England - World Cup 2014 Team Profile
Sean O'Conor reports
Road to Brazil
England won UEFA Group H by a point from Ukraine, winning six and drawing four in a rocky but ultimately successful campaign. While Wembley remained a fortress, England's inability to win away in Montenegro, Poland and Ukraine appeared to confirm they are not in the elite group of soccer nations. Wayne Rooney netted seven in ten games to become the group's top marksman.
England Kit 1
England Kit 2
Roy Hodgson's plan for a swift counter-attacking game took a hit when his favoured wingers Theo Walcott and Andros Townsend succumbed to injury and England were drawn to play Italy in the stifling humidity of the Amazon Basin.
There is still Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Raheem Sterling to give him pace if he needs it, and the selection of Southampton's in-form Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and Ricky Lambert is encouraging, but expect England to be unspectacular if well organised, like all the teams Hodgson has managed.
Whatever the brickbats that will be hurled at him when England are knocked out of the World Cup, at least Hodgson will be credited with having got rid of the old guard and given youth a chance. The tired legs of Jamie Carragher, Gareth Barry and Emile Heskey have given way to Leighton Baines, Jack Wilshere and Daniel Sturridge.
Although their group is much harder than in 2010, England should perform better than last time around for several reasons. Fabio Capello's obsolete 4-4-2 has given way to a more fluid 4-2-3-1, Joe Hart is a step up in goal and although the absent John Terry is a superior defender, Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill have enough experience together to avoid the chaos caused by Terry and Matthew Upson against Germany in Bloemfontein.
Steven Gerrard has given up his 'Roy of the Rovers' role to become an effective deep-lying playmaker and the team's spiritual heart, although clearly misses his bucaneering forays upfield. England's senior player carries an aura around him in a dressing room of young guns, especially as this could be his last tournament for his country and memories of Liverpool's near miss at the title are fresh. As for his midfield partner, Wilshere is certainly creative but has just returned from injury and lacks pace, and neither he nor Gerrard are born tacklers, so Gerrard's Anfield pal Jordan Henderson could get the nod.
Wayne Rooney remains England's biggest talent, but his on-off record in tournaments and recent club form have led to whispers that he is past his best. He and Daniel Sturridge have yet to develop much telepathy, so if the Liverpool man is the fulcrum of the attack, Hodgson might do the unthinkable and drop Rooney for Lambert or Daniel Welbeck.
England look sound at the back and competent in midfield but are still a work in progress when it comes to the final third.
Key player: Daniel Sturridge
With Rooney's patchy tournament record, Sturridge has emerged as England's main hope for goals in Brazil. The 24 year-old scored 21 times for Liverpool this season, enjoying an electrifying strike partnership with Luis Suarez.
Described by his club coach Brendan Rogers as a "No.9 and a half", he has looked less than deadly for England as a support striker for Rooney, but scored an excellent individual goal against Peru in their last warm-up at Wembley.
One to watch: Adam Lallana
England's wild card is the lively 26 year-old attacker who comes off the back of a fantastic season with Southampton and a lively introduction to the national team.
Hodgson could play him on the right or left of the trident behind Sturridge and his quick feet and bursts of pace make him England's most versatile attacker. With only four caps though, his inexperience could be as much of a hindrance as a blessing if things get tough.
Coach: Roy Hodgson
The 66 year-old Hodgson knows that after coaching in eight countries and four national teams, he faces the pinnacle of his career.
An oddly literate man, his references to Voltaire and J.P. Donleavy and fluency in many languages have foxed the insular English press, whose traditional tub-thumping patriotism and use of the manager as a punchbag have been spiked by the enigma of a continental with a Croydon accent. His propensity to show his pain and worry on his face however will give the tabloids enough ammunition if things go awry.
Hodgson is a meticulous planner, who demands each player keeps to his script. But despite his apparent functionalism and lack of charisma, he is a likeable and popular leader and at Euro 2012 was credited with forging the best spirit in an England camp in years.
FIFA World Ranking 11th (May 2014)
1966 Winners; 1990 Semi-final; 1954, 1962, 1970,1986, 2002, 2006 Quarter-Final; 1982, 1998, 2010 Second Round. 1950, 1958 First Round.
England's road to Rio is a tough one. If they can get out of there group it will be an achievement, but another South American giant in Colombia lurks in the second round. Should England make it to the last eight they are likely to face one of Brazil, Chile, the Netherlands or Spain, so no one is holding their breath.
The Three Lions have landed in a group of death and will kick off with the Herculean task of beating Italy in the tropical heat of Manaus. The starting eleven is still unclear and there are weaknesses in all areas of the field, but the combination of a youthful group with no heavy expectations on their shoulders for a change could funnily enough come up trumps.
2014 World Cup Squad
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Man City), Ben Foster (West Brom), Frazer Forster (Celtic)
Defenders: Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Leighton Baines (Everton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Luke Shaw (Southampton), Chris Smalling (Man United), Phil Jones (Man United)
Midfielders: Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), James Milner (Man City), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Ross Barkley (Everton), Adam Lallana (Southampton), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool)
Strikers: Wayne Rooney (Man United), Daniel Welbeck (Man United), Rickie Lambert (Southampton), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool)