England is making its 11th appearance in the World Cup finals in South Korea and Japan, after bouncing back from a slow start to win UEFA qualifying Group Nine with five straight victories. But as VOA's Steve Schy reports, England will have to overcome injuries to key players to have a chance at its second World Cup trophy.
England has been drawn into Group F and will play its opening round matches in Japan against Sweden, Argentina and Nigeria. It's considered the so-called "Group of Death," the most difficult one at the World Cup.
To make matters worse, star Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard has recently been ruled out with a groin strain. And star midfielder David Beckham broke his foot in a Champions Cup quarterfinal with Manchester United and could be sidelined or seriously slowed. Others nursing injuries including Michael Owen, defender Ashley Cole and midfielder Kieron Dyer. Not exactly good news for a team hoping to do better than its second round performance of four years ago, when it lost to Argentina.
This time around England has turned to a foreign coach to guide the way. While many have critcized the move, international football commentator Derek Rae is impressed with Sven Goran Eriksson of Sweden, who ironically will have to coach against his own country in the first round.
"Sven Goran Eriksson is urbane, he's witty, he's worldly, and that's what England needs at the moment," says Rae. "Too often in the past I think they have tried to play a style of game that really wasn't fitting for the way it ought to be played at this level. "
How is that different from the past?
"I think English football at the international level has been stagnating for some time. And I say that with the greatest respect intended because [former coaches] Terry Venables and Glen Hoddle seemed to be moving in the right direction," he says.
Eriksson says England is a dark horse to lift the World Cup. He says the first thing England has to do is survive the first three games.