Deciphering The Best And Worse Case Scenarios For England Ahead Of Friday's World Cup Draw
Roy Hodgson didn't seem too downhearted as he saw his England side suffer back-to-back defeats at Wembley at the hands of an impressive Chile and a second-string Germany side in recent friendlies, but the Three Lions boss will now be preparing for months of preparation as he looks to mastermind a squad that can travel to Brazil in June and land a blow in the World Cup.
It was the first time England had suffered a brace of defeats on the spin at Wembley since 1977 and it showed what a huge task the former Fulham boss has on his hands as he looks to galvanise a squad that lacks a clear sense of stability with so many changes having been made since he took charge over 12 months ago to at least make an impression in South America.
Expectations from fans and the media are undoubtedly at a long time low as England head to the World Cup following a succession of below-par performances at major tournaments and there's been little to suggest why that fortune should change in Brazil.
However, if England are to stand any chance of progressing to the knock-out stage of the tournament, Hodgson will be hoping that the draw will be kind to his team when it is made on Friday, 6th December in Brazil's luxurious Costa do Sauipe resort.
Unable to scrape into pot one, which contains the world's elite teams England could possibly be drawn in the same group as Brazil, Germany, Spain or Argentina, which would make finishing in one of the top two spots that bit more difficult, whilst a kinder draw could see them face one of the other four teams seeded number one, which include Uruguay, Colombia, Belgium and Switzerland.
Pot Two comprises of countries from Asia, North and Central America and the Caribbean, the biggest threat of which comes in the form of the USA, Japan and Mexico. Four years ago, many had thought drawing the United States in their first group game should have been an easy start for England but they could only manage a draw on that occasion and caution will have to be exercised against some very tricky but underrated opposition from this pot of eight, which also includes Iran, South Korea, Australia, Costa Rica and Honduras.
African football continues to improve and a host of star performers from the continent are now plying their trade in the top European leagues and pot three could pose England some tricky opposition with Ghana the immediate standout nation Hodgson would want to avoid, with Chile, who comfortably dispatched England a few weeks ago, is another nation to avoid. The other African and South American teams in this pot are Ivory Coast, Algeria, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ecuador and France as Europe's lowest ranked qualifier.
England are housed in pot four, along with the seven other European nations of the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Crotia and Russia, all of whom would be expected to cause England a headache and Hodgson and the Three Lions faithful will be grateful that they'll avoid such tough opponents until the last 16; that's providing they progress!
The pessimistic England fan will watch the draw expecting the proverbial 'Group Of Death' to comprise of Brazil, United States, France and England. Equally, Spain or Germany, Mexico and Ghana providing opposition wouldn't be much better.
The optimist however will be hoping for a group containing Switzerland, Honduras, Algeria and England when the reality is that England will face an initial trio of teams that will no doubt prove tough opposition and have fans sweating on qualification to the knock-out stages.
Whatever hand England is dealt come Friday's draw, with the current crop of players struggling to fire against the elite nations, it’s going to be a struggle and Hodgson will face a stressful few months to try and work out his best 11 for the first game around the start of June, but we all know come the Summer the confidence will be oozing out the pores as we embark on a quest to follow in the footsteps of the class of 1966.