Population: 50,100,000
Area: 130,439 km²
Capital: London
Language: English

England won UEFA group 6 a point ahead of Poland.
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Mar 01 England v Uruguay 2-1
May 30 England v Hungary 3-1
Jun 03 England v Jamaica 6-0

Participations: (11) 1950, 1954, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1970, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1998 and 2002
Best placing: Winners 1966
Topscorer: Gary Lineker, 10 goals
More detailed history information

Jun 10 - ENG v PAR  in Frankfurt
Jun 15 - ENG v TRI  in Nuremberg
Jun 20 - ENG v SWE  in Cologne

- England in Group B -
Jan Alsos: 1st place
Pierre Boisrond: 1st place
Ruud Doevendans: 2nd place
Mike Gibbons: 1st place
Peter Goldstein: 1st place
Paul Marcuccitti: 1st place
Felipe Santos: 1st place


by Mike Gibbons

    Ah, that July day in 1966. Those two, ahem, goals in extra-time; Some people on the pitch; Bobby Moore and the trophy; Nobby Stiles daft little dance; When the reds went marching in.

    Winning the 1966 World Cup was, obviously, the greatest day in the history of English football. However rather than acting as the trigger for decades of international success, as 1954 essentially did for Germany, the year 1966 has become an albatross that hangs gloomily over the England team. Ten years went by, then twenty, then thirty and we are now up to forty years without another tournament victory for England. In fact they have never even been in another final, and have made only three semi-finals in the thirteen tournaments they have qualified for since. Seemingly always picking the wrong manager and never able to produce as many world class players as the trinity of Banks, Moore and Bobby Charlton from the class of 66, success has constantly eluded generations of England players.

    With such a meagre international record for a supposed giant of the game, you would perhaps think expectations for this coming summer in Germany would be muted, and that keeping up the national average of a quarter-final exit would be enough. On the contrary, the air is full of hope, and bucket loads of it, as they unquestionably have their best squad in living memory.

    The bookmakers have England as third (in some places second) favourites this summer and as the tired old cliché goes, they are rarely wrong about such things. Credit for this new found lofty status must first go to the beleaguered Sven Goran Eriksson. The target of an at times utterly ludicrous and disturbingly xenophobic media campaign against him and all he stands for, he has crafted together a fairly young side and developed it over five years to qualify with ease for three tournaments in a row, going out tamely to Brazil in Shizuoka and harshly to Portugal in Lisbon. The third this summer will be his last tournament as England manager, but with a late and slightly lucky victory over Argentina in an intense ‘friendly’ in November, expectations are now at an unprecedented level. Belief is coursing through the veins of English football.

    After five years with one man in charge, the England team now virtually picks itself for competitive games. Paul Robinson of Tottenham has established himself as the first choice goalkeeper, forcing David James to number two after some characteristically slapstick performances from the Manchester City veteran. He may lack the big game experience of his outfield colleagues but Germany could be the making of Robinson.

    The full-backs, injury notwithstanding, have not changed during Eriksson’s tenure. Gary Neville of Manchester United is uncontested at right back as he was for six years prior to Eriksson and Arsenal’s Ashley Cole is the clear first pick at left-back despite competition from Wayne Bridge. In central defence Rio Ferdinand has regained the place he lost due to missing a drugs test and being suspended for eight months and will be partnered by John Terry, who has taken over from Sol Campbell after the Arsenal defender’s form went into freefall during the last year and a half. Terry is captain of Chelsea, the new dominant force of English football, and has been little short of outstanding in their rise to prominence.

    The ubiquitous David Beckham will captain the team from the right wing, and has actually proved himself a Galactico worthy of the title during this awful season for Real Madrid. He has fought off the challenge of Shaun Wright-Phillips of Chelsea, who signed for the West London club last summer and has been rotting on the substitutes bench ever since. Another Chelsea man, Joe Cole, will start on the left. Transformed by Jose Mourinho from a circus juggler with no end-product into a top class player and, it must be said, a nauseating diver, Cole has been the main beneficiary of Paul Scholes’ decision to retire after Euro 2004.

    In the centre of midfield England have, according to the Ballon D’Or votes, two of the three best players in Europe. Steven Gerrard of Liverpool and Frank Lampard of Chelsea are both attacking midfielders who play with holding players for their clubs, and the debate has been going on for some time about whether the two can actually play together. It has rarely worked and it is becoming increasingly clear that England do not get the best out of Gerrard, who is nominally the holding player of the two. Eriksson did experiment with Tottenham centre-back Ledley King as the holding player, and his club colleague Michael Carrick excelled there alongside Gerrard in a recent friendly win over Uruguay. Owen Hargreaves, the perennial substitute from Bayern Munich, continues to be overlooked, but England need to strike a balance in this area and quickly. As is usual what they would call a selection problem in Brazil has become a case of banging square pegs in round holes for England.

    In attack England can call on the former European Footballer of the Year Michael Owen, now playing at Newcastle United after a year at Real Madrid where dressing room power saw to it that his appearances were restricted, despite an excellent goalscoring record. He currently has 35 goals in 75 appearances for England and is still only 26 years old, but in truth he has rarely set an international tournament alight in the manner he briefly did in the 1998 World Cup in France.

    For inspiration in attack, and the hopes of the nation in general, everyone now looks to Wayne Rooney of Manchester United. The prodigy that was the best player at Euro 2004 has since gone on to become the most expensive teenager in World football after a £28 million pound move from Everton, and has constructed a bewitching portfolio of amazing goals in the last two seasons. Where once everything positive England did went through Beckham, so it now goes through Rooney, who is the only difference between another quarter-final exit and a tangible chance of winning the trophy. Whether he can make his mark at the World Cup will surely define a career that already seems destined to be the one of the finest player England has ever produced. England’s back-up forwards should be the gangly Peter Crouch of Liverpool and either Jermaine Defoe of Tottenham or Charlton’s Darren Bent.

    The key for England this summer will be getting their starting eleven on the pitch. Ashley Cole and Michael Owen are currently injured and are waiting to return and England simply do not have the squad depth of Brazil, Argentina or Italy. Eriksson has stressed time and time again the importance of the fitness of his key players – in the last World Cup Gerrard and Neville were at home with injuries and Beckham and Owen were half-fit at best. A clean bill of health gives England a great chance – and this time they might have a team who can take it.




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