Roy Hodgson named an exciting 23-man squad for the World Cup with plenty of faith placed in the many talented youngsters plying their trade in the Premier League.
The onus on youth seems designed to remedy the flaws of the previous two major tournaments, where lethargy and a lack of ingenuity were destined to thwart the Three Lions’ master plans for success before their ageing players took to the field.
Even with the injected vibrancy and increased threat of goals, England remain 5/2 third-favourites to top Group D in Brazil, with first opponents Italy expected to claim the prize at 6/4.
Given the lack of expectation and quality of rivals, not to mention the experimental nature of the travelling party, progression of any sort must be classed as an achievement and to do so, it’s likely Hodgson will be aiming to simply avoid defeat in the opening match against the Azzurri.
England must surrender favouritism to the Italians in this respect too, with digits of 11/5 attributed to Hodgson’s men in the face of the 13/10 afforded to Cesare Prandelli’s World Cup kings.
The draw – a result that would be eagerly accepted from the 1966 winners’ backroom team were it offered prior to kick off – is also available at 11/5 and Hodgson is sure to select a more conservative team in the hope of achieving it.
Assuming the current crop remains injury-free, the back five picks itself after frequently putting on master classes in miserliness during qualification, conceding a paltry four goals.
Joe Hart, Glen Johnson, Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines are all shoo-ins for the first game.
Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson and Ross Barkley are all sure to be omitted with Hodgson keeping caution as safe a distance from the wind as possible.
A combination of this Fabian policy and versatility will see Phil Jones selected, most likely to position himself within a one-yard radius of Andrea Pirlo and ensure the gap is only widened when he is wrestled out of the Azzurri dressing room at half-time.
His central midfield partner will, obviously, be Steven Gerrard, with flavour of the month and prospective teammate Adam Lallana deployed wide left.
Keeping the focus on attrition, James Milner will get the nod on the opposite flank, tasked to diligently track advancing full-backs and slot in if and when Johnson is caught out of position.
No prizes awarded for guessing that Wayne Rooney will start the match stationed behind 21-league goal marksman Daniel Sturridge, with the intention being to use the Liverpool man’s pace and his strike partners guile to get in behind the notoriously stringent Italian defence.