Five reasons England can do well in Brazil

With the World Cup just over a fortnight away now, excitement is building for Brazil. England head into the tournament as outsiders with many people not expecting Roy Hodgson's side to go beyond the quarter-final stage.

But there are reasons to be optimistic. Here are just five.

1. Expectations are low

As stated above, if England were to progress past the last eight in Brazil (or even get that far), many people will be surprised. In contrast to four years ago in South Africa, when Fabio Capello led a team that had blitzed all before them during qualification to leave plenty of fans dreaming of overall glory, this side is not tipped to make much of an impact in South America.

Under Capello, England badly under-performed with world class stars like Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney all looking jaded following a tough domestic season. This time around, a squad with a healthy mix of youth and experience begin their campaign without too much pressure because no-one is particularly expecting much.

They can approach games with a sense of 'nothing to lose' early on and try to build. Of course, if group wins materialise over Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica then people will begin to get excited but, for now, the assumption is they will probably be back home by the end of June and, strangely, that may well work in the Three Lions' favour.

2. A young and hungry squad

Hodgson has been brave with his squad selection for the competition, picking plenty of talented youngsters who go to Brazil after impressive campaigns for their clubs. Just six months ago, the thought of Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling and Luke Shaw all being named in the 23 was seen as fanciful at best but the trio could all start against Italy on June 14.

Those three, along with Adam Lallana, Daniel Sturridge and Rickie Lambert, are set for their first World Cup experience and appear to have the ability, temperament and mind-set to grasp the opportunity with both hands.

3. Leadership and some experience

Hodgson will not put all his trust in relatively untested youngsters, of course, so the importance of Joe Hart, Glen Johnson, Lampard, Rooney and skipper Steven Gerrard cannot be under-estimated in Brazil. Gerrard has just enjoyed his best club season for almost a decade and, operating in a deeper position, can replicate his Liverpool form for his country this summer. Gerrard usually leads by example on the pitch and his high standards should filter down to others.

Lampard may not be an automatic starter any more but he will be a crucial presence around the camp and can help those not used to the pressures of tournament football cope with the attention. Meanwhile, Hart, Johnson, Rooney and even Leighton Baines will be expected to utilise all their Premier League nous to keep the squad focused and together when the big games arrive.

4. Wayne Rooney has a point to prove

Rooney's record in big tournaments is dreadful for a player of his undoubted ability. At his best the Manchester United star is unplayable but, at his worst, the forward is frustrating - lacking focus and prone to costly bouts of indiscipline. The feeling before Brazil is that this is the tournament where the 28-year-old needs to shine and prove to the rest of the world that he can be talked about in the same breath as the likes of Geoff Hurst and Gary Lineker before him in an England shirt.

He failed to score in both 2006 and 2010 so will be desperate to make amends this summer. With Sturridge likely to get the No 9 role, Rooney should find himself tucked in just behind - apparently his favourite position - so everything seems in place. Now he must deliver.

5. Preparation

England have suffered from a lack of in-depth preparation for big tournaments in the past and, as a result, have often looked out of their depth in World Cup finals. One criticism that cannot be aimed at Hodgson and his coaching and backroom staff, though, this year is the lack of a proper plan for Brazil. To the outsider looking in, it seems no stone has been left unturned as England aim to compete with the more favoured nations for glory this summer.

From individual coaching and fitness plans, video reports and analysis on opponents, to training in three layers to replicate the conditions in Brazil, England are not leaving anything to chance. Esteemed psychologist Dr Steve Peters has been recruited to help with the mental side of things, while the FA have gone to great lengths to ensure the players 'down-time' is well structured - as they have learned from mistakes made in South Africa when many players complaining of boredom between matches in an extremely isolated hotel.