As usual, the spotlight will shine bright on the Three Lions, who are still looking for their first championship since that lone World Cup triumph at home in 1966, but expectations are muted about the squad for the first time in a while.
England’s hopes may rest on how far star striker Wayne Rooney can carry them. The iconic Manchester United forward scored seven goals in his six starts during World Cup qualifying, and he’s been the Red Devils’ most consistent performer in what has been a disappointing season.
But his biggest impact on the grandest stage of them all continues to be his contentious red card against Portugal in the quarter-finals of the 2006 tournament. That’s something he’ll try to fix in Brazil.
Road to Rio
It wasn’t a smooth ride through European qualifying for the squad. Though England went undefeated and finished first in its group, the team struggled mightily at times, finishing with six wins and four draws. Qualification was only secured when England defeated Poland in front of a nervy home crowd at Wembley Stadium in its final match.
- World Cup Group: D
- Nickname: The Three Lions
- Manager: Roy Hodgson
- Captain: Steven Gerrard
- FIFA World Ranking: 10
- Best World Cup Result: Champions in 1966
- Qualification Method: 1st in UEFA Group H
How they Fared in 2010
Hopes were high for the English in 2010. But a subpar group phase, where England finished second in Group C with one win and two draws, had fans wringing their hands, especially with a matchup against the powerhouse Germans looming.
And in an act of pure symmetry, England was undone in part by the very thing that sent them to their only title: a goal off the crossbar.
But where Geoff Hurst’s goal counted when it maybe shouldn’t have, Frank Lampard’s strike, which would’ve capped a furious first-half rally to tie the game 2-2, was deemed a no-goal by the referees. Replays showed that the ball clearly bounced past the goal-line and should have counted. Still up by one, Germany recovered and won 4-1.
That goal was the spark that forced FIFA, ever resistant to change, to finally implement goal-line technology, which will make its debut in Brazil.
- Saturday June 14 – England vs. Italy, 6 p.m. ET
- Thursday June 19 – Uruguay vs. England, 3 p.m. ET
- Tuesday June 24 – Costa Rica vs. England, Noon ET
Nobody would be surprised if England makes another early World Cup exit, but it’ll still be another bitter pill to swallow for the title-starved country.
England is in one of the toughest groups of the World Cup, and just making into the knockout round would be a positive. Group D includes the Euro 2012 finalists (Italy), the 2010 World Cup semifinalists (Uruguay), and an underrated Costa Rican side.
To advance, a victory against either Italy or Uruguay is crucial. If England goes winless against both sides, navigating the tricky tie with Costa Rica in the final group match could be a moot point.