England: Young Blood

By: Juan Mesa

HOW DID THEY GET HERE: The Three Lions topped Group H after a head-to-head with second-place Ukraine. Wayne Rooney finally shone with the national team and led the scoring table with seven goals. In 2012, the Football Association handed the team to Roy Hodgson after the “military regime” of Italian Fabio Capello failed to conquer both players and fans. Under Hodgson, England has not shown any brilliance, but at least has been free of tabloid scandals.

BIGGEST STRENGTH: The youngsters replacing the so-called “Golden Generation” have the talent to elevate England’s game in Brazil. Jack Wilshere, Adam Lallana, Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge can eclipse rivals with speed and good technique. They will be guided by veterans Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard, who are hungry to achieve something—anything—at the international level.

BIGGEST WEAKNESS: Lack of confidence is England’s biggest enemy. The team has not won anything big since the England ’66 World Cup. Their talent also seems to be fragile due to the common occurrence of injuries in the roster.

WORLD CUP CHANCES: England needs extra stamina to survive Costa Rica, Italy and Uruguay in Group D. It’s not only a tough group by itself, but playing the first match against Italy in the Amazonian heat of Manaus is tantamount to playing a whole Premier League season in one game. To make things worse for them, the following match is against resilient Uruguay in São Paulo. Their success in the group stage depends on their ability to recover from those battles.

FUN FACT YOU NEED TO KNOW: During the preparation for the Mexico ’70 World Cup, when England visited Bogotá for an exhibition match against Colombia, captain Bobby Moore ended up being arrested for allegedly stealing a bracelet from a jewelry store. England flew to Mexico without Moore, who remained held in Colombia for four days. The legendary player was released after diplomatic intervention and was eventually able to play the World Cup. His case was closed in 1972, but the mystery of what really happened to that bracelet was never solved.

IF THEY WERE A SONG, IT WOULD BE: “Shake It Out” by Florence and the Machine

Juan Mesa is a freelance writer based in New York City. He covers soccer and Latin music. When he's not writing, you can find him watching soccer games, talking about soccer or collecting soccer memorabilia. To relax, he plays house music vinyls.