Sep 7 2012
England set out on the road to Brazil on Friday with skipper Steven Gerrard admitting it will need a miracle to win the World Cup - but it could happen.
Built up for every World Cup they enter, this time expectations are low. Part of that comes from yet another tournament when England failed to progress beyond the quarter-final stage. A rather more sizeable portion is the knowledge that South America, for any European country, is uncharted territory.
Many good European teams have tried and failed. And, despite their present status as third in the FIFA rankings, most do not feel England are a good team. However, Gerrard is refusing to abandon all hope. He said: "I am realistic and honest. We are not one of the favourites to win the World Cup."
He continued: "That doesn't mean you stop believing, working hard to improve, and learning from the mistakes you've made at previous tournaments. This team has every chance to get better in the next few years, with some players coming through and others with the experience.
"We have to have that faith and keep believing. You never stop believing in football. Miracles do happen. It's been proved."
Miracles are not to be relied upon though. In a group containing Euro 2012 co-hosts Poland and Ukraine, plus a dangerous Montenegro outfit that held England to a couple of draws in qualification for the European Championships, it is performances and results that are going to count.
And, arguably, they will count even more than they did this summer, in what, given the unusual manner of him getting the job, many felt Hodgson had a free hit. Not that he sees it quite that way.
"I don't know there are 'free hits'," he said. "If I had some, I'm happy to have had them. But I'm fully aware the task of qualifying is the all-important one.
"A World Cup in Brazil has a slightly greater allure than a World Cup in some of the other countries where it's been held recently. We know what we have to do. We're going to try and do it.
"But this is football. You don't get what you want by talking about it and saying the right things. You have to be good enough. We all accept that. We're an experienced group of players, some up towards 100 caps, so they don't need reminding there are plenty of banana skins out there. If you don't hit that level, you'll be criticised."