In Roy Hodgson, England have a manager who is clearly well-respected and liked among his players.
Four years ago, Fabio Capello caused uproar with his infamous ‘Capello Index’, while his insistence on tough, double training sessions didn’t go down well either. In contrast, Hodgson has created a relaxed atmosphere among the squad while keeping a degree of order (players’ complaints of boredom in Brazil will fall on deaf ears) and he appears to have found a system (4-2-3-1) that best utilises the players at his disposal.
Let’s face it, expectations of an England team going into a World Cup have never been lower. After the debacle that was 2010, there is a consensus that things can only get better and that Brazil will primarily be a learning experience for Hodgson’s young squad.
Going into a tournament without the usually unrealistic expectations of their shoulders will undoubtedly help a squad with little World Cup experience.
There has been no chaos, no rushing key players back from injury, no manager trying to negotiate a new contract and no rigorous double training sessions at altitude. Instead, there has been a serene feel to England’s build up and that could make a huge difference. Fabio Capello’s training regime backfired in 2010 with players going into the tournament suffering from burn-out.
Contrastingly, Hodgson’s carefully constructed schedule and warm-weather training has set England up to peak just at the right time.
The star striker
Whether you think he should start against Italy or not, having an injury-free Wayne Rooney at your disposal is a welcome change for England. The emergence of players like Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana has called his selection into question given his recent performances, but the Manchester United forward goes into this tournament with a point to prove, whether it is from the bench or not. Compared to previous tournaments, when the weight of a nation’s hopes rested solely on Rooney’s shoulders, England now have a selection of players they can look to for something special and the fact he is no longer England’s go to man could play into the striker, and England’s, hands.
The perfect mix of youth and experience
In 2010, Fabio Capello picked England’s oldest ever World Cup squad, and twinned with his brutal pre-tournament training regime, the Three Lions bombed in South Africa. The average age of that squad was 28.7, compared to the refreshing mix of experience and youth Hodgson has opted for, bringing the average down to just over 26. The older heads of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney will offer valuable knowledge, but there is a feeling it will be England’s young, vibrant contingent that impress in Brazil.