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World Cup 2006 profile
England has the talent, but can it go the extra mile?
Posted: Monday April 3, 2006 12:43PM; Updated: Monday April 3, 2006 5:29PM

Talented young striker Wayne Rooney could be the breakout star of the World Cup -- if he can keep his volatile temper in check.
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• World Cup team profiles complete archive
• Full '06 World Cup draw and schedule

By Ben Franklin and Jon Pickstone, SI.com

Through late April, SI.com will profile two World Cup teams a week. We continue with England. Click here for the full archive.

FIFA world ranking: No. 9.

How they qualified for Germany: Won UEFA Group 6 with an 8-1-1 record.

Previous World Cups and finishes: 11 appearances (1950, '54, '58, '62, '66, '70, '82, '86, '90, '98, 2002). Champions in '66, fourth place in '90, quarterfinals in '54, '62, '70, '86, '02.

Manager: Sven-Göran Eriksson, sixth and final year with team.

Key players
England's strike force brings together two players with differing yet complementary styles: Wayne Rooney's strength, determination and ability to create goals from nothing -- especially from long range -- is matched by Michael Owen's positioning, speed and lethal finishing from within the box. Midfielders Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard both boast high goal-scoring records as well as the ability to provide defense-splitting passes, while the crossing talents of captain David Beckham from the right wing are second to none.

Opposing defenders will also have to cope with England's attack-minded left flank, where Ashley Cole's overlapping runs and crosses add to the threat posed by Joe Cole's trickery.

What to watch for
England's starting XI is made up of truly world-class players who, on paper, look like a potential tournament winner. However, two major flaws could conspire to cause an earlier exit. The center-midfield partnership of Gerrard and Lampard brings together the two best attack-minded box-to-box midfielders in the English Premier League, but defensively this sometimes leaves England exposed, with neither Joe Cole nor Beckham likely to provide sufficient cover. Gerrard still needs to prove he can take hold of and control a game at the highest international level, as he does so consistently for Liverpool.

Second, the center-defense partnership of Chelsea stalwart John Terry and Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand, the world's most expensive defender, offers a combination of aerial dominance, pace and strength. But both are error-prone (especially Ferdinand), which means England could concede a soft and potentially crucial goal.

In addition to his starters, Coach Eriksson can call on three players from the bench with the strength to create or score a late goal: the aerial threat of 6-foot-7 Peter Crouch, the pace and skill of the mercurial Shaun Wright-Phillips and the finishing prowess of the EPL's leading English goalscorer, Darren Bent.

Of some concern is England's preparedness. The team's strong record in qualifying disguises the reality of some less-than-convincing performances during its campaign, particularly a 1-0 defeat to soccer minnow Northern Ireland. However, England looked impressive when it beat its group's second-place finisher and fellow World Cup qualifier Poland both home and away.

England's relative fitness and stamina is difficult to discern. Will the players benefit from being accustomed to the up-tempo EPL? Or will the high number of games in the English domestic season take its toll?

Group: B (Paraguay, Trinidad & Tobago, Sweden).

Key match in group stage: June 20 vs. Sweden. England is expected to win all three of its group games, but historians will point out that it hasn't beaten the Swedes since 1966. The result of this match will likely decide whether England meets host Germany in the second round or in the semifinal. In the more likely latter scenario, England will get a chance to avenge its semifinal defeats in the '90 World Cup and at Euro '96.

Oddsmakers' line: 6-1.

Projected Starting Lineup
Pos. Player Club team
G Paul Robinson Tottenham Hotspur (England)
D Ashley Cole Arsenal (England)
D Rio Ferdinand Manchester United (England)
D John Terry Chelsea (England)
D Gary Neville Manchester United (England)
M David Beckham Real Madrid (Spain)
M Frank Lampard Chelsea (England)
M Steven Gerrard Liverpool (England)
M Joe Cole Chelsea (England)
F Michael Owen Newcastle United (England)
F Wayne Rooney Manchester United (England)

Premium Member
22,104 Posts
What's going on with Owen's and Cole's fitness, i don't like the idea of 2 players who haven't played nearly all season being in our starting line up. Are either of them nearly back too fitness yet? I'm sure I heard Cole was coming back then had a set back, can't remember though.
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