London: England have not won the World Cup since taking the trophy on home soil in 1966. And a healthy Wayne Rooney will be the key to the English`s chances at South Africa 2010 - along with coach Fabio Capello finding the right mix of talent.
Rooney struggled through the end of the club season with an ankle injury and a groin issue. But the Manchester United star feels his couple of weeks away from the pitch could be a benefit when England head to South Africa.
“If there`s any consolation I`ll probably be fresher for the World Cup, which will be good for me,” Rooney recently said. The 24-year-old forward believes the English team is deep and capable of finally winning another World Cup crown.
“We have a lot of world-class players in the team and a great manager. If I get injured then so be it, there are other players there to do the job ... Success in South Africa would be to win the trophy. We`ve definitely got a good enough squad to do that.”
The man in charge of forming England`s massive talent into a cohesive winning unit is Capello, who will turn 64 when England face Algeria during the World Cup. The Italian coach replaced Steve McClaren after England embarrassingly failed to qualify for the 2008 European Championship.
And England responded as Capello had hoped, winning nine of 10 World Cup qualifiers in Group 6 and having scored a European zone high of 34 goals. Their only loss came in Ukraine after qualification had already been secured.
In South Africa, Capello`s men will face a doable task in Group C with matches against the United States, Algeria and Slovenia. Doable because England have the talent to win the whole tournament.
There is the strong spine of David James, John Terry, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Rooney. Rio Ferdinand has fought injury issues and David Beckham and Michael Owen are both out - as well as their over 200 caps.
Also in the mix are the likes of Aaron Lennon, Theo Walcott, Joe Cole, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Emile Heskey as well as Jermain Defoe, Darren Bent and Peter Crouch as other options.
Capello is well used to balancing a big squad from his time with AC Milan. And he does not suffer fools, but he generally makes the right decisions.
With all that talent, Capello and his men will be facing tremendous pressure from the desperate fans back home.
England reached the semi-finals in 1990 in Italy and more recently advanced to the quarter-finals in 2002 and 2006. But while that may satisfy most countries, the English are looking for greater glory.
The coach: Fabio Capello arrived in England with a reputation for strong management and as a tough disciplinarian. The Italian`s track record was untouchable - league titles with AC Milan, Juventus, Roma and Real Madrid - and he was given carte blanche to get things right with an England side that failed to qualify for the 2008 European Championships.
His tactical nous has shown itself in England`s results but more than anything, his strength of character has been crucial in gelling a squad and making himself respected by the players, which is half the battle.
The star: For all the world class players that Sir Alex Ferguson has had at Manchester United, by the time he retires, the name of Wayne Rooney could well be regarded as his best ever purchase. Together with Steven Gerrard, Rooney is the heart of the England side. A tireless worker, Rooney is much faster than he is given credit for, is a great finisher and an unselfish partner in attack. The only thing you might say is that he is not greedy enough. If he keeps his occasional temper in check, he could have a stunning 2010 World Cup.