It’s well inside a week until England embark upon their quest for world domination with a match against Italy in Manaus.
It’s a mission that, in the view of the bulk of the planet Earth population, will end unsuccessfully, but Azzurri right-back Ignazio Abate has spoke of his admiration for Roy Hodgson’s charges.
The AC Milan man said:
“England have changed a lot. They have created a good mix and they could be the revelation of this World Cup.”
Such tabloidiose language suggests old Iggy might be angling for a job at the Sun, but maybe, just maybe, he isn’t as barmy as many would deduce upon reading Abate’s words.
Here are four reasons why England are World Cup dark horses:
Freed from the crippling constraints of expectation, the Three Lions may slip under the radar and into the latter stages in Brazil.
As was the case with Croatia in 1998, Turkey in 2002 and Uruguay in 2010, the nature of knockout football often opens doors wide enough for the lesser-lauded nations to sneak through at the expense of perplexed grand fromages.
England’s young squad have surprise package potential.
Talents as precocious as Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling aren’t universally recognised names, but have the ability to give even the most accomplished international defenders plenty to mull over if afforded the chance to do so.
Only reigning world champs Spain had a better rearguard than the 1966 World Cup winners in qualifying.
Being an Italian defender, few understand how far a deadbolted backline can take a team better than Abate and whoever England put on security detail during the qualifying campaign seemed to know how to keep the ball out of their net.
Joe Hart was tasked to retrieve a mere four goals from the onion bag in his country’s ten matches en route to Brazil.
Replicating these standards in South America is essential and could prove rewarding.
Hodgson has previous when it comes to odds-defying cup runs.
The master tactician took Fulham as far as the Europa League final before they fell to Atletico Madrid, but Shakhtar, Juventus and Hamburg were among those who paid dearly for underestimating the London underdog.
If Abate’s belief has inspired a patriotic pre-tournament punt, bwinners can back England at for global glory at 25/1.