Cheltenham Town's World Cup reporter Tom Blackburn looks ahead to a busy summer for the Three Lions.
Congratulations to Tom Blackburn who has been chosen to be a World Cup reporter for www.ctfc.com this summer.
Tom was one of many young writers who responded to our call for a 'World Cup reporter' here on the official website to follow England's progress through the tournament in Brazil this summer. We asked young writers aged between 14-20 to write a preview of the tournament and we chose Tom after reading all entries.
We want to say a big thank you to everyone who got involved as the standard of writing was excellent.
Tom will produce reports on all of England's warm-up games as well as their tournament matches this summer and these will then be published here on www.ctfc.com as we throw our support behind Roy Hodgson's Three Lions.
The World Cup is now just over a month away so please sit back and enjoy Tom's World Cup preview:
*Tom's World Cup preview was written mid-April for the competition so some elements of his preview may now be outdated.
When the 13th July arrives, all 32 teams heading to the 2014 FIFA World Cup dream of being in one place; the pitch of the Maracanã stadium, Rio de Janeiro.
Some of those teams know their chances of success are slim, take Honduras for example: the South American nation are at 7500-1 to win the top footballing competition, yet I have no doubt that each of the travelling party will have their eyes on the prize.
England head to Brazil this summer with a completely new type of pressure; that being very, very little.
England’s golden era that seemed to arrive at every major competition as one of the favourites have now largely retired and this squad, despite some bright young talent spread throughout, are not branded in the same way and this could be the perfect circumstances to set the country alight.
Whilst a few of the old guard still remain, most notably skipper Steven Gerrard, even past stalwarts Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole have no guarantee of a spot in Roy Hodgson’s 23 man squad.
Meanwhile, the spots they may not be filling are set to be closely fought over. The likes of Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling and Tom Huddlestone have all had exceptional seasons, however their spots are all unconfirmed.
The extent of Hodgson’s conundrum is epitomised by Everton loanee Gareth Barry who has excelled at the heart of Everton’s midfield as they push towards a Champions League spot. However Barry, who hasn’t added to his 53 England caps since before Euro 2012, has rarely been a contender to make the 23 man squad due to the strength in depth of the squad.
Southampton’s exceptional performance this year has also meant they have a number of attacking options pushing for a spot on the plane. Jay Rodriguez, Ricky Lambert and Adam Lallana have racked up a staggering 39 goals between them, and all three are expected to be at least on the fringes of the squad.
All this sounds exceptionally exciting, however England have been drawn into a tough group and face difficult matches against Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica. England begin their campaign on June 14th against four-time world champions Italy, who knocked them out of the 2012 European Championships. The match kicks off at 23.00BST, and I predict it’ll be worth staying up for; Italian legend Andrea Pirlo is set to retire after the tournament, and although his team are not expected to challenge for the trophy, this will not stop him believing they can.
England then face two South American opponents who the Brazilian conditions will suit and largely improve their chances of success. Despite having the lowest world ranking of the four, Costa Rica will certainly fancy their chances of an upset against the European nations and theirs is no doubt what Uruguay’s plans for the tournament are, with the world class Luis Suarez ready to set the world ablaze.
So there’s lots to contemplate as we approach the World Cup, but regardless of how England perform I have no doubt that it will be one to remember and predict a string of youngsters performing in such a way that earns them many more caps over the next 10 years.