profiled errors for his club, but is nonetheless a very good goalkeeper.

Captain of the side is ageing warrior Steven Gerrard (34), who played a key role in getting England to Brazil and although a little slower now, is an inspirational leader who will be looking to avoid any Liverpool sized slip ups.

Evergreen Frank Lampard, 36, will bring importance experience to a youthful squad, especially in the absence Manchester United’s Michael Carrick, who was was overlooked altogether after a poor season.

Hodgson is likely to choose between Jack Wilshere and Jordan Henderson to partner Steven Gerrard in midfield behind a forward line which is full of young talent including tournament rookies Ross Barkley and Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling.

Stalwart striker Wayne Rooney has failed to deliver at a major finals since Euro 2004, but there is a feeling that Brazil, which may well be his last World Cup, could be different. Hodgson looks set to play Rooney behind Daniel Sturridge, who enjoyed a prolific season with Liverpool, with Danny Welbeck and Ricky Lambert the other alternatives.

AFP

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