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Why England have a chance at winning the 2014 FIFA World Cup
Why the Kings of underachieving shouldn't be taken lightly in Brazil 2014
England are the most underachieving nation in the world not in just football, but in sports. With perhaps the exception of the national cricket team, all of England's sports teams are incredibly mediocre. Some critics might argue that maybe Portugal or the Netherlands are the most underachieving footballing nation in football. In some cases this is perhaps true with the players that both countries have produced over the years.
Portugal's greatest moment was reaching the final of Euro 2004 and the Netherlands most triumphant day was when they won the 1988 European Championships. Both teams have produced true greats down the years but have yet to dominate the international scene. Portugal have produced names such as Eusebio, Luis Figo, Manuel Rui Costa and in more recent times Cristiano Ronaldo. Netherlands, even more so, have produced several generations of great players and teams but have disappointed on the big stage. It's sad to say that players like Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf, Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Kluivert and Marco Overmars, even though impressing at club level, never really hit the required heights on the international stage.
Although Portugal and the Netherlands have had their fair share of disappointment in major tournaments, it is England that have been the most disappointing.
England, the birth place of football, is the most footballing nation in Europe in regards to youngsters participating in the sport. England's mightiest triumph came in 1966 when they won the World Cup at Wembley 4-2 in extra-time against Franz Beckenbaur's West Germany. The heroes of the victorious team were captain Bobby Moore, Nobby Stiles, Geoff Hurst, Alan Ball, and brothers Jack and Bobby Charlton.
The year 1966 lives long in the memory with Englishmen because they see it as the countries' finest moment, some think even surpassing the victories in the First and Second World Wars. However, since that famous year of '66 the England national team has descended into the limbo of international football; not failing but not succeeding. Even when England's top club teams competed and won the top club prize of the European Cup (Manchester United, Liverpool, Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa) the national team never seemed to come together for the big stage.
The most notable embarrassment for the national team was when Diego Maradona humiliated them in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico when he handled the ball to score ("The Hand of God") and then danced passed the whole team and scored his second. Poor Peter Reid will eternally be remembered as unexceptionally trying to chase Mr. Maradona from the half-way line all the way to his own goal.
England have never had a bad team, but then again never one too really push for a World Cup or a European Championship. They have produced outstanding world-class players just as Portugal and the Netherlands have over the years. Even going as far back as the 1956 when Stanley Matthews won the first ever Ballon D'or. In the 60's they had in their ranks Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton, who are still considered two of the best to ever play the game. In the late 1970s and early 1980s they had Kevin Keegan who gained huge success at Liverpool and won German championships with Hamburg. The list goes on with the likes of John Barnes, Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer, David Beckham, and Steven Gerrard.
The England team who everyone thought would prove the doubters wrong and actually go the extra mile and reach a final, or perhaps maybe win silverware, was the 2006 World Cup team. Although Brazil were heavy favourites for the competition, having the likes of Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Kaka, Robinho etc, England were joint second favourites for the prize with Portugal; Spain had been mediocre for ten years, Italy and France just came off the back of a poor Euro 2004 and Germany, the hosts, were said to have the poorest team in their history.
There was much to be happy about if you were an Englishman or even an England fan. The captain David Beckham was still regarded as one of the world's best and was also part of the Galactico era in Real Madrid, John Terry, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, and Ashley Cole had just won back-to-back Premier League titles with Chelsea, Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville, and Wayne Rooney were all performing well for Manchester United who finished runners-up to Chelsea in the league, and finally Michael Owen who was believed at the time that he would beat Bobby Charlton's England record of 49 international goals. But again, English fans around the country were left heartbroken again Portugal knocked them out on penalties and subsequently ended the "golden generation" of English football.
Since 2006 England have had a tragic time in regards to competing for international silverware. The emergence of Spain on the global stage, both internationally and at club level, has dented everyone's chances of getting their hands on a trophy
Since 2006 England failed to qualify for the 2008 European Championships and went out in consecutive quarter-finals in the 2010 World Cup and in last summer's 2012 Euros.
It seems England are only destined for the quarter finals, at best, in major competitions. However I think England fans have a lot to be hopeful about for next years' upcoming World Cup.
The team have lost a lot of experience with the retirements of Rio Ferdinand, John Terry and the decline of Frank Lampard, but this might be the best thing to happen if you're an England fan. Why not start fresh and give youth a chance for once.
Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard will obviously lead the line for the three lions in Brazil but it will the likes of Jack Wilshere, Tom Cleverley, Theo Walcott, and Phil Jones that the team will rely on for stamina and enthusiasm.
Jack Wilshere is the most promising English prospect since Wayne Rooney burst onto the world stage in 2004. He is already incredibly poised and mature for his young years, and contains an awful amount of technical ability as well as aggression and passion to wear the shirt. There is honestly nothing to dislike about the young man. He has pledged his allegiance to his boyhood club Arsenal, even though there is heavy interest from elsewhere, and he is as passionate to play for his country as Tony Adams was.
Phil Jones has been dubbed by Sir Alex Ferguson as a "real talent" and even said that he has the potential to become Manchester United's best ever player. Nothing I write will equal or better what the great Scot of the realm said so an attempt would be pointless. Also, Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck have just won their first Premier League titles with Manchester United and Theo Walcott is coming off the back end of a 21 goal season for himself.
Spain are again heavy favourites for the competition next year, why wouldn't they be when they haven't been knocked out of a major tournament since 2006. Northern European teams such as England, France, Germany, and Netherlands might struggle with the blistering climate of Brazil which could leave the path free for the likes of Brazil, Argentina (many believing this is Lionel Messi's best chance to win a World Cup) or even Uruguay who have Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan in contention in attack.
Although they might not succeed next year, there is an incredible amount of promise for England. Other youngsters might come through such as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wilfred Zaha or Raheem Sterling.
Spain's dominance of the world must come to an end at some point, and when it does, why not England to knock them off their perch?
By Luke O'Callaghan