14-June Italy (11pm GMT Manaus)
19-June Uruguay (8pm GMT Sao Paulo)
24-June Costa Rica (5pm GMT Belo Horizonte)
England strolled through World Cup qualification but doubt remains if the Premier League’s stars can take their club form to Brazil. Andrew Tuft writes.
Coach: Roy Hodgson
Appointed just a few months before Euro 2012, Roy Hodgson has tried to steer through a new generation of England players while at the same time living up to the expectation that always surrounds the national team. Vastly experienced at international level, Hodgson previously took Switzerland to USA ’94 and has also been in charge of Finland and the UAE. Liked more as a person than a Coach, Hodgson is respected but the football produced by his England team has led to disappointment.
Why they could be dangerous
Surely England will get it right eventually? The talent is certainly there. Hodgson has two fine and in-form strikers in Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge, talented youngsters such as Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley and more quality left-backs than he knows what to do with. There are problems in other areas but on paper, England appear to have the makings of a powerful side if it all finally clicks into place.
The world on his shoulders: Steven Gerrard
Captain and midfield playmaker, Steven Gerrard enters the World Cup on the back of one of his best-ever seasons at club level. The 32-year-old was the fulcrum for Liverpool, playing in a deeper role than before as Brendan Rodgers recognized his diminishing explosive power but ever-present passing range. Many observers have called for Gerrard to take a similar role with the Three Lions in what will surely be his last World Cup.
Did you know?
England could take three centurions to Brazil – Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. Gerrard is the most-capped of the trio with 109 and the only one guaranteed a place but Cole, 107, and Lampard, 103, are both in the mix to feature. Further adding to the experience quotient, Wayne Rooney’s 89 caps puts him joint-10th with Michael Owen in England’s all-time appearance list.
Country legend: Bobby Moore
The only England captain to lift the World Cup, Bobby Moore remains the standard by which all England skippers and centre-backs are judged. His beautifully-timed tackle on Jairzinho in 1970 is as iconic as the triumphant tournament four years prior, while the picture of Moore and Pele embracing after England and Brazil’s 1970 game is legendary. Moore, who died in 1993, won 108 caps and is commemorated by a statue outside Wembley.
Hodgson has experimented with a 4-3-3 formation but when push comes to shove, don’t be surprised to see him revert to type. If that’s the case then England will have two banks of four and a slow, steady approach to build-up play. Should the manager switch to a three-man midfield then the build-up play will remain slow and steady, but there will be a decision to be made regarding the position of Daniel Sturridge. He could even replace Wayne Rooney.
…Italy P24 W8 D7 L9 F30 A27
…Uruguay P10 W3 D3 L4 F10 A13
…Costa Rica P0 W0 D0 L0 F0 A0
Population: 53 million
World Cup appearances: 13
Best finish: Winners, England 1966
Famous for: Winning the World Cup on home soil in 1966 with Geoff Hurst hitting a hat-trick in an extra-time win over West Germany.
Top Division: Premier League
How they got to the World Cup: Top of UEFA Group H
FIFA World Ranking: 11
Last World Cup Appearance: South Africa 2010 – Lost to Germany in the Round of 16
Continental Honours: 1966 World Cup champions
Most Capped Player: Peter Shilton (125 Caps)
Leading International Scorer: Sir Bobby Charlton (49 Goals)
Nickname: The Three Lions