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World Cup 2014 Preview: England

Everton are well represented as the Three Lions travel to Brazil

It's now nearly 50 years of hurt that England have had to endure since their first and only World Cup victory at Wembley in 1966, and it seems unlikely that the Three Lions' fortunes will change when they journey to Brazil in a few days' time. Expectations are at an all time low going into this summer's World Cup, but there is a sense that this attitude could in fact work in the team's favour.

Roy Hodgson has opted to take a youthful squad, with eight players aged 23 or younger included, and with less pressure on the side than in previous tournaments there is every chance that England could pull off a surprise or two, if their talented rookies are allowed the chance to flourish. Drawn alongside Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica, qualifying from the group will be a challenge in itself, but there is reason enough to believe that England can make it reasonably far into the competition.

Hodgson's side have a solid, settled defence - although Glen Johnson hasn't exactly convinced in an England shirt of late - and a wealth of attacking talent from which to choose. Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling can all lay claim to starting spots, though Danny Welbeck is more likely to get the nod against Italy for the defensive cover that he offers. The Liverpool core of Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson that proved so effective during the last Premier League season appears likely to be replicated here too, which can only be a good thing.

The squad also contains a substantial Evertonian element, with Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka and Ross Barkley all included, and John Stones named as Hodgson's first choice reserve. For Jagielka and Baines this represents the first major competition at which the pair will be starters for the national side. Both have enjoyed excellent seasons at club level, and though Baines will likely not be afforded the same license to attack that he is given at Goodison Park, he and Jagielka have formed an effective partnership with Johnson, Gary Cahill and Joe Hart in recent months.

Where and how Barkley is used is a more interesting topic. The explosive midfielder is unlikely to start, but Hodgson has been keen to introduce him late on in games leading up to the World Cup, allowing the young Blue the chance to run at tired opposition defenders. Both he and Stones, who will also travel to Brazil, are players who will play more significant roles in future international tournaments, but if the former's performance against Ecuador last week, in which he set up Rickie Lambert following a wonderful, surging run, is anything to go by, then it's safe to say that England's youngsters are ready to take to the big stage.

Whether the exuberance of youth will be enough to carry England over the line is another matter, but regardless, the 2014 World Cup looks set to be an intriguing one for England fans. And if the side's youthful make-up can translate into a more vibrant and exciting style of play on the pitch, then it just might end up being a summer to remember.