England have earned the right to be World Cup contenders
Posted 11th September 2009
As one of 11 teams to have already qualified for World Cup 2010, England are now entitled to look ahead to the tournament and their prospects of winning it. Their perfect qualifying record of played eight, won eight proves they are in good enough form and plenty of rivals will have taken notice of England's 4-1 and 5-1 hammerings of Croatia.
However, other nations are also aware of England's poor record in the latter stages of major tournaments and the Three Lions are not the only European team looking ahead to South Africa with unblemished qualifying campaigns.
Netherlands and Spain have also won every one of their qualifying matches and the European champions will be the UEFA outfit to beat. England are nonetheless in good company, as other big guns are making heavy weather of progressing, all the while lowering their World Cup odds of winning the tournament.
Portugal have a real battle on their hands to secure even a second place finish, whilst France are on course for a tricky play-off fixture, which might yet befall Germany and Italy. Argentina's latest defeat leaves them in a perilous position in the South American zone.
It would of course be no surprise to see these nations all feature in December's draw for the main event, which is exactly that. The manner of qualification means nothing when the action starts and as hard as it will be, England fans need to keep their aspirations realistic.
The Three Lions have got past the last eight only once since winning the World Cup in 1966 and a semi final appearance should be seen as progress. Spain and Brazil are a level above other nations and beating both in the same tournament is a big ask of a team unused to thriving in the latter stages of major events.
England's squad of seasoned Champions League performers will certainly be strong challengers, although those who really believe they will lift the trophy should choose their time for backing the Three Lions carefully.