Phil McNulty Q&A blog
This week some of our regular bloggers will be answering your World Cup questions. Tim Vickery went first, Phil Minshull and Piers Edwards followed. Now it's the turn of chief football writer Phil McNulty, who will be following England in South Africa.
Q. Who do you think will win the World Cup and who do you think will be the star of the tournament. I think Netherlands could win and I think the star of the tournament could be Luis Fabiano, so what do you think?
Andrew David, Wales
A. I would love to say England but I will not allow my heart to rule my head. I will go for Spain because they do not just have a world-class team, they have a world-class squad. They have also cleared a major psychological hurdle by winning Euro 2008. They no longer carry the tag of gifted under-achievers.
If he is fit, I will say Fernando Torres will be the star of the tournament. Lionel Messi might be - if Diego Maradona lets him.
Q. Who do the bloggers think will be the real surprise package this time around? Both overachieving and underperforming.
A. As the World Cup is in Africa, I quite fancy an African team to come through the pack so I will say the Ivory Coast under Sven "Quarter-Finals" Eriksson. In Didier Drogba they have one of the faces of the tournament and someone who will be on a personal mission to make a mark on the World Cup. And we all know what he can be like when he is in that mood.
As for under-achievers, I will go for Portugal, who have struggled under Carlos Quieroz, despite having the world-class talent of Cristiano Ronaldo at their disposal. France have a decent squad but a poor coach in Raymond Domenech, so I can also see them failing to make the expected impact.
Q. Which players do you see leaving their mark on the tournament like Pele, Cruyff, Maradona, Ronaldo etc?
A. I have already mentioned Torres and Messi, but I genuinely believe Wayne Rooney has the talent to make an indelible mark on this World Cup. If he does, England will have a good World Cup - he is that important to them.
Q. Which unheard of players will shine in this tournament?
A. Tough question. And tough for unheard of players to come through and make their mark at this World Cup. Napoli playmaker Marek Hamsik performs with real invention and will be important for Slovakia, while Werder Bremen's Mesut Ozil has the stage to confirm suggestions that he is one of the emerging talents of world football when he plays for Germany.
Slovenia have a talented young midfield man called Rene Krhin. Did enough at Inter Milan last season to impress Jose Mourinho and attract the attention of other Serie A clubs. Take note England.
Q. Who do you think will get the golden boot (for top scorer)?
David Mulvihill, Ireland
A. I'll go with Fernando Torres. If plays to his best he will score lots of goals - and Spain will have every chance of winning the World Cup.
Q. Very little has been said about the Asian teams. How well are they expected to do this time, with South Korea having really progressed in the last two World Cups?
Jay Goolaup, Mauritius
A. I was at the 2002 World Cup and the energy and national fervour that took South Korea to the semi-finals under Guus Hiddink was astonishing. They have been given a relatively kind draw that will have them feeling they can reach the last 16.
Manchester United's Park Ji-Sung is crucial and sums up their high-energy, industrious style, while Bolton's Lee Chung-Yong has got real ability. Striker Park Chu-Yung carries high hopes in his nation, so they could just make it out of the group stages.
North Korea are the genuine unknowns of this World Cup and in all honesty they have no chance of progessing into the knockout phase after being handed a place in (yes, there is always one) "The Group Of Death" with Brazil, Portugal and the Ivory Coast.
Not sure even memories of them giving Portugal an almighty fright at Goodison Park in the 1966 quarter-finals will be much help.
Japan have a tough group as well alongside Cameroon, Holland and Denmark - so I see South Korea as the major Asian hope.
Q. Who do you think will go out in the 'Group of Death' - Brazil, Portugal or Ivory Coast?
George Wysocki, England
A. If I was looking for a shock from the group stages, then I would go for Portugal not making it out of that one. They need to improve massively from what they have shown us under Quieroz, although they have talented players who could rise to the occasion.
Q. What do you reckon about USA? I think they have what it takes to progress from the group. What do you think and what do you think the future for football in America is?
A. I think the USA will give England a real fight in that opening game in Rustenburg. They have Premier League pedigree in Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard and Fulham's Clint Dempsey while Landon Donovan - widely regarded as the finest talent his country has produced - had an outstanding spell on loan at Goodison Park last season.
They have a very good chance of making the last 16. They are not spectacular under coach Bob Bradley, but hard-working, effective and confident. If the feats of men like Howard and Donovan can make an impact in South Africa, then hopefully it will inspire the next generation of American players.
Q. Is the vuvuzela trumpet going to put you off the World Cup at all?
A. I'll let you know, David. It is a local custom, so I will respect it totally - unless someone sitting next to me is blowing one down my ear.
They will add to the atmosphere inside the grounds, so that's fine by me. I didn't mind the Mexican wave in Mexico, but can't stand it over here - so I'll probably enjoy the vuvuzelas in South Africa but hope they remain in their traditional home.
Q. What do you think England's starting line-up is most likely to be?
Reece Cross, England
A. It would not be mine but here goes: James, Johnson, Terry, Ferdinand, Cole, Lennon, Barry, Lampard, Gerrard, Heskey, Rooney.
Q. Would it be better for Capello to use Lampard or Gerrard as an attacking midfield behind the strikers?
A. In my opinion, yes. I have never known such allowances to be made for a player as there seem to be for Emile Heskey. Hardly any goals at club level, not a regular at club level, and yet his England squad place seems set in stone.
I accept the argument that he can bring the best out of Wayne Rooney, but do we really believe Rooney needs Heskey alongside him to function properly? I would prefer to have Gareth Barry and Frank Lampard in central midfield, James Milner on the left and Steven Gerrard tucked in behind Rooney - I'm not holding my breath, though.
Q. I think playing Steven Gerrard just behind Rooney is the best way to get the most out of Gerrard. If he usurps Heskey's role, who would slot into Gerrard's old position?
William Davies, Australia
A. And I agree totally with you, William. As I have said before, I would put James Milner on the left, but would also be more than happy to see Joe Cole there. I really rate Cole and he has proved he can flourish on the World Cup stage.
Q. As we all know, since Michael Owen's injury at the last World Cup, England have missed that real pace and goal scoring threat to partner Rooney. So who do you think would be best to partner Wayne upfront and what makes them different to the others?
Josh Sandhu, England
A. As per my previous answer, Josh, I would go for Steven Gerrard playing just behind Wayne Rooney. Two intelligent, world-class players could make this work.
Q. With the hopes of England on Wayne Rooney's shoulders and a poor end to the season with Manchester United struggling with injuries, do you think Rooney can meet England's high expectations?
Ryan Whatmough, England
A. I do think Wayne Rooney can meet England's high expectations, Ryan. For me, the problem might be with other players around him not meeting his standards. This is when Rooney can become frustrated, although he seems to have his temperament much more under control these days.
Rooney is regarded worldwide as one of the potential stars of this World Cup. I would never insult the other members of England's squad by suggesting they are a one-man team, but if Rooney was missing for any reason it would be a devastating blow because Fabio Capello simply does not have the attacking resources to replace him adequately.
Q. Do you think the cool climate of the South African winter will play into England's hands?
Stephen Peters, England
A. They will start at altitude in Rustenburg, but they have taken that fully into account in their pre-tournament regime and, yes, the less taxing temperatures will help. I well recall how even those of us watching sweltered in the searing heat and humidity of Shizuoka when England lost to Brazil in the 2002 quarter-final in Japan, so what must it have been like for the players? The climate will be much more suited to England in South Africa.
Q. Do you agree that Paul Robinson is back to his best and should be England's number one?
Dan West, Wales
A. I agree Paul Robinson had an excellent season at Blackburn Rovers and I would not have had the slightest problem had he been in the World Cup squad. Number one? Well, I think all of England's goalkeepers are of a similar standard these days and I would not say he is markedly worse that either David James or Robert Green. I like Joe Hart but it may be that his relative inexperience will count against him this time.
Q. Would success in this year's World Cup increase our chances of hosting 2018 World Cup?
Alex Sales, England
A. It would not do it any harm and it would certainly give the 2018 World Cup bid huge impetus. You can just see the images of a victorious England captain holding the World Cup aloft leading every piece of publicity in the campaign. Let's cross that bridge when we come to it, Alex.
Q. Would you rather England win this World Cup or hope we win the bid for 2018 and win it on home soil?
Terry David, United Kingdom
A. You take winning the World Cup any time you can, Terry. Once in 44 years tells you that.
Q. Why is Jermain Defoe viewed as being the definite choice over Darren Bent? Both are good players but given the latter's better scoring record this season why is Defoe always seen as better?
James Mitchell, England
A. I am actually a fan of Darren Bent and always feel he has been a little unlucky at international level. I still have my reservations but he never seems to play in strong England teams. Yes, he was average against Brazil and Japan - but so were most of his colleagues.
I am also an admirer of Jermain Defoe, though, and his goalscoring record with England also makes him a favourite of Fabio Capello, especially when used as a substitute.
Q. Has Capello gone back on his word in selecting players based on reputation or his relationship with them rather than form? When you look at the likes of Carragher, Upson & Heskey compared to those who missed out - Campbell, Etherington, C Cole, Neville, M Taylor, etc - it does seem that he isn't true to his word.
Qamar Hussain, England
A. Good question, Qamar. He has not applied club form to the likes of Emile Heskey and Matthew Upson, while he has been flexible in giving Gareth Barry time to prove his fitness - although I don't blame him for that.
What I would say is that none of the players you have mentioned as those who missed out would have made my squad. Of course, we are allowed to have our opinions about who is in and out of the squad - and even disagree with Capello - but his record in qualifying deserves complete respect and we can all make our final judgements at the end of the South Africa World Cup campaign.
Q. I am still shocked how the England national team is being selected, I believe the team selection is still based on popularity and fame. We will never have a chance in the future if there are not any players coming through the ranks, with the exception of Adam Johnson. In conclusion, who do you believe to be the future England team for the next World Cup?
Liam Dayus, England
A. I have to disagree completely that the current England team is selected on popularity and fame - although I am surprised Fabio Capello seems so intent on having David Beckham in South Africa with the team.
A touchy subject I know, this one, and while I would understand the Football Association would like Beckham on hand for some 2018 World Cup bid lobbying, I do not see what useful purpose he would serve with the squad. It is not as if he has a huge memory bank of World Cup successes to call upon.
When it comes to team selection, Capello is the ultimate pragmatist, hence his decision to ask Jamie Carragher to come out of international retirement as defensive cover.
And don't forget, England have just beaten Spain in the final of European Under-17s championship so there is young talent there. Ipswich Town's Connor Wickham has the makings of a special footballer.