1 | Suarez is injured
Not to gloat over one man’s shattered dreams, but The World’s Third Best Player (according to anyone in Liverpool) being out with a knee injury is a good news for England, who play Uruguay on 19 June. All we need now is for Edinson Cavani to trip over his cat and we’re sorted.
2 | Dr. Steve Peters
The team’s newly appointed psychiatrist is the man charged with getting inside the heads of Rooney and co to make sure they’re in a happy place at the World Cup (and we don’t mean a Brazilian nightclub). He’s got excellent pedigree, having worked with Team GB at the Olympics and British Cycling in the past, according to Hodgson made a “entertaining and insightful” first speech to the players this week. If England somehow win a penalty shoot out, the man will deserve a knighthood.
3 | Omen #1
The under-17s just won the European championship. On penalties.
4 | Italy are training in a sauna
…To prepare for the heat in Brazil. Which should mean they’re playing a very compact, box-like formation – perfect for our young wingers to exploit.
5 | No more pressure!
After years of the ‘Golden Generation’, the Wally With The Brolly, Graham Taylor Turnip Head and all the rest, our nations vociferous media has finally calmed down and stopped overhyping or harshly criticisng the national team. An average side has been met with average expectations. Best of all, other teams at the World Cup have pressure in the bucket load:
Uruguay: Golden Generation!
Germany: It’s Germany!
6 | The bravado of youth
With an average age of 13*, Hodgson’s squad is brimming with cocky whippersnappers who know nothing of true failure and regret. Raheem Sterling, Luke Shaw, Ross Barkley and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will take to the pitch with the giddy glee of a bunch of 6-year-olds playing musical chairs and carry us into the semi-finals. Hey, it worked for Germany.
*Fact check needed.
7 | Omen #2
Only two teams have beaten Scolari’s Brazil Mark II, and we’re one of them. (The other is Switzerland).
9 | Rooney’s third time lucky
Crap in ’06. Hopeless in ‘10. The nagging feeling persists that England’s Best Player lacks the temperament for the biggest stage. And yet… he’s injury-free, has had a great personal season and for once, doesn’t arrive bloated on domestic glory with Man U. A fit, inform, hungry Rooney might just, just be at his best in Brazil.
10 | Omen #3
Frank Lampard turns 36 during the World Cup. Three of the ’66 squad also had birthdays during the tournament: Ron Springett, Ron Flowers and Roger Hunt.
11 | Zico believes in us!
The “white Pele” wrote a ringing endorsement of England for the Guardian, which included the rousing line “it might be a bit premature to simply dismiss this team.” Go England!
12 | No destabilizing fitness race
Beckham in ’02, Rooney in ’06, Rio in 10 – England’s last three World Cups were cursed by injuries to major players. Worse still was the ‘race for fitness’ that had everyone in the country discussing metatarsals and buying into the nonsense that any success was entirely dependent on one player. This time, with respect to Theo Walcott, the country isn’t praying for the speedy recovery of anyone.
13 | Best of the Prem
In Joe Hart, Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka, we have a backline cherry-picked from the teams with the best defensive record in the Premier League (Man City, Chelsea and Everton respectively). In Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge we have a front line composed of players from the Premier League's more impressive offensive team. Therefore, we ought to be as good as the Premier League itself, which everyone knows if the Best League In The World. Or something.
14 | Omen #4
Baddiel and Skinner haven't re-released 'Football's Coming Home'. Yet.
15 | The gaffer
Like the World Cup winning manager of '66, Sir Alf Ramsey, Roy Hodgson speaks with clipped, over enunciated tones of a man desperate to transcend his cockney roots. This, hopefully, is just the start of their similarities.
16 | The Neville effect
Who's that whispering in Roy Hodgson's ear? Why, it's the only man who has said anything of any sense from a football pundrity sofa in the past year!
17 | Steven Gerrard’s broken heart
It remains to be seen how Stevie G will react to Liverpool bottling the league and depriving him of the Trophy He Wants The Most. An introverted soul, it may well be that those furrowed brows of his sink even deeper down his face, as an existential crisis takes hold and turns his legs to jelly. ON THE OTHER HAND... what if he takes out all that hurt on the World Cup? What if he roars England to victory to atone for 'that slip'? What if, everytime he bears down on a shot from outside the box, he imagines the ball is Jose Mourinho / Manuel Pellegrini's face and blasts it with such power it takes the roof off the net? What if we win the bloody thing?! Will it happen? Could it? We're saying: definitely.