Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

England are partying now but we all know crushing disappointment awaits them in Rio

England's Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifying, Group H match at Wembley Stadium, London.
England's Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifying, Group H match at Wembley Stadium, London.
England manager Roy Hodgson
England manager Roy Hodgson

Now the fun can begin. How much duller would next summer's World Cup Finals had been had England not made it?

The players and manager Roy Hodgson are partying now but we all know that crushing disappointment, possibly by way of an agonising penalty shoot-out, awaits them in Brazil.

But just as they switched the Wembley floodlights off after the win over Poland, which booked their ticket to the festival of football next June, the real debate has started. Can England win the 2014 World Cup?

Anyone who hasn't been living on Planet Zog for the last 45 years is entitled to ask the question: where is all this misplaced optimism coming from?

Just in case you need reminded, England won the World Cup in 1966.

And to further refresh your memory, the closest they came to ruling the world since then was reaching the semi-finals in 1990.

In 1994, they didn't even qualify. So given this history and the talent available to champions Spain, Argentina, Germany, Italy, Holland, hosts Brazil and Belgium, why should Roy Hodgson's team be contenders?

England seem to be weighed down by the pressure to relive the 1966 heroics and their former defender Danny Mills is right to say: "Only people old enough to remember it would be inspired by it – for the rest it should be wiped from the memory all the way up."

Hodgson says: "We've got a chance." I agree – a chance of going home early!

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