By Mark Weasley
With the FIFA World Cup just six months to go, the excitement about the mundial is slowly starting to build up. Names such as France, Brazil, Argentina and Germany have all been mentioned as potential winners but the Three Lions are an outside bet alongside Spain and Belgium. For so many years, the national team of England has failed to deliver at major tournaments, exiting tournaments at the second round and quarter final stages despite the obvious talent they possess.
Eight teams have only won the World Cup in history, with England’s greatest moment coming on home soil in 1966 with names such as Bobby Charlton, Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst becoming household names even till this day. England must overcome their mental block when playing at major tournaments. For too many years, England have been overwhelmed by expectations leading to tournaments as they boast a number of quality players, but have always come up short when it matters.
Even with the golden generation consisting the likes of Rooney, Terry, Beckham Ferdinand, Gerrard, Scholes, the Neville brothers and Frank Lampard failing to form any sort of chemistry. England may be buoyed going into the tournament in Russia as the youth teams have done well in the past 1 year. The U-17s and U-20s won the FIFA age-grade Cup competitions last year, which was a vindication of the academy setups of the various clubs in the English football landscape with Chelsea and Manchester City definitely a notch ahead of their rivals.
There are a number of exciting youngsters coming up the ranks in the England setup and in a few years, all the effort by the FA to help football development may finally come together. Though many may point to the European Championships in 2016 where The Three Lions got knocked out in the second round by an unfancied Iceland national team, England will be heading into this tournament off the back of a spotless record in qualifying, coupled with draws with Brazil and Germany in friendlies late last year.
The Three Lions have been drawn in a group containing the likes of Belgium, Panama and Tunisia and will be hoping to progress to the next round and then kickstart the tournament proper. Players such as Harry Kane, Jesse Lingard and Raheem Sterling are in the form of their lives and are a threat to any team going forward. The coaching setup looks excellent as Gareth Southgate is being assisted by ex-Chelsea man, Steve Holland, who is highly rated in the football world.
If England can overcome their mental block that always seem to affect them, they look like a formidable force as they are well stocked in every department. Though a majority of the players on ground now lack major tournament experience, the pressure and intensity of the Premier League means that they should be able to mix it up when the occasion demands. There have been talk of the energy sapping nature of the league may affect the players as many a time, English players head into tournaments with burn out and lower energy levels. Winning the World Cup is an altogether different matter entirely, England can have a say and not disgrace themselves.
A wise man once said, “Winning the World Cup is just a matter of seven games” and if England take each game like a final, they stand a chance of reaching the latter stages.