Steven Gerrard won’t extinguish England’s hopes of winning the World Cup in 2014, yet he also admits much of his optimism relies heavily on a miracle in Rio.
The Liverpool skipper will be involved when the Three Lions get their qualifying campaign underway on Friday night, when they take on Moldova in Chisinau. Ukraine then provide the opposition at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday, and Roy Hodgson’s side will be expected to end the week with maximum points.
Looking at the other nations competing in Group H, it is easy to understand why England are favourites. Aside from the two teams they will line up against in the coming days, Poland, Montenegro and San Marino make up the pool. Whilst by no means easy, this should ensure a fairly comfortable passage to Brazil.
Beyond qualification Hodgson will be hoping to break the quarter-final jinx and lead the country to a first World Cup semi-final since 1990. Not many would fancy his chances, despite the current third-place standing in the FIFA rankings. And as much as Gerrard is trying to drum up optimism ahead of the Moldova clash, even he intimates that to ultimately win the tournament would require a miracle.
“I am realistic and honest,” he said. “We are not one of the favourites to win the World Cup. That doesn’t mean you stop believing, working hard to improve, and learning from the mistakes you’ve made at previous tournaments.
“This team has every chance to get better in the next few years, with some players coming through and others with the experience. We have to have that faith and keep believing. You never stop believing in football. Miracles do happen. It’s been proved.”