Wednesday, Jun. 02, 2010


Manager: Fabio Capello

Best: Winners (1966)

The shadow of England's sole World Cup triumph in 1966 hangs over every player and supporter: Ahead of every tournament, expectations are inevitably boosted beyond reason by the media, turning the inevitable empty-handed exit (usually via the dreaded penalty kicks) into a national tragedy even as the rest of the footballing world shrugs.

But could this year really be different? The team sailed through qualifying and the combining of the so-called "golden generation" — the likes of midfielders Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, defender John Terry — with the newest stars such as striker Wayne Rooney and midfielder Gareth Barry makes the team definite contenders, especially if Rooney avoids injury. No-nonsense Italian coach Fabio Capello will ensure discipline on and off the field and, unlike some previous coaches, has his players practice penalty kicks, which is how games tied after 120 minutes are settled.

Player to watch: England fans will be praying 24/7 for the well-being of Wayne Rooney. If he avoids injury, the Manchester United star with a rare combination of speed, power, skill and vision could fire his team into the last four — and possibly further.