England manager Fabio Capello has named the 23 players who will travel to South Africa – with the most notable omission being Arsenal winger Theo Walcott – and England preparations for the FIFA World Cup are complete.
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Tonight the national team will board an aeroplane at Heathrow to OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg, and then business will truly begin.
With ten days until England’s opening match against the United States, there is still time to join them in South Africa – and thousands of World Cup tickets are still on sale from just £81.
England v USA tickets at Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg are available from £153
England v Algeria tickets at Green Point Stadium in Cape Town are available from £103
England v Slovenia tickets at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth are available from £81
Although Capello’s final squad has attracted plenty of questions, there still remains a very real undercurrent of hope in England that this could be the most successful tournament since the run to the semi-finals in 1990. A look at their projected path to the final – should they progress that far – shows that the knockout stage features some dangerous teams, but ones that can be beaten.
Having won their most recent two international friendly matches against Mexico and Japan, England are the favourites to top Group C, and in that scenario would play the second placed team in Group D: Germany, Serbia, Ghana, or Australia.
Should they emerge from the second round victorious, they would be expected to play France in the quarter finals.
While French coach Raymond Domenech has attracted widespread criticism for his bizarre management style – which reportedly includes selection based on astrology signs – his team still has a number of talented players in their ranks. France have also participated in two of the last three World Cup Finals, in 1998 and 2006.
If England were to triumph over the French, their semi-final would be at Green Point Stadium in Cape Town – against the best national side in football history: Brazil.
Stars of Brazil sides over the years have included Pele, Zico, Romario, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, and this year’s tournament offers Kaká the chance to shine behind Luis Fabiano up front. With a world class keeper in Julio César, and solid defence thanks to the likes of Lucio, this will be a tremendously difficult task for England to overcome.
There would be no shame in going out at the semi final stage, and a bronze medal might be some consolation.
Still, should they put in an incredible performance and beat Brazil for the first time since March 1990, they would then perhaps face either Spain or Argentina in the World Cup Final.
Capello has publicly stated that he is aiming no lower than the final, but England haven’t beaten Spain since 2001 in Sven-Göran Eriksson’s first match in charge. They have since lost the last three encounters.
The record against Argentina is a sight better, and England v Argentina matches certainly have a history of drama. A wonder goal from the eighteen year old Michael Owen could not prevent England being eliminated on penalties in the 1998 World Cup second round – with David Beckham being sent off for a kick on Diego Simeone. Still, Beckham was redeemed four years later in South Korea, when he scored the winning penalty in the 2002 Group Stage match.
Although he is contracted to Los Angeles Galaxy, there will be no Hollywood climax to Beckham’s career with a World Cup win; an injury to his Achilles tendon has ruled him out of the tournament. Nevertheless, Beckham is set to play a role in England’s effort to claim the FIFA World Cup trophy – he will travel with the squad as moral support.
You could still do the same yourself.
Article originally published on Tixdaq.com