Right, here it is – and I know you’re going to rush in and label me an over-enthusiastic, over-patriotic so and so – but I genuinely believe that England will win the World Cup this summer. Obviously, regardless of who you are backing, you can never be 100% certain, but that’s the beauty of football.
But this summer, for various reasons that I’ll outline, I believe that England can go all the way and lift the Jules Rimet trophy in South Africa, ending 44 years of hurt.
Here in England, we have a strange interaction with the national team. Part of us is unrelentless in its belief that England is the best country in the world. The other half is this sceptical, bitter person, war-scarred from past experiences.
Combined we have this schizophrenic uncertainty around team England, where we gloat about the ability of our team and then instantly pour scorn on the same very notion. But I’m going to put my neck out there, risking your wrath in the process, and say that Fabio Capello will lead the Three Lions to glory.
And the Italian is the first reason that I feel so confident this summer.
His calm, stern management style has brought the squad together and produced consistent, professional performances throughout the qualifying process. The rise in form of a certain centre forward is not a mere coincidence – since Capello’s arrival in England, Wayne Rooney’s stock has risen and the Italian is credited with a large input in that development.
Rooney, himself, is another reason. You couldn’t wish for a more complete player to be the focal part of your line-up. His tenacity, athleticism and pure, instinctive ability make him unplayable on his day which, so far this campaign, has been nearly every week.
With a midfield that has finally learnt to accommodate both Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard – two of the best midfielders in world football – as well as a very strong back four. The Terry saga aside, no other team in the tournament will have a back-line as solid as England: Johnson, Cole, Terry, Ferdinand? Sounds good to me.
Then we have trump cards on the bench. Someone like Joe Cole can change a game. Jermain Defoe, presuming Emile Heskey continues to be first-choice, can come on and grab a goal when the game is stretched. David Beckham – stop those groans – can arrive and offer pin-point accuracy from set-piece or anywhere on the pitch.
The preparation has been good -the highest scorers in Europe, anyone? – and everyone is focussed on glory.
Before we’ve gone into major tournaments admitting that a semi final appearance would be nice, a quarter final berth would be acceptable. This time round, though, all eyes are on the final.
And, yes, Spain and Brazil are superb teams. Spain are an exquisite footballing outfit, Brazil have added organisation to their natural flair. Both are fearsome opponents. But I just feel like this year is our year.
Let the mocking begin…
Lee Price runs www.football-previews.co.uk