England have a solid chance of winning the World Cup but it is essential that Wayne Rooney gets serious support from the senior members of the team Ã¢â‚¬â€ and that means Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard playing to their full potential.
Although England won I was disappointed with the performances in both warm-up games, especially the first-half display against Mexico. James Milner has had a great season but didn’t have a good time in the friendlies, while Rob Green kept us in it against Mexico. We followed that with an unconvincing performance against Japan but hopefully we will improve.
In England’s defence, Fabio Capello was trying different players out and it’s not always easy to play well when the side is being changed around. When the tournament kicks off it’ll be a different story. What matters to the players is getting a winners’ medal and I’m convinced they will be giving 120 per cent to get their hands on one.
Nevertheless, it’s a bit different from our warm-up in 1966 when we went on an unbeaten tour of northern Europe including a 6-1 win over Norway!
But anyone looking for parallels between the ’66 side and the 2010 vintage only needs to look at the managers. Fabio Capello and Alf Ramsey are very similar – if you don’t do what they say you are out. Look at what happened to Theo Walcott. I heard, though I’m not sure it’s 100 percent true, that Fabio told him to stick to the wing during the friendlies but he kept coming inside. The next thing you know he’s not on the plane. That shows Capello’s ruthless edge.
As regards other World Cup contenders, I won’t shock anyone when I say there are two or three that we really want to avoid, with Spain and Brazil top of the list, I also have a twinkling that Holland can go well. Away from that it’s pretty open.
One thing that will be in England’s favour is the climate. It’s winter in South Africa so the conditions should suit us and I really think England have a very good chance of winning the tournament. As long as they don’t get any more major injuries to key players they can do it.
I’m not sure who will play with Wayne Rooney upfront Ã¢â‚¬â€ Emile Heskey or Peter Crouch. But what I do know is he has to get support from Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. That is crucial.
Many forget that if you are playing against England you can put someone on Wayne to man-mark him out of the game. That happened against Portugal in the semi-final in ’66 when Nobby Stiles did a job on Eusebio.
But hopefully none of our rivals have thought of that! And as I said, it’s not all down to Wayne. Gerrard and Lampard have to weigh in too. But if one of them bears the goalscoring strain during the World Cup, I’d rather it was the Liverpool man – Frank and I are locked on 20 England goals and I don’t want to fall too far down the list!
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