When somebody says 1966, one thing is likely to be prevalent in your mind: the year in which our footballing nation won the World Cup for the first time at the expense of West Germany at Wembley.
44 years on and still without another World Cup to their name, England travel to South Africa leaving people all over the nation asking if this is to be the venue where they shall cast away the years of heartache and sorrow that England fans have had to endure. With only two weeks before the tournament commences, it is time to cross our fingers and believe.
The usual songs, advertisement and traditions that people have become accustomed to every four years are in full swing and they are all aimed towards the nation pulling together, dreaming once again that on the 11th July 2010 confetti will rain down on our 23 heroes and that any English tears which are shed are ones of unbridled joy – but can Capello’s 23 rule the world?
The expectancy levels are higher than ever and this is perhaps self-inflicted due to the efficiency which has been instilled by Italian boss Fabio Capello coupled with the form of Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney.
However, unconvincing performances against Mexico and Japan may have left England fans a little bemused and raised question marks over whether England’s 23 man squad really do possess the quality which is required to beat the likes of Brazil, Spain and Argentina in the finals.
England fans will also be hoping that neither the quality of the performances in recent friendlies and the disorganised nature of the squad announcement are carried into South Africa’s first tournament as hosts.
That squad announcement left plenty of room for discussion as Capello left out Darren Bent, in exchange for a goal-shy Emile Heskey who is seen as the man to help Wayne Rooney flourish in the tournament. This decision was criticised by many sections of the media who saw it as a significant reduction of England’s potency in attack – and who can blame them?
Bent’s exclusion must be a bitter pill to swallow for the young man who was third to only Didier Drogba and Wayne Rooney in the Barclays Premier League’s top goalscorers, bagging an impressive 24 goals in 38 appearances for Sunderland. It could also be argued that this record is made all the more impressive when compared to the man boarding the plane instead, a mere 5 goals in 45 appearances for the Villa front man.
Theo Walcott’s exclusion was a surprise one, but one which in my opinion, justified by a lack of end product in the latest of England’s games in preparation for the tournament. His raw pace was there for everyone to see but his ability to get past his man and cross the ball was absent. This absence could well have been the final straw for Capello who like everyone else has seen little development since his hat-trick against Croatia.
Ultimately, only time will tell whether England can finally eradicate the pain of previous expulsion in the World Cup or whether 2010 will be another tragic of tale of what could have been.
Written By David Hynds