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England get luck of the draw

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Phil McNulty | 20:00 UK time, Friday, 4 December 2009

Fabio Capello's facial expressions are traditionally set in stone during serious business - but England's coach must have struggled to contain a smile as he was handed a generous Fifa 2010 World Cup draw amid the pomp and ceremony of Cape Town.

The traditional talk of England's potential involvement in a "Group Of Death", step forward Group G, was soon banished as Capello cast his eyes over a section of the draw he could have hand-picked himself.

"It's not so bad," announced Capello in a masterpiece of understatement as he surveyed England's three opponents in World Cup Group C, the United States, Algeria and Slovenia.

England must beware being suckered into believing a red carpet to the last 16 has been rolled out before them. The United States beat Spain before losing to Brazil in last summer's Confederations Cup final in South Africa, Slovenia revel in the role of underdogs and Algeria's "Desert Foxes" are a technically gifted side.

But, in reality, if England are to fulfil Capello's claim that "we have to win it", they can safely say the draw, with David Beckham in attendance, has already increased optimism.

England's big fear was either France or Portugal being dropped into their group, while the hugely dangerous Ivory Coast, a side tipped to lead the African challenge, were also avoided. So a good day's work for Capello and his cohorts in Cape Town.

And an added bonus came as their first game will be against the United States in Rustenburg, where Capello hopes England can establish their World Cup basecamp, on Saturday 12 June. It means the Italian can finalise preparations for the all-important opening encounter from close to England's temporary South African home.

England's curtain-raiser will be at an altitude of 1500m in Rustenburg but it is then back down to sea level to play in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, again something Capello may regard as a plus.

If England qualify, and it would be an uncomfortable moment for all concerned at the airport arrivals lounge if they don't, then potential hurdles in the latter stages are hazardous but not insurmountable.

Capello's men will face one of Germany, Ghana, Australia or Serbia in the last 16, with the potential for a meeting with Raymond Domenech's France, arguably a fading force and fortunate to be in South Africa, in the quarter-finals.

If England do navigate a route past those countries, the semi-final might be the stage where life gets very dangerous, with the distinct possibility of a meeting with Brazil, who eased past them when Capello was forced to field a below-strength team in Doha.

capello595.jpgCapello arrives for the World Cup draw to be handsomely rewarded by the outcome

Dunga's side mix and match traditional flair with defensive organisation, although Brazil have a tough task of their own to complete first as they were grouped with North Korea, the Ivory Coast and Portugal. The actual "Group Of Death."

For now though, he will be training his sights on the trio of countries standing in England's path to the last 16 - and Capello's famous attention to detail will already be aware of the threats that will await.

US coach Bob Bradley is a shrewd operator who has already made it clear a meeting with England holds no fears. Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard and Fulham's Clint Dempsey can extend the scouting network set up by Bradley to monitor those Premier League superstars his side will face.

Hull's Jozy Altidore is a rising star while Beckham's Los Angeles Galaxy team-mate Landon Donovan will be keen to show he is worthy of the biggest stage.

And the draw also means Beckham will have an involvement in England's World Cup planning even if he is not selected for the squad, no doubt advising Capello on the merits or otherwise of many members of Bradley's squad.

Bradley has fashioned a fiercely committed team who will fancy their chances against England - but Capello will be optimistic of getting his campaign under way with three points. A United States victory will not mirror the shockwaves created by their fellow countrymen when they beat England 1-0 in the 1950 World Cup in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, but it would still be a huge surprise.

Algeria are ranked 28th in the world and playing in the tournament for the first time in 24 years. They showed their mettle by coming through a tension-riddled one-match play-off against Egypt in the Sudan. Plenty of European-based players means they will be well-acquainted with England, but if Capello's side cannot come through this unscathed then they will not deserve to progress beyond the group phase.

Slovenia fall into the same category. England can rightly expect to feel the critical backlash should they slip up, but they must not make the mistake of under-estimating a side that outmanouevred Guus Hiddink's highly regarded Russia over two legs in the play-offs.

The fact that England have been handed a group with two sides that needed to go down the play-off route to actually reach South Africa also suggests they have enjoyed good fortune - and it is an opportunity they must not squander.

All has gone to plan in Cape Town, now Capello can concentrate on finding a reliable goalkeeper to underpin England's campaign, cross his fingers that big players stay clear of injury and hope Emile Heskey uncovers the secret to regular goalscoring.

If all this falls into place, then those of us who will be following every step of England's journey in South Africa next summer might be able to book in for the long haul.

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  • Comment number 1.

    Great draw for England, and a fantastic chance for us to push on and really get far in this tournament. Second favourites to win the title behind Spain now... maybe an over-exaggeration, but is it finally time to dream? ...

  • Comment number 2.

    It's a great group, but the luck runs out in the knock-out stages, we should get through the second round easily enough but the Quarters will do for us once again, there's just too much quality and we're really not that good a team. Our only hope is that we go there as organised as Greece did when they won the European Championship.

  • Comment number 3.

    To Steve...agree knockout stage could be tricky, but given the various permutations this was about as good England and Fabio Capello could hope for.

    You bring back happy memories of the sunny summer of 2004 by mentioning Greece and it was good to see Otto Rehhagel, or "King Otto" as he became known after that incredible win in Euro 2004, in the audience in Cape Town. That was a remarkable story and as you say a victory for incredible discipline and organisation.

    Rest assured England will be disciplined and organised - but will they be good enough?

  • Comment number 4.

    what do you mean reliable goalkeeper.
    james is the best bet because there is nobody else. who would you pick. if by june 2010 one of green, foster or robinson perform really really well (as well as cech, given, van der sar or reina) then pick them.

    to number one: the top 2 are spain and brazil.

  • Comment number 5.

    Oh, here we go.

    A decent draw for the group phase and we're second favourites to win it?

    Dream on.

    Yes they should get to the second round but Serbia are no pushovers and would be a good bet for that match.

    Anyone thinking beyond the Quarter Finals at best needs to come back down to earth unless we sprout 4-5 more world class players between now and the kick off.

  • Comment number 6.

    England will not win the WC, we are a top 8 nation at best and reaching the quarter finals should be our target. Although the draw is kind, getting any further then the qf would be great.

    The Steven Gerrard conundrum will be the undoing of England, I suggest dropping him on the bench to become an impact player or alternatively play him at right back and there's the problem there sorted as Johnson isn't good enough defensively and Brown is prone to mistakes.

  • Comment number 7.

    Phil - It is a good draw for England, but as we have often seen before, once a tournament starts, so do the surprises!
    However unless we do something really daft, then England should progress through the first phase, after that it will depend on whether Fabio Capello's planning and overall preparations have been thorough enough.
    I suspect the planning and preparation will be as good as it can be and issues about, playing at altitude, what should happen if we find ourselves down to 10 men in a game, how do we deal with penalty shoot outs, etc will all have been covered -lets hope so! Now all we have to worry about is whether Capello's first choice squad, will all be fit enough come next June.

  • Comment number 8.

    To the4thlion...I would not pick any of England's goalkeepers with complete confidence but you know what, I would be tempted to give Paul Robinson another try before the tournament gets under way.

    And to oncearedalways54...agree that the surprises will start when the World Cup starts, but part of the fun is trying to plot a route right after the draw is made. For England the trick is to plot one that goes beyond the last eight.

  • Comment number 9.

    The draw is a terrific boost, but as you end your piece by saying Phil it's an advantage England shouldn't squander- and you couldn't be more right.
    I have reservations about England's ability to beat the bigger sides in the International game- just a single win over any of the sides placed above England in the World rankings provides a clear signal that Capello's side are just slightly short of being considered one of the favorites.
    The draw suggests that England should reach at least the last eight with some ease however unless our first team are fully fit and playing well then that's when our interest in the competition will sadly end.

  • Comment number 10.

    I was saying yesterday England would get the softest group out of the 8, but I am the idiot for not placing a bet on it -if there is one, I'm sure there is. It happens so often now that it's not covered by probability theory any more.

  • Comment number 11.

    Why do people keep going on about group G being the group of death. It isn't! Group D is just as tough as group G.

    North Korea will be beaten soundly by all.
    Brazil are the favourites, and will win the group.
    But if portugal or ivory coast were eliminated at the group stage, yes it would be a surprise, but not a massive shock. Neither can win this tournament imo.

  • Comment number 12.

    England could not have picked an easier group. However, their biggest threat is likely to be complacency....oh, and whichever donkey they put between the sticks! USA to pip Algeria to top spot, England home in time for Wimbledon.

  • Comment number 13.

    As a Scot (who likes to see the home nations do well), i find the attitude of some of you English fans unbelievable.

    Sure, a big problem with England is the fact that there is always too much hype before the finals which ultimately leads to dissapointment when England underachieve. But surely, a few fans getting optimistic with what can only be described as a near-perfect draw is ok? I'm sure the whole world expects England to ease through this group just as they would expect Spain and Brazil to ease through theirs?

    And as for the clown who said England needed to sprout 5 or 6 more world class players: surely Gerrard, Lampard, Beckham, Rooney, A Cole, J Terry, Rio (if he can re-discover his A-game)are sufficient? Not to mention the few who are not far from world class like Lennon, Defoe, Johnson, Young, Barry, Joe Cole etc etc. And furthermore, managed by one of the best managers in world footall. It's a great squad rivalled probably only by Spain.

    Yes, England could do without the exaggerated hype but surely the fans have a lot to be optimistic about? I for one think the semis are a definite possibility.

  • Comment number 14.

    I think it's interesting that people condemn our chances of winning against the 'big' sides because of our friendly results against them, namely Brazil and Spain. France was early into Capello's reign and so I am not including that one.

    However, when we played Spain and Brazil, no one would claim we were playing our full strength side In fact, it may be argued that we were playing way under strength teams against them. This suggests one thing to me, a lack of strength in depth, but I have to say with our full strength side out I truly believe we are a match for any team in the world.

  • Comment number 15.

    England couldnt have asked for a better setup. While the USA are a solid team, you'd take this group over most of the others any day of the week. The actual best thing about the draw, though, is the way it maps out later in the tournamant.

    The real bonus is that if Brazil slip up slightly in their group, which isnt impossible, then they would end up playing Spain in the second round. Seeing one of those teams depart early would be fantastic. We already know that either Portugal or the Ivory Coast will also go early, and while you may not tip them as winners, you'd prefer not to have to play against them.

    The Netherlands also have probably got a nice run through the knockout phases, and while its horribly early to make predictions, I can see a semi final lineup of Brazil/Spain,England, Italy and the Netherlands. Italy may not be pulling up any trees, but their record shows that they progress in tournaments.

    On a totally unrelated note, does Kim Jong-il still intend to have his teams world cup matches edited for television so they look like the better side? If so I cant imagine their group matches adding up to a lot of screen time...

  • Comment number 16.

    Hi Phil,

    I think England's group is the easiest of the lot. You could argue a case for bracketing Italy's group on par with England's, but other than that, it was pretty much the perfect scenario for England to ensure progression. As previously mentioned, they also have logistical advantages.

    However, there is one disadvantage! You will top the group and play either Germany, Serbia or Ghana in the round of 16 (none of them easy, unless Australia pulls off something pretty special). Serbia could surprise a few and top the group, they have massively impressed in the qualifying campaign, which would probably mean you would have to face Germany in the Round of 16.

    After overcoming such relatively easy hurdles, you will have to up your game pretty drastically against whichever of those teams qualify, coz all of the games of Germany's group represent "do or die games". England, on the other hand can score relatively early goals and just coast through their games without giving their absolute everything. I think this may be a psychological disadvantage and may disrupt the England team of proper preparation, come knockout phase time. It will be difficult for them during the knockouts....

    A more evenly balanced group would have been better for England, because then you have one or two opponents who would really test the England team, and that competitive edge would remain for the duration of the tournament. Just my opinion

  • Comment number 17.

    No hard game until the Semi final.

    Should be a walk in the park.

  • Comment number 18.

    It seems strange that it takes an Italian coach to give us our best chance in a long time by instilling the basics of discipline and belief but I think if he had the squad say 2-4 years back we would have had a much better chance.

    The defence is now a worry, the attack lacks a fox in the box type (Lineker say) and the left side of midfield is less than perfect. While to be hoping James can stay free of injury and dodgy judgement is not where you have to be to win this.

    In short a world class keeper, three reliable center backs and a left footed/quality midfielder (Giggs say) are things we are all short of, we will make the last 16, possibly the semis, even our Italian leader can't work miracles beyond there - luck possibly can...

  • Comment number 19.

    Great draw for England and plenty to get excited about. However, there are no easy games at the World Cup anymore and unless we perform we could find ourselves fighting to get out of the group.

    We have the quality to go all the way this time and I just hope Capello keeps the guys motivated and hungry for the success the whole nation is hoping for.

  • Comment number 20.

    Once again most England fans will expect great things, but the team will fail to deliver... seen and heard it all before many times... wake up & smell the coffee, when are you all going to realise we are just not good enough when it matters.

  • Comment number 21.

    I have always maintained, that England are underdogs of winning the World Cup. They need momentum and belief to carry them to greater heights, I am not sure Algeria, Slovenia and U.S.A will provide that for them. If they play poorly, against one of those teams and draw to U.S.A in their first game, the press will hit the panic button and lambast the teams for its failings. This will knock the player's belief and confidence.

    Even in the perfect scenario where England win all their group games convincingly, the press will simply state that this was pretty much expected of them and that the real test comes when you play top level opposition. Either way, from a mental and psychological point of view the England players will never win over the press in that mental battle. Its a lose and lose situation for England...

  • Comment number 22.

    I believe the England group will be more difficult than it first appears. If you analyse the FIFA standings of the group members, only 2 groups are harder. If you exclude the seeded teams from each group (France rather than SA in group A) and analyse the opposition, England has the 2nd most difficult set of opposition. If you look at the most difficult 2 opponents for each seeded side (to exclude some of the patsies) England again has the 2nd most difficult group.

    I know the FIFA rankings don't tell the whole story but they are a good indicator. This will be harder than people think. I'd rather be in Italy's position.

  • Comment number 23.

    Second favourite!?!?!?

    Get a grip on reality.

    Here we go again.

    I expect every car in england will have two cheapy george cross flags flappin on the side of them come June.


  • Comment number 24.

    Great comment Peter Nixon (post 20), so constructive! Under your logic we shouldn't even go in the competition. In fact the World Cup should really just be one game between Brazil and Spain right? Everyone else should 'wake up and smell the coffee' and realise they're not good enough? Football is that predictable is it?

    I for one am glad most England fans don't think like that.

  • Comment number 25.

    22. At 11:32pm on 04 Dec 2009, anglophil wrote:

    "I believe the England group will be more difficult than it first appears. If you analyse the FIFA standings of the group members, only 2 groups are harder. If you exclude the seeded teams from each group (France rather than SA in group A) and analyse the opposition, England has the 2nd most difficult set of opposition. If you look at the most difficult 2 opponents for each seeded side (to exclude some of the patsies) England again has the 2nd most difficult group."

    Mate what are you on about? First of all why do you put France rather than SA as 'seeded', the comparison is what opponents England and the other top seeds could have got (hence France not SA) and which they did get. Second, comparing the 2 most difficult opponents for the seeded sides -patsies out- as expected only ONE group has lower average ranking (32 to England's 21).

    US Algeria & Slovenia almost the hardest group...Next you'll be telling us the earth is flat!

  • Comment number 26.

    I'm finding the comments that England have the easiest group quite staggering. The team with the easiest group, so obvious it beggars belief, is Spain - Switzerland, Honduras, Chile. And France, considering they weren't seeded, have been given a kind draw too - South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay.
    There appears to be a lot of ignorance as to the merits of the teams in our group - the person who commented on the FIFA rankings made some very valid points. You can't judge the USA team on their performance at Germany 06 because they were placed in a Group of Death - Italy, Ghana & Czech Republic (I say 'a' Group of Death because that tournament had another - Argentina, Netherland, Ivory Coast and Serbia & Montenegro). England, on the other hand, had two very poor teams in Paraguay and Trinidad & Tobago. Slovenia beat Russia, that says something; while Algeria beat Egypt - a team who've recently dominated the African Cup of Nations.
    I guess what I'm saying is this: is this group better than the one we faced in the last tournament? Yes. How did we do in the group in 06? W 2 D 1 L 0. So that implies we won't waltz this, seeing as with an easier task four years ago we didn't come out with a 100% record.

    I would put these teams above England in terms of probable success:

    Ivory Coast/Portugal

    On top of these, I wouldn't like us to face Serbia, Germany, Argentina or Ghana. I think we'd have a decent chance against these teams, but it'd still be squeaky bum time. Against the teams mentioned in the list above, the issue is purely mental - our players don't think they're good enough. Draw Brazil and we're out, even if Brazil don't play well. Not even Capello can alter that particular national frailty.

  • Comment number 27.

    I've said it before, and I'll say it again - with all due respect to Algeria and Slovenia, two decent sides who deserve their place in the World Cup, England and the USA are going to qualify if they play anywhere near their best. I expect whole-heartedly for England to take maximum points.

    I don't think England are currently good enough to win the tournament, but a semi-final place would be a realistic and satisfying result (only their third ever, or fifth if you're including the Euros). Having said that, you can never predict these things with any degree of confidence - even last year, where the four form teams reached the semi-finals, there were heaps of surprises. So let's just anticipate what is likely to be a comfortable group stage for England and, after that, start thinking about their/our route to the latter stages.

  • Comment number 28.

    Incidentally, here is my prediction for the group stages.

    Group A
    France 7
    South Africa 5
    Mexico 2
    Uruguay 1

    Group B
    Argentina 7
    Greece 7
    Nigeria 1
    South Korea 1

    Group C
    England 9
    USA 4
    Slovenia 2
    Algeria 1

    Group D
    Germany 9
    Serbia 4
    Ghana 4
    Australia 0

    Group E
    Holland 7
    Denmark 7
    Japan 3
    Cameroon 0

    Group F
    Italy 7
    Slovakia 3
    Paraguay 2
    New Zealand 2

    Group G
    Brazil 9
    Ivory Coast 6
    Portugal 3
    North Korea 0

    Group H
    Spain 9
    Chile 4
    Switzerland 4
    Honduras 0

  • Comment number 29.

    Capello's not getting the best out of Steven Gerrard in my view.
    There's no question choosing between Lampard and Gerrard is one incredibly tough decision but Capello has to make it - they cancel each other out.
    Can you imagine the Liverpool Gerrard and Rooney at full force.
    England with the Gerrard that destroys teams week in week out would be a completely different propspect altogether.

  • Comment number 30.

    You guys don't know what you've got. I suspect all this negativity is just you giving voice to your fears. If you really felt so sure then why bother commenting. england have only lost one football match (not including penalties) in the knockout stages of a world cup since 1986, and that was to brazil. england have one of the strongest squads, so why not be optimistic. The italian team that won last time was not as strong as the england team is, they just sorted out their penalties.

    This world cup has so many variables, first in africa, games at altitude etc.. it will be impossible to predict, as all knockout football is. If the best team won every time then brazil would always be champions. but there is nothing wrong with being positive. if england's own public are incessantly negative, that is hardly going to help.

    all this talk of last eight and semi finals is a load of rubbish. If england make the semi finals, the country will be going mad with optimism, no one will be saying 'its an honour just to be in the semis'.

  • Comment number 31.

    Ok, deep breath everyone. Sure England have a better chance to get through to the round of 16 than if they had drawn Portugal, Ivory Coast and Australia (incidentally where I live and watched live draw at 4.30am Adelaide time) based on current FIFA rankings. However, even Ivory Coast is below Cameroon (#16 v #11) in rankings so the above comment could have included Cameroon. Which really just goes to show that when it comes to the WC Finals, it is about turning up with a positive frame of mind as in reality a number of countries CAN win it. Being positive is a must. A bad refereeing decision, moment of indecision, a red card (Rooney 2006) or an off side goal given to the opposition can all play a part in a nation going out after "looking the goods" earlier in the tournament. How many times would that have applied to Spain for recently as 2006 included. The most important thing for England is to realize that although everyone in England wants them to win, they are merely one country that COULD win it...but obviously only one will and based on past experience that will not be England unless they have the frame of mind that they probably won't win it but are just as likely as another 7 countries. No more, no less. If they get to the last 16 (and based on the relative squads, not making it would not be good) then it is a lottery where anyone can beat anyone on THAT particular day. To say they are second favourites after the draw is an emotional response. I can tell you that although Australia has got a tough draw, NO-ONE here is talking about a first round exit. Then again no-one is aying they are second favourites! However, as in any sport they participate in, the Aussies have an undeniable self belief that they can beat anyone...Germany included. Given the events of Grosso the Clumsy in 2006, they even WANTED to draw Italy in the group stage (or England for that matter). Oh well, an England v Socceroos final is a bit too much to dream of I guess....

  • Comment number 32.

    If England have to rely on "Heskey uncovering the secret to regular goalscoring" they are in real trouble, he will only let England down. Better to work with Defoe and Rooney with Owen (who I'm expecting to prove himself at Utd this year) and Crouch as backup.

    Does anyone know if Kim Jong Il is planning to feed his players before the finals?

  • Comment number 33.

    So, England are second favourites to win the World Cup, are they? Not entirely surprising, given that these odds are provided by UK-based bookmakers!

  • Comment number 34.

    For my thoughts on the draw alone, the group draw is favourable but by no means a guarantee of nine points at the end. The US will be fired up by playing England especially first up, but our record against the other teams will determine top spot. We also have a fantastic opportunity to get to the semi-finals, as avoiding Brazil, Spain, Italy and Netherlands before then gives us the potential to build the confidence and rhythm for any realistic challenge.

    The team however is the main worry for me is our ability to retain the ball and have the range of passing required to create chances in winning if/when required against any of those four teams above. Friendly results can be argued, missing players in those games also, but our passion will only get us so far.

    Technically our players cannot be compared against the very best when viewed in international competition, I feel they only shine consistently with their club colleagues around them. Yes we have some great individuals but our team isn't consistent and settled enough to mount the type of challenge we need. If only Capello had more time with this team as I don't see the quality of players coming through after 2010 to replace some of our aging individuals.

  • Comment number 35.

    Even looking at the pre-draw odds for what they're worth, England's group is only one of two where the best opponent was given 100/1, and only one of two where the 2nd best was 250/1!

    Coming straight after the softest ever 2006 proper and 2010 qualification draws, the level of FLUKE is beyond belief! This time even the location for the 1st game & knockout was right on the money!

  • Comment number 36.

    Guys, I'm not being funny but England are only second favourites because they are who most ENGLISH people would bet on, so the bookies are trying to lower the risk if they did win (although an England win would undoubtedly ruin at least several bookmakers). In other countries, of course England are not the second favourites!

  • Comment number 37.

    Everything is in Englands favour to progress to the final. The only worry is our goalscoring, although Rooney is probably the best striker we have he has failed against top defences since Euro 2004, and becomes a headless chicken always chasing the ball when things aren`t going well(no more excuses for him). Gerrard will be our main man and possibly the player of the tournament.

  • Comment number 38.

    England are into the round of 16 without having to play a game. Mere turning up will do. Slovenia may have eliminated Guus'es Russians but does any one think England would have paused to mull their chances against the Ruskies were they to meet each other in a hypothetical qualification game. Algeria will be another opportunity for England to fine tune its combination.

    The only game that should provide some cerebral calisthenics will be the opening game against USA. The latter's show in the Confederations Cup should not be seen as a flash in the pan; and USA would have had time to enlarge upon their show against Spain under the full blare of the vuvuzelas.

  • Comment number 39.

    pleased for us (england) though an easy group will only build expectation when its teams like brazil, spain and the netherlands who are easily favourites compared to us! One thing that is annoying easy is france's group??? not only do they cheat to get into the WC but they dont even have any really hard teams (not that Mexico are pushovers!) They deserved to face any of the other top seeded teams and actually prove they are worth their place in the finals! I just feel sorry for SA (the look on Theron's face said it all!) platini must be rubbing his hands in glee...

  • Comment number 40.

    The USA will be no pushover. They had a great run in the Confederations Cup last year. However, I think it is important that England have at least one game that will provide a genuine test. That said, as we have seen many times before England can make hard work of unfavoured opponents, lets hope Capello can reverse this.
    If we make it to the knockout phase, I am confident that any team we face can be beaten. We have some genuine goal threats, and if we can be well organised, and get a little luck, even the likes of Spain and Brazil can be beaten.
    I'm not predicting a win, but I see no reason to be afraid of any of the teams. Italy won it four years ago, with frankly, a completely unmemorable campaign and team. England can certainly do it with this very strong and talented squad. Bring on June!!

  • Comment number 41.

    it seems you're earning your salary by regurgitating every point made by lawrenson, motson, lineker and shearer...
    excellent journalism.

  • Comment number 42.

    I don't know why people are getting hung up on the '2nd favourites' tag as it has very little to do with ability to win the world cup. We are 2nd favourite for two reasons: 1) English people will be more likely to bet on England, especially as we have a favourable group, and 2) we have a favourable group! We are more likely to progress through the group stage than all but one of the other teams. It's the same reason that that first team to qualify is always made favourite simply because they are the only team in the World Cup at that particular time. It's basic maths. . .

    That said, I can't remember a draw being so favourable in my lifetime. If they don't win it with these players, with this manager and with such good luck to start with, we never will.

  • Comment number 43.

    I'ld rather say it in Capello's words that it isn't a bad draw.

    USA will provide the main threat, but Slovenia gave England a good workout at Wembley, and Algeria are a team of fighters, and hopefully will have African support.

    Having said that, England should overcome those threats. I think they have a good squad, people complain that 'we don't have a keeper, goalgetter, etc' You don't get everything in life folks. Brazil, most people's favs next to Spain to win, can't buy a left-back! And maybe a defensive MF. So as Man Utd once sung, 'it's all about believe...'

    But, the knockout stage, that's where the pro-o-blems for England start...


    Lots of people are saying France have an easy group. That's laughable. The HOSTS themselves, then Mexico, who aren't pushovers...maaaaybe Uruguay, they have a decent player in Forlan, but France don't have it easy. Mark my words.

  • Comment number 44.

    I can't really understand any of the comments that I have read during the last sad hour of my life. How can anyone really argue the fact that England have been handed a favourable draw? So what, a game hasn't even been played yet and so much anger/pride/stupidity has been stimulated by a simple means of picking a ball out of a hat. If the English football team encapsulated the greed and hunger of the merchants of the Premier league then surely they would be a certainty to bring the jules rimet trophy back to where it belongs.

  • Comment number 45.

    At 04:33am on 05 Dec 2009, Lagellerotumblero wrote:

    Lots of people are saying France have an easy group. That's laughable. The HOSTS themselves, then Mexico, who aren't pushovers...maaaaybe Uruguay, they have a decent player in Forlan, but France don't have it easy. Mark my words.


    Writing hosts in capital letters doesn't make them any scarier; South Africa are a team that failed to qualify for January's African Cup of Nations (meaning they're worse than a lot of African teams that AREN'T even going to the World Cup) and have had half a dozen managers in four years because results have been so bad. Even with the crowd behind them, a crazy atmosphere, it's not enough.
    Kind of hilarious that you've highlighted by far the worst team to show France don't have an easy group. Being hosts will pile pressure on the team needing it least. Then there's the others: Mexico are always flattered by FIFA rankings - if you don't believe me, just look at their results at the last 3 world cups. They aren't terrible (like South Africa) but they aren't great. Uruguay - not a bad side, but not anywhere near France's standard. Like you said, they have Forlan.
    Think people are judging France on their play against the Irish, but that was without Ribery - and he is THE player in their team. It'd be like judging England without Rooney, or Brazil without Kaka.
    I'll put it simply - it's tight judging between Mexico & USA, but Algeria are better than SA and it'd again be tight between Uruguay & Slovenia. Which means France DO have an easy group, because you have to remember THEY WEREN'T SEEDED! Or do you honestly think their group is as tough as, oh, I don't know, Portugal's?!

  • Comment number 46.

    Phil, I was hoping for a blog about the World Cup draw in South Africa but it is just a blog about one team. With all the media around the world there and hundreds of millions watching on television surely the first blog after the draw should be about the draw itself. But this is the start of the media hype that has the cabinet makers making the new cabinet in the FA to keep the trophy.

  • Comment number 47.

    A few people as usual are saying England will never win it etc but why not?
    Spain are a good example.
    Prior to winning the euros, Spain's record at international tournaments was appalling. I'm pretty sure their press bigged up their chances at every tournament while all the fans pessimisticaly claimed they would never do it, but guess what? Spain eventually did win.
    They may have had the best team on paper but they usually did and still lost.
    The best team doesnt always win as the top teams on any given day can beat each other. England have just as good a chance as any of the top teams even if we play Brazil.
    True the odds are not in our favour but then again they are not in any teams favour, What odds are Spain or Brazil 6/1??? Those are not good odds.(would you play Russian roulette with 5 bullets and consider your chances of survival good? I thought not)
    Bottom line...Get behind the team, we probably won't win but we might.

  • Comment number 48.

    "If the English football team encapsulated the greed and hunger of the merchants of the Premier league then surely they would be a certainty to bring the jules rimet trophy back to where it belongs." (Post #44 by lewis mac)

    How on earth are the England team going to be able to bring the Jules Rimet Trophy back to Rio de Janeiro? Nobody knows where it is since it was last stolen in 1983. Even Brazil gave up hope of it ever being retrieved, so they got themselves a replica of the original made by Eastman Kodak. Are you telling us that one has now gone missing too? Sounds like a job for a dog called Pickles!

  • Comment number 49.

    The Group is too easy for England compared to other groups. I would be surprised if they fail to get maximum points from the group. The Group A also looks like an interesting group with Host south africa, mexico, Uruguay and France but of cos the Brazil, Ivory Coast, Portugal and the unknown north Korea is by far the toughest esp with the 3 high profile teams who are capable of winning the tournament.

    My beloved Nigeria is also in a pretty tough group with Argentina, Greece and South Korea.

    I'll definitely be in South Africa for the NIgeria - Argentina match.

    Looking forward to June already. Gezzz

  • Comment number 50.

    Number 6

    drop steven gerrard to the bench?

    drop the 2nd if not 1st most important player to the bench?

    please stop saying stupid things

  • Comment number 51.

    I love how some people are saying 'No hard game for england until the semi final'.

    I'm not bashing England but its a little arrogant to just assume you're getting to the semi final, who the basis of a fully fit starting 11 then you certainly have the players to do so. But the only thing for certain if that major tournaments throw up strange results, how many people predicted France to bow out at the group stages of Euro 2008 or liverpool to crash out of the champions league this year.

    It certainly isn't time to dream yet, things have to be put realistically and know England have a chance but thats all it is. I can't believe a team who has won nothing in over 40 years is being heralded as a favourite. The worrying thing for England has to be a lack of squad depth, a team who relies on Emile Heskey as a partner to Rooney can't be that great!!

  • Comment number 52.

    The only reason why we're 2nd fav with the bookies because it's their way of making sure they don't lose millions if England win. Not sure now much was placed on England to win in 2006 but i'm sure much more will be placed on them this time with people sticking a £10 win or e\w on them.

  • Comment number 53.

    It is a very dangerous draw indeed for Brazil and there is a real possibility they might not qualify from the group stages

  • Comment number 54.

    Hi Phil,

    Ive only recently started commenting on your blogs - but this one was a good, if somewhat obvious one.

    What I dont understand is the people, and I have to say, mainly English fans coming on here and saying they dont fancy their chances - either that or being completely negative. I saw one post saying "we are a top 8 side at best and should be aiming for the QF's" - thats a hurrendous way to look at it - 8 wins out of 8 in the qualifying, and the team has not looked this good for a LONG time!!

    And to the other poster, we were already 3rd favourite behind Spain and Brazil, but given Brazil's group of death, I think we may have moved to 2nd favourite, but I havent checked.

    Listen, lets get behind our national team, im sick of seeing posts about a couple of players that are not up to scratch, look at all the other teams, they all have problem positions, and no team is made up of 11 perfect players!! The team need to read of the confidence and belief we have in them, not that we dont think the keeper is any good, or Gerrard doesnt play well with Lampard!


  • Comment number 55.

    to 44.
    It's actually impossible to "bring the jules rimet trophy back to where it belongs." It belongs in Brazil because they won it outright 3 times.
    We aren't trying to win the jules rimet, we're trying to win the FIFA world cup. You know, the solid gold one that looks 50x nicer than the Jules Rimet.

  • Comment number 56.

    I also think this draw really FAVOURS Brazil. They are undoubtably going to win this thing, I'd lay my house on it. They will have the hardest group matches and will probably win them all. If they do, they will have already been practicing against some of the hardest teams in the tournament and will be ready for that level of football.
    Spain and England will be used to a lower level of football and will have to seriously up their game.
    Brazil FTW.

  • Comment number 57.

    So all is now set in place for World cup 2010 and English fans are up to their usual tricks of assessing opposition teams with binocular vision...the trouble is they have the binoculars the wrong way round. I am afraid that England will not win the cup for two reasons: they dont have a reliable goalkeeper and their penalty shoot-out record is abysmal...these two shortcomings will co-incide at the knockout stage and as fine a manager as Capello is I dont think he can instil the mental steel to succeed in that pressure-cooker situation.....the winners? After their third place in 2006 and second at EURO, Germany will beat Spain in the final and Adler and Ozil will become household names.

  • Comment number 58.

    @ 57.......
    "I am afraid that England will not win the cup for two reasons: they dont have a reliable goalkeeper and their penalty shoot-out record is abysmal...these two shortcomings will co-incide at the knockout stage and as fine a manager as Capello is I dont think he can instil the mental steel to succeed in that pressure-cooker situation"

    So, because England have a poor record means they cant win? They have to overcome these sooner or later, and I think your wrong about Capello, I think he is just the man to sort that out - and to be honest, I think the players might be a wee bit too scared to fail!! Which isnt a bad thing!

  • Comment number 59.

    To qualified agreement with you about Steven Gerrard. Fabio Capello has improved him by putting him in what is, on the surface, a left flank role but with licence to join the attack at all opportunities.

    What I would like to see at some stage is Joe Cole or James Milner on the left and with Gerrard tucked in just behind Wayne Rooney, as he does to great effect with Fernando Torres at Liverpool. I do not see why two great players cannot make this work - and it does not leave England locked into simply using Emile Heskey as a battering ram striker, a battering ram striker who hardly ever scores goal it should be added.

    And to not despair. My brief was to write specifically about England - our experts in other fields such as South America and Europe (the excellent Tim Vickery and Phil Minshull) are filing pieces on the wider context. Hopefully all parts of the globe will be satisfied and covered.

  • Comment number 60.

    I hope we don't have to take Heskey over in the first place to be honest Phil, I'm hoping that Cole, Crouch, Defoe and Bent are the choices to play ahead of Rooney, if Crouch can learn how to head properly he will be lethal, not quite Klose but something approaching. Algeria have some superb technical artists going forward but as long as we stay organised we should be able to destroy them on the break as the defence is somewhat suspect and with attacking fullbacks, Lennon/ Young/ Milner etc should have a field day.
    USA should not be underestimated they are fierce fighters and as we saw in Ukraine, if we don't match the commitment we could come unstuck. The other groups are hard to call, who will qualify from group A is anybodys guess, Im tending toward France and Mexico, France just because of general quality and experience, Mexico because they have the defensive steel needed to shut up shop in these competitions. B id have thought the Argies and Nigeria although South Korea have the potential to surprise but I doubt they will. D I will go straight for Germany and Ghana, Serbia are a decent outfit and will be used to the heat but I dont think they have the quality they used to. E will be Holland for definite but whether Denmark or Cameroon will go along with them is an extremely tough call, Cameroon are the Germany of Africa but Denmark were superb in qualifying. I genuinely dont know about the group of death, I think the key factors are whether Lucio, Carvalho and Drogba are fit, if Lucio or Carvalho are injured and Drogba stays fit through the season I really think Ivory Coast could top the group, he is that good. Final group Id say Spain and Chile although the swiss could provide an upset, I just dont think they have the goals in them.
    What are everyone elses thoughts?

  • Comment number 61.

    That's exactly what I've been saying for a while Phil - Joe Cole on the left, Gerrard right behind Rooney.

    Rooney, Gerrard, Joe Cole, Barry (or Hargreaves if fit), Lampard, Lennon (or Walcott if fit and playing better than Lennon), Ashley Cole, Terry, Ferdinand, Johnson (or Brown), Goalkeeper (intentionally left blank because I'm really undecided)

  • Comment number 62.

    Im a Liverpool fan and I was expecting us to get knocked out, after losing Alonso we cant keep possession to sit on a lead for 80 minutes any more, Mascherano has lost something from not having him to sit alongside as well, we dont have the squad for it, Lyon and Fiorentina are seriously good teams and we could fully expect to see one of them in the semis, most likely the Violas. I couldnt believe all the people tipping us for Premier league glory this season when we didnt improve the squad in the slightest, just lost one of the best playmakers in the world and brought in a crock. Dont get me wrong I rated Aquilani at Roma but its hard to have faith in him now when he still hasnt played properly.

  • Comment number 63.

    This is written from the perspective of an English fan’s point of view so rather parochial I’m afraid.
    It is clear that Group C is probably one of the weakest groups but actually one of the reasons for this perceived weakness is that England are the seeded team in the group. I’m sure that USA, Slovenia and Algeria will all be pretty pleased to draw England rather than Brazil, Spain, Germany etc.
    The idea that the English team has the best players, best coach (add your own superlatives) and “their best chance to win the World Cup for many years” seems to ignore known facts. Whilst observing World Cup finals over the past forty years, I believe that in some of the other tournaments (when England actually qualified for the finals, that is), they had a comparable set of players, and several excellent managers. On some occasions they actually lived up to their billing as “one of the favourites” , but with ultimate quarter or semi final defeats. My own view is that the current ideas about England’s chances seems to leave a mighty reality deficit.
    It’s clear that to win a World Cup, you probably need an exceptional talent (think Maradona 1986, Zidane 1998), or a very well organised team (think Italy 1982/2006, Germany 1990), and I don’t see this current England team anywhere near these elite levels. It is true that if Rooney and Gerrard play to their club strengths then the chances of reaching the last eight are greatly improved but this team does not seem to possess the levels of individual talent to improve on the collective standard of competent and very fit club players. England 2018 at home seems to give a greater opportunity for them to get to a semi final. I’m sure that the bookers will soon be quoting odds on for that one.
    Despite these amateur analyses, I now intend to switch off my World Cup TV until mid afternoon on the 11th June and just see how it all plays out. I’m normally transfixed by all the games and enjoy watching matches like Paraguay v New Zealand as much as Brazil v Portugal. My particular favourites over the years have been those topsy turvy games played in the middle of the night or in mid afternoon (Belgium 4 USSR 3 in 1986 in Mexico still comes to mind).

  • Comment number 64.

    This reaction to the draw says it all for me. It saying that the team does not have the talent or the passion to get far in this competition once we have knocked out the no hopers. And that would be a true statement. I'm not a great football fan but on the times I've watched England playing, I see a bunch of overpaid, lacklustres just going through the motions. But then, as a nation we are pretty useless at any sporting competition.

  • Comment number 65.

    reply to 10:07....but you reinforce my point! If Capello instills a fear of missing a penalty, this just exacerbates the problem and makes it more likely they will miss. Burying a penalty in a vital knockout requires absolute conviction not a trembling fear of repercussion if you miss. More details: (1)Germany (2)Spain (3)Ivory Coast (4)Serbia...remember this post.

  • Comment number 66.

    To Were Ngoging to Ibiza...can't see Heskey not going unless he is injured to be honest. Would like to see Darren Bent get another chance in a stronger England line-up than the one that faced Brazil but don't see that either now sadly.

    To Bexley...see my post 59. It was deliberately Englandcentric (is that a word??) and our experts in other areas will cover those other countries. Hopefully we will cover all tastes and nations.

  • Comment number 67.

    @64....OK, so I think you were just trying to incite comment replies with that drivel...

    "But then, as a nation we are pretty useless at any sporting competition."

    Not at all...our clubs are pretty successful in the Champions League, been to the Rugby World Cup finals and won once recently, great cricket team....and theres alot more to boot. Talk about bitter, you must be a Liverpool fan.

  • Comment number 68.

    Phil, Yes, thanks. I was actually referring to the content of my own note which was particularly England-centric. If it wasn't a word before, it is now (as they say).

  • Comment number 69.

    65 you are quite tedious . People used to smugly play the trembling factor against Spain and I think the just won the European Championship. Despite what you may think I don't think such nerves remain solely an English disease, and they can lay the same ghosts to rest that Spain did - although it pleases you to think that England won't. It would be great to ram it back down your face. Personally I do not like this anti-football method of deciding matches.

    It is a good draw for England. A draw which if they do have any chance in the tournament at all allows them to build into it. It is a draw that gives a fair crack of the whip and a chance to maximise chances of staying alive in the tournament. Survival in these tournament, whether by penalties, or luck and finding a way to win is all that counts. Ride your luck and fight when you need to, but also progress smoothly and efficiently when you can too. This is what Italy and Germany have managed so often. So it is a good draw indeed. We do not face opening matche dog fights against the likes of Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Portugal, France, Nigeria, Serbia, Ghana etc teams that are far more likley to cause trouble and take points off you at the start, which in turn increases the pressure and stress and opens cracks for later in the tournament, and thus minimises the chances.
    Survive as smoothly as possible, progress as early and safely as possible and always move on is the aim.

    And then?
    OK there is a chance we could face Germany in the last 16. But I would say it is most likley that they will be the most consistent across 3 fixtures against and between a difficult group D and win that group. So therefore to maximise our own chances we should really focus on winning our group (coming 2nd would mean playing Germany), something we failed to do in WC98 when we lost to Romania and thus faced Argentina in the last 16 and into a dog fight clash. I would always prefer to win the group and take on any team that came 2nd and was not good enough to win their group (even if it was Germnay). Make sure you maximise the chances, win the group and keep surviving, and who knows what happens to your main rivals. They knock each other out or suffer upsets in the rest of the draw and suddenly you are right in the frame. The path is open.
    People say a probable last 16 game against Serbia/Ghana/Australia is tough and yes it won't be easy. But I think that is a decent last 16 match up, and you must expect a somewhat difficult game at that point. Take Spain for example if they win their group they are likley to face Portugal/Ivory Coast or even Brazil and I think England would far less want those kind of sides at that point. People then talk of potential 1/4s against France, and I really don't see them as anything to fear at this point and there could be worse 1/4 final opponents such as Brazil as we met in 02.

    So as I mentioned a fair draw for England, that gives England a clear way to think positive and to maximise their chances of progressing quietly and going deep IF THEY ARE GOOD ENOUGH, and I don't think there is anything to be negative about.

    post 13
    "As a Scot (who likes to see the home nations do well), i find the attitude of some of you English fans unbelievable. "

    Really wow! You don't say.
    Normally the complaint is the English think themselves as world beaters, this time we are not optimistic enough! We can't win!
    I still hear the Scottish moaning whenever England mention 66 etc. As if the Scots wouldnt mention it if they had won the WC!
    Maybe the Scots should put a bit more effort into themselves rather than poking at the English and seeming silly and narrow.
    Then you might qualify.

  • Comment number 70.

    Mr McNulty

    Friday, 2 July 2010
    Wnr Gp A/R-Up Gp B v Wnr Gp C/R-Up Gp D, QF, 19:30
    Wnr Gp E/R-Up Gp F v Wnr Gp G/R-Up Gp H, QF, 15:00
    Saturday, 3 July 2010
    Wnr Gp A/R-Up Gp B v Wnr Gp D/R-Up Gp C, QF, 15:00
    Wnr Gp F/R-Up Gp E v Wnr Gp H/R-Up Gp G, QF, 19:30
    Tuesday, 6 July 2010
    Winner Q/F 1 v Winner Q/F 3, SF, 19:30
    Wednesday, 7 July 2010
    Winner Q/F 2 v Winner Q/F 4, SF, 19:30
    Saturday, 10 July 2010

    is what the BBC has on its webstie for the quarter final and semi final stages.

    If you assume that you have ordered the quarter finals in numerical order, that would imply that England would avoid Brazil, Spain, Holland and Italy until the final.

    You and several others are implying England might have to play Brazil in the semi-final, something which you presumably wouldn't be saying without being right.

    Would you clarify the meaning of Q/Fs 1 - 4, as it is a bit confusing to someone who relies on your website for the information?


  • Comment number 71.

    It makes me laugh when I read all the 'we'll do rubbish as always' comments. What planet do you people live on? Sure we haven't won a tournament since 66 and have failed to qualify for some but we've reached the quarter finals or semis in four of the last six world cups, often in countries where the conditions didn't suit us at all. Also worth remembering that we've been knocked out on penalties more than our fair share of times.Those who see not winning the tournament as total failure are being ridiculous. Only one team can win it every four years.
    We have a decent squad with a good manager. With a bit of luck we have a chance. Good luck to the team. Lets get behind them and not have all this whinging cynicism.

  • Comment number 72.

    I honestly believe that England are a different proposition from the one in the last few world cups. We now seem to be able to beat teams with relative comfort (taking aside the France game and the under strength line-ups against Spain and Brazil teams). We are now able to beat the teams that we should beat due to Capello's determination to eradicate complacency and this is absolutely massive. Consequently, all this pessimism about not getting through the group stages seems to me to be more unfounded than before. Of course, we then have to beat the bigger teams and there is no evidence that we will be able to do this, but I think it is not too optimistic to predict a safe passage through to the quarter finals. A potential meeting with France is mouth-watering and would be a great opportunity for us to personally knock them out of the tournament. Looking forward to it with less trepidation than usual!

  • Comment number 73.

    he draw has been kind to England and I fully expect them to qualify from the Group. However, apart from Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard, Terry, Cole and Rio if he's fit, where are the rest of the World class players?

    I'm afraid it's another media 'dream' of England winning the World Cup. Maybe one day, the media will get real and it'll sink in that England are no where near good enough to win a World Cup.

    Of course when they fail, I wonder who will cop the flak. My bet is the foreigners in the English game. We'll have another out-pouring of xenophobia,conveniently forgetting that apart from 1990 England have done nowt in WC finals since 66. In addition, there were virtually no foreigners in the game in 74, 78 or for that matter 94.

    I wonder if the usual jingoism will be seen in the press and should England face Germany; it's a disgrace!

    Having said that, good luck England.

  • Comment number 74.

    If FIFA rankings are to be believed:-

    Surprisingly (to me), Spain are in the group with the highest average ranking.

    England are in the most competitive group (smallest variation between best and worst ranked teams).

    England and Germany's group turn out to be quite similar, despite general perception (mine included) that England's group is comparatively weak whilst Germany's strong.

    Taking only the top 3 teams of each group, Spain and Brazi's groups are toughest; Italy's is easiest by some way from England's.

  • Comment number 75.

    To # 73 (Im a fellow Scot)
    "However, apart from Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard, Terry, Cole and Rio if he's fit, where are the rest of the World class players?"

    You've just names 6 players, thats more than half a team. There is also Beckham, but I dont want to start that debate. Theres a few other excellent players - Lennon, Joe Cole(MAYBE??) etc.

    Not many other teams have 8, 9, 10, 11 world class players, so I dont see why England is getting slated all the time for their squad. We've got a much better squad than about 28 or 29 of the teams there, which justifies our position as 2nd/3rd favourites.

  • Comment number 76.

    To be honest I wish we'd have got a harder draw! Not being pessimistic but as I wasn't alive in '66 the only experiance I have of England is that when people get optimistic, we get beat.

    Until Fifa twisted ranking system pushed teams who needed play offs to qualify above us simply because we lost a friendly with most of our first team missing we were 7th in their system. Which I think is about right. You can argue a few places either way. What you can't argue in my opinion is that England are in the worlds top 4 sides. So I don't expect us to get to the semis.

    Sven was not a bad manager (as Mclaren later showed) there is a reason IMO why we never got past the quarters with him, simply because that was the limit of our team and players talent. If Cappello gets us to the Semi's, then I think that would be job well done for him. It would be our best result since '66, in which time we have failed to qualify 3 times! That shows how average our team really is, we are fine in the group stages, will get through the last 16 as long as we don't get a big team, but normally the moment we take on another top 10 team we are out. And while Cappello is good so are others.

    In short, we should expect to get to the quarters, that is where our ranking says we should be, anything further is a bonus.

  • Comment number 77.


    Yes England do have some other very good players but take out 3 of the 6 I mention through injury then I believe they will struggle.

    Lennon is a good player but can flatter to decieve, Joe Cole great player but is injury prone and goes missing. Heskey, hmmm. Defoe?

    I just don't think England have enough. There's nowt wrong with bigging up a team, I'd be doing it if Scotland qualified but I'd know there wasn't a chance of doing anything. Maybe the English media should let it ride and get excited if they reach the semis. We both know that's not going to happen, (rthe media keeping quiet I mean).

    I'd love to see England do well but I just can't see it for footballing reasons.

  • Comment number 78.

    71 spot on.
    People love to rubbish us.
    In the 3 major tournaments between 02-06 England were the only European nation to reach the 1/4 finals in each.
    Losing 2 of these on penalties. And the other to Brazil the winners of 02.

    57 and 65

    Yes we are more than aware England have a bad penalty shoot-out record thanks. We are more than aware of our failings. We have lived through every moment a hundred times.
    I love people that come on here with their 'I will dance gleefully on England's grave' attitude.

    "I'm afraid it's another media 'dream' of England winning the World Cup. Maybe one day, the media will get real and it'll sink in that England are no where near good enough to win a World Cup."

    Mr Scot. Mr Slater.
    Being regularly in the knockout stages and losing on penalties is a darned site nearer than Scotland have ever been. If England has mastered the anti-football of penalties and say had Germany's record at it then we would have at least 1 major tournament to our name by now.

    76 no not the best since 66, we drew a semi final in 1990.
    You talk about our failings against top 10 teams, but we have wins over Argentina and Germany in finals tournaments this decade, also draws against Portugal.

  • Comment number 79.

    The long and short of it is England should be topping Group C with three wins. It's about time England created some momentum in an opening round of a World Cup (something not achieved since Espana 82). If we can do this then we have as good a chance as any team.

    Overall the draw looks good. Group D and G look the toughest. I think France, Germany and Portugal will all find it tough to progress.

  • Comment number 80.

    Mr Scot. Mr Slater.
    Being regularly in the knockout stages and losing on penalties is a darned site nearer than Scotland have ever been. If England has mastered the anti-football of penalties and say had Germany's record at it then we would have at least 1 major tournament to our name by now.
    I'm not slating anyone,

    I was just pointing out than England are not as good as the media think they are.

    I was actually baffled at the slating Sven used to get. His achievements in tornaments were pretty good. But why was he slated, because he was foriegn, plain and simple!

    England is not the be all and end all in terms of how the game should be played. Maybe if they learnt from foreigners like you seem to suggest, then they may well have done better. There's no denying England have had quality players in the past and missed their chance. Perhaps because those quality players were just not good enough.

    You dont need to tell me Scotland have little or no chance of qualifying for anything; but I think you'll find I wasn't having a go for the sake of having a go. I put a good point across; the players are not good enough to win and maybe the media should acknowledge that fact when the tournament gets going or at least be realistic.

    If England win three warm up games in late May, the S*n and Mirror will have England lifting the world cup and you know it.

  • Comment number 81.

    I think that most people are in agreement: Its a kind draw for the groups, and should results elsewhere go to plan then its a nice draw to the semi's, but people are forgetting: its tournament football guys, theres no such thing as certainty, France 2002? France 2006 for that matter! (I know they got to the final, but they weren't "supposed to"!)

    We have a good chance to better all english performances at World Cups for the last 2 decades, I think that that warrents supporting the team! (no matter who is selected), and enjoying the "fun" of a World Cup summer.

    I for one will be cheering England on, and will have "two cheapy george cross flags" flapping on the side of my car!

    Good luck England!

  • Comment number 82.


    In an ideal world we might be cautiously optimistic, but if you think its bad now, can you imagine how bad its going to be in the next few months??!?

    I personally love all this build up to the WC - it dont happen very often, and the first WC I remember not even sure now - the one where Scotland played Brazil in the first game - 1998 I think.

    I think the players can raise to the occasion, and I think England have every chance if, crucially, Rooney stays fit. (No pressure, Wazza!)

  • Comment number 83.

    England have the quality to do well at this tournament, but you can't blame some for being a little pessimistic and cynical when it comes to realistically assessing England's chances on the basis of recent history in major tournaments.

    A last eight place is normally nothing to scoff about, but the media hype up the national team to such an extent that there's undoubtedly a huge anti-climax when the bubble does burst, and the realization kicks in that England aren't the world beaters they were made out to be in the first place by the press. Media hype is natural for something of this magnitude, but please dose it out in moderation and keep it closer to the tournament itself.

    I'll be getting behind England next year, even though I'm not English, as I like to see all the home nations performing well. The group draw was extremely kind, the USA will certainly be no pushovers but I'm not entirely sure about Algeria, they're an unknown quantity in my eyes.

    Good luck!

  • Comment number 84.


  • Comment number 85.

    I sometimes wonder if having a universally weak group like this really is the best thing. Sure, getting past the group stages should be plain sailing, but getting a good result against a top team(s) in the group stages really sets a team up for the later stages. It both gives a team confidence and also puts some fear into the others that they face, while there is less pressure, since a loss does not automatically put you out of the competition. While group G is going to be really tough, the teams that do progress are going to be looking really dangerous to the rest of the field. England are not going to be able to put any fear into their opponents in the group stages; the only thing they can really do is make themselves look highly beatable by struggling, or worse, losing.

  • Comment number 86.

    If any evidence were ever needed for the fact that you need a fair slice of luck to win a tournament look at Italy in 2006. They squeeked through their group, having drawn with USA they needed to beat the Czechs in their final game or they were out. They were REALLY lucky in the last 16 when Australia really should have beaten their 10 men. As I remember the Aussies should have score with a minute or so left then the Italians nicked one in the last minute of injury time. It took extra time to beat the Germans in the semis and penalties to beat the French in the final. Surely one of the most charmed World Cup victories of all time. Lets hope for just a small slice of that luck in South Africa next year. With that...who knows.

  • Comment number 87.

    The only concern that I MIGHT have had with England and this group is the possibility of complacency.

    However, the reason why I don't think complacency will be a problem this time is down to one reason (and one person) - Fabio Capello.

    He will prepare meticulously for every opponent and will ensure complacency is never associated with his team. I think we have seen from the qualifying campaign that England navigated their way past lesser opponents very professionally and I expect the same to happen in the group stages of the World Cup. England WILL qualify for the last 16.

    Under Sven Goran Eriksson or Steve McLaren I would have always had concerns in the back of my mind that England might make heavy weather of the likes of the USA and Slovenia. They could still prove to be tricky opponents but what I am saying is I don't think it will be because England are complacent.

    I think in previous World Cups discipline has been a problem and I think it is one of the reasons why England have failed to live up to expectations in recent years. This time though England have a coach that will ensure that they're right mentally and physically for this unique World Cup in South Africa.

    England really should make it through the group but then is where they real QUALITY of the team will be tested - are we really as good as the media WILL make us out to be? Every tournament comes round and the media already have England lifting the trophy beofre a ball is kicked. Can England handle the expectaions of the fans and the media?

    I look through the side and I see some world class players (Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard, Terry, Ferdinand, Ashley Cole) and some very good players (Barry, Joe Cole, Glen Johnson) and feel that England genuinely have a great chance this time round. The coach has instilled discipline and respect first and foremost and he has solved many problems that we had in the side. We wondered if Gerrard and Lampard could play in the same team and Capello's solution has consequently sorted the left midfield issue.

    We do have some great players, we do have the coach and consequently we'll be tactically good, we will be well prepared, the side will be well disciplined, we won't be complacent so I feel that we have the best chance we've had in a long time.

  • Comment number 88.

    This will be a test for Capello as England are famous for failing to dominate apparently inferior opposition, if indeed that is what they are. The margins are tighter than the media hype is leading us to believe.
    However if he can get them to think like Italians we should get through the group stages comfortably.
    It is more a test of both the England team psychology and the other teams psychology than talent.

  • Comment number 89.

    I can see us messing up big style against the USA but if we don't beat the other 2 then we really don't deserve to progress. I would love to face the Germans next, I really think we stand a good chance.

    We need to take Defoe and Bent to the world cup!

  • Comment number 90.

    80 sorry but I just get really bored of all the Scots that come on these forums slating England. You know the ones you think that success is when they put on an Algeria shirt and cheer them on to a draw or something. Maybe you guys should focus on qualifying for a major tournament again rather than your aimless noises against England.
    Not saying it's all of you but its a lot.

    "If England win three warm up games in late May, the S*n and Mirror will have England lifting the world cup and you know it."

    So? You think the English fans and people are represented by these comics?
    England fans KNOW we have only won it when the final whistle blows.

  • Comment number 91.

    I disagree with most of the postings here. England would be btter off facing France or some other 'big side' than Slovenia and Algeria. The Algeria match could define the WC for England. If Algeria play compact and disciplined for 60 minutes, and then start pusing up and trying to nick it, there will be panic and doubt in the England side. Should they nick a late goal, England will be as good as out. With the pressure around here, one would expect a melt down. I am sure that the Algerians are doing they homework and they know that their biggest wepon will be off the field - pressure on England, which England are not very good at dealing with. The Algerians Beat West Germany in '82.. They have done this before. Banana skin for England..

  • Comment number 92.

    The word complacency keeps cropping up. There will not be one player in any team in the competition who is complacent.
    Confident maybe but not complacent.
    England need to outplay their opponents in the mind games. Should be okay in their group in this regard, but I'd like to see them do this against the likes of Italy, Germany, Brazil, Holland and these days Portugal.
    Spain have formerly been serial underachievers like England in this department but are gradually breaking free of this shackle. England need to do likewise to have a good chance.

  • Comment number 93.

    " kind Draw "

    Agreed,understatement of the year so far.

    What an utter farce Englands path to SA has been.

    To put all this into some perspective perhaps someone could compile a list of all the teams England have beaten so far including those in the qualifiers and those possibly yet to face.

    and from such a list will we able to say that england, should they win, faced the best in the world I think NOT! IT would not make for an impressive list would it?

    The qualifiers themselves were a joke and ensured qualification, now we have this.

    This draw was anything but random in my opinion.

    The USA cant for love nor money play football ask beckham he spends most of his time there. ( so much for his alliegence to england )

    Slovenia? who are they?


    Best in the World? I hardly think so.

  • Comment number 94.

    All this negativity is totally undue. True there is no need for the hysteria of the last WC but that time round people were saying we had the 'golden generation' most of those players are still in the team. Look at the defense, which actually performed well in 2006. Ferdinand(granted not on form at the moment but has continued to improve since 2006 to the level where he was the best defender in the world in 2008 and I am sure he will rediscover his form before June) Terry (one of the best club captains in the world and a consistent performer and scorer of goals) and Ashley Cole (best all round left back around in my opinion). The midfield still has Gerrard and Lampard who are actually performing better for England with Capello playing Gerrard on the left. Particularly Lampard who I actually think along with Rooney will be our most important player in the tournament. Barry and Carrick are both very good holding midfielders, particularly Carrick who when on the top of his game just controls the play. Rooney obviously is an immense player who scores, assists, wins back possession and sets the tempo for the performance, without him I really doubt we will get anywhere near the final. We have a fair few nippy wingers in Lennon, Walcott and Wright-Phillips. These players are usually the ones who really unnerve the opposition. Wright-Phillips would be my choice, he is the most experience and also the more likely scorer (yeah I know Walcott's hattrick was great but he isn't as regular a scorer as Wright-Phillips).

    All that and our impressive qualifying campaign, particularly the 4-1 and 5-1 wins over Croatia (these should how far England have come under Capello),are reasons to be cheerful. Unfortunately I think there are three areas we are lacking in:
    1.Second striker- Defoe is a very handy scorer but I just can't see he and Rooney being devastating together. Still a very good player though, who one would suspect is going to be underestimated by other teams. Crouch has to be brought along I think, though he should never ever start, his presence can just be enough to put off defenders in those penalty area scrambles.Heskey has done well but really that little goal threat is a waste. Short of it good players but no players who (bar maybe Defoe and Owen if he rediscovers form) are up to the general standard of the side.
    2.Defensive midfielder- Basically I think we have along with Mascherano the best defensive midfielder in the world, Hargreaves who can also play on the right of midfield and defense, is a very good corner and free kick taker. Just look at the most impressive Man Utd team I have seen, that won the 2008 CL. They had pretty much the same team the next season reached the final against Barca and without Hargreaves couldn't deal with the midfield creativity. An outstanding player who doesn't look like returning in time.

    3.Goalkeeper- They're all just incredibly average

    My team would be


    A Cole
    G Johnson

    Hargeaves(if fit)OTHERWISE- SWP


    W Brown
    J Cole

    I think this is a pretty good team who with the obvious luck (players fit etc.) should be expected to make the Semis. There is no reason for England not to win it.I think with Hargreaves in the side we could beat the likes of Spain and Brazil, otherwise I doubt it.

    Everyone has to remember that the Spanish have never won the tournament and will be under enormous pressure, if they come up against Italy I think they might get knocked out, on the basis that the Italians are well organised , experienced have little pressure on them and would not allow the Spanish to dominate posession. I also don't think the Brazil team is as good as they are being made out to be. Their victory over us was basically against the second string, bar Rooney (who they seeemed very nervous of). The Brazil side does not have any players like fat Ronaldo or Ronaldiho anymore who make moments of magic out of nothing, sure Kaka comes close but he's not going to win the golden boot.
    Idon't think either Spain or Brazil will win it, it think it is going to be a suprise team who wins it... could be England you never know.

  • Comment number 95.

    91....The assumptions you make to come to your conclusion that the Algeria game will make or break England's world cup chances are astonishing! You assume that because the Algerians (who qualified via a play off) will have done their homework on us their compactness and discipline in your hypothetical first 60 will mean we can't break them down. Then you assume 'when' they push up in the last half hour we'll panic and freeze (a HUGE assumption under a side managed by Capello...maybe under McLaren I might have understood this assumption a little more). Then you postulate them nicking one late on and assume this will mean that we're as good as out. This leads to the assumption that we won't have beaten the USA and we won't beat Slovenia. With all these negative assumptions it makes me wonder who you think we COULD beat?!? If the Algerians are our banana skin we may as well not turn up! Sure it'll be a tough game, they all are, but I think we'll cope quite easily and qualify with some style.

  • Comment number 96.

    There is a new Adhesive on the market its called Tube England it fixes things far better than any brand of Superglue could ever do including plastics.

  • Comment number 97.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 98.

    RE: The Beckham debate.

    Personally I'm not so sure he should make the 23, but then like everyone else his performances until May will dictate that.

    However, I would still like to see him involved, particularly since the 2018 bidding process will be important then, and he has valuable experience to hand down to players in the squad.

    Could he not join the coaching squad if Capello were not to invite him into the 23?

  • Comment number 99.

    Absurdity101 - I did not say Algeria will beat England, I just put out what is a possible scenario. This could happen, it is football after all. Remember Algeria vs. W Germany '82? Morocco vs. Portugal '86, Cameroon vs. Argentina '90? Senegal vs. France '02? Anything is possible in a one-off match. The attitude that 'if we can lose to Algeria then we should not be there in the first place' does not help. Some underdog will upset a big name in SA, believe me..

  • Comment number 100.


    I believe Ivory Coast will finish second in their group, Spain first. They will clash in the later rounds, and I'd put money on Torres and Fabregas going to the Drogs in SA. As great as Spain are, I doubt they will win the WC this year.


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