England went undefeated through FIFA World Cup qualifying but failed to achieve the comprehensive group victory many expected. Draws against Ukraine, Poland and Montenegro as well as subsequent friendly defeats by Chile and Germany have served to lower supporter’s expectations. Hopes among the English public are arguably at their most realistic for decades, with a quarter-final finish viewed as a respectable performance.

Coach Roy Hodgson has been keen to look to the future and has spoken highly of the young talent available to him. At just 20 years of age Everton FC’s Ross Barkley and Arsenal FC winger Alex Oxlado-Chamberlain are both major contenders for their FIFA World Cup finals debuts, while Tottenham Hotspur FC midfielder Andros Townsend and Arsenal’s Jack Wilshire have both made their mark since Hodgson’s arrival in 2012.

Despite a perceived lack of proven, world-class stars, the England boss has described his FIFA World Cup selection as “major headache”. Certainly a major blow is the absence of Theo Walcott through injury. England’s attacking options will be limited, with Wayne Rooney likely to be the only forward with a FIFA World Cup appearance to his name.

The Final Draw has not been too kind on England, and Italy and Uruguay will provide stern tests for an inexperienced outfit. “It’s a tough group, there’s no doubt about that,” said Hodgson. “In Italy and Uruguay it’s almost as though we have got two number one seeds in our group. “To outfox his opponents, Hodgson is expected to put out a well-drilled and highly organised side. England might not be favourites, but even amid modest expectations, some fans may still quietly be hoping for a repeat of the triumph of 1996.

COACH>>

ROY HODGSON

Hodgson has twice managed FC Internazionale Milano and has held international posts with Switzerland, United Arab Emirates and Finland. He has also coached a series of clubs around Europe, with his CV reflecting an ability to get sides to punch above their weight.

Tactics

Roy Hodgson has traditionally opted for a 4-4-2 formation, but has a late found success with both a 4-3-3 and a 4-2-3-1 set-up. Wayne Rooney is expected to adopt a central role as a striker, supported by two quick wingers. Steven Gerrard is likely to play ahead of two holding midfielders. Ultimately, England’s priority will be to make themselves hard to beat.

Fixtures Group D

Italy
Manaus 15 June 2014

Uruguay
San Paulo 20 June 2014

Costa Rica
Belo Horizonte 25 June 2014

*Dates are AEST

Tournament history
Previous tournaments: 13

2010 FIFA World Cup performance
Round of 16

Best performance
Winners, 1996

How they qualified
Winners, European Group H