Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Why we should be supporting England and their World Cup dream

England manager Roy Hodgson faces two crucial World Cup qualifiers

No Northern Ireland. No Republic of Ireland. No Scotland. No Wales. No interest in the 2014 World Cup finals because of that? Well, of course not.

But isn't it always better when there is a team to love or hate in these major tournaments?

And for that reason alone, we should all be supporting Roy Hodgson and his England side over the next week. Go on, it'll be worth it by the time the summer comes around!

It just wouldn't be the same without England in the finals.

Sure, seeing the magic of Messi with Argentina, the sublime skills of Spain, the daring Dutch ready to implode at any stage, the Germans gearing up for greatness, Belgium's bright new team and the boys from Brazil on home turf will be fantastic, but the drama that always comes with England would add considerably to the whole World Cup experience.

You can see it now...

In the lead up to Rio, one of Hodgson's big hitters will pick up a metatarsal injury leading to a furious race against time for him to be fit for the finals.

Once in Brazil, there'll be talk about some sort of unrest in the camp. And although most have learnt to keep it shut about this by now at least one of the players will predict that England can actually win the thing.

This is all before the games even start! When they come around you can cheer England on or jeer them but either way you'll be into it because sport means more when there is emotion attached.

Tomorrow night the Three Lions host Montenegro and next Tuesday face Poland at Wembley. Two home wins will see them end up as group winners and secure their place in Brazil.

Anything less though for Hodgson's players will either allow Ukraine to nip in and finish first, leaving England as runners-up with a two legged play-off in order to reach the finals or worse, if things go completely pear-shaped, out of the running altogether.

The play-offs would be the lesser of those two evils, but with Portugal, France, Croatia and Sweden all likely to finish second in their groups, Hodgson's team would do well to qualify automatically and avoid the prospect of another 180 nervous minutes of action.

Although it's not in the manager's DNA, a little bit of adventure against Montenegro and Poland could go a long way.

Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney are in fine form so the focus should be on them going out to win the game as opposed to Hodgson's natural instinct, resolving not to lose it.

Draws won't cut it and failure to qualify should result in Hodgson getting the sack. Roy's future doesn't really concern me, but his players being in the World Cup finals does.

Come on England.

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