Eight reasons England wouldn't make knockout stages in 2014

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England moved one step closer to securing a place at next summer's World Cup with an uninspiring goalless draw in the Ukraine.

Sitting top of the group, Roy Hodgson's men host Montenegro and Poland in October knowing they're in pole position to seal a place at a fifth consecutive World Cup.

But, should England make it all the way, will they be able to end the nations wait for glory, or will they disappoint once more?

GMS Academy member, Thomas Hember, takes a look at eight reasons why England could struggle to even make the knock-out stages.

1 - Vulnerable Defence

Tuesday night's draw in Ukraine was just the fifth time Hodgson's men had kept a clean sheet since the goalless draw against Italy at the quarter-final stage of 2012. That night ended in penalty defeat, again, and England have looked defensively suspect ever since.Worryingly, the previous four clean sheets were achieved home and away to Moldova and San Marino, hardly footballing powerhouses.

England's back four next summer is likely to consist of just one established international in Ashley Cole, while Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka will continue to learn the art of international football at the heart of a defence which has struggled to find a suitable right-back. Glen Johnson is likely to get the nod but he's yet to convince he has the defensive capabilities to cope with world-class wingers.

2 - Who wears the gloves?

Should England qualify for Brazil 2014 you'd assume Manchester City's Joe Hart would continue to wear the number one jersey for England. Despite having been on a downward spiral ever since City won the title in 2012, Hodgson is yet to find anyone who can genuinely challenge Hart.

Ben Foster has publicly been labelled as England's number two by Hodgson, but having won just six caps in six since and suffering from well-documented injury problems he hardly fills you with confidence. 

Other back-up could include Jack Butland, Fraser Forster and John Ruddy who have just two caps between them.

3 - Lack of goal threat.

It's hard to see where England are going to find goals from at a major tournament. Wayne Rooney may have 36 international goals to his name, but just five have come at major tournaments and four of those were at Euro 2004. Jermain Defoe is England's only other striker to have reached double figures for his country but he's unlikely to get a starting role for Spurs this season following the arrival of Roberto Soldado.

That leaves England looking at inexperienced duo Danny Welbeck and Rickie Lambert to get the goals, and although they've both made promising starts to their international careers they are unlikely to strike fear into opposition defences.

Of course Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard have been regular scorers for their country in the past, however, as they reach the twilight of their careers both are now deployed in a deeper role for the Three Lions.

4. No creative spark

As mentioned before, Rooney has failed to impose himself on major tournaments and England's star midfielders, Gerrard and Lampard, find themselves playing much closer to their defenders than in previous years. 

Taking these three out of the equation, who's going to find that killer pass or take on two defenders and deliver a searching cross?  

Spain have Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Santi Cazorla and Juan Mata. Germany will chose between Mesut Ozil, Mario Gotze, Marco Reus and Thomas Muller. Hosts, Brazil have the likes of Neymar, Oscar, Hulk and Hernanes. England simply don't have that luxury. 

Jack Wilshere is likely to complete a midfield trio, but he's yet to convince he can be a driving force at international level. Out wide the likes of Theo Walcott, Ashley Young and James Milner are inconsistent at best while youngsters Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Raheem Sterling cannot be expected to carry the hopes of a nation.

5. Boring football

Brazil and Argentina will bring their usual unpredictable South American flair, Germany will mix pace and power with guile and agility, while Spain, although perhaps predictable, can be simply unplayable. But what will England bring to the table?

Well, for years now that's been all too obvious. Centre-backs will play between themselves before going long. Midfielders will continue to recycle possession without ever threatening. Wingers will drift in and out of games, regularly failing to beat their man or provide any kind of cross and while our strikers may work hard, an inevitable lack of service will leave Rooney pulling out the little hair he has.

England's predictable brand of football may be enough to qualify for tournaments, but when the worlds elite come together you can expect the Three Lions to be found out all too easily. 

6. Negative tactics

It's difficult to remember an England team that attacked teams with purpose and intent. Packing the midfield and deploying wide men who's main attributes include work ethic and a strong sense of defensive responsibility mean draws are far more likely than wins. 

Should England be tasked with a strong group come next summer it's hard to imagine Hodgson's men setting out to win games. Of course, we'll be told they never play to draw and want to win every game they play but that's hard to believe when a 0-0 draw against Ukraine is considered a  good result.

If ever you wanted an example of the negativity that plagues the England team look no further than the 87th minute introduction of Tom Cleverley in place of a limping Walcott. With the opportunity to bring on a quick, direct winger like Sterling or Andros Townsend and push for a late winner, Hodgson opted to introduce another central midfielder and move Mr Versatile, James Milner to the right. 

7. The Premier League is too tough

For years now a debate has raged over whether or not England should adopt a winter break. Players in Spain, Italy and Germany all have a chance to re-energise themselves over the Christmas period, whereas those plying their trade in the Premier League experience the complete opposite with an action-packed schedule.

Of course, the Premier League is jam-packed with international stars from across the globe, but with Hodgson's entire squad expected to be picked from our domestic league England are going to be travelling to Brazil with a squad of 23 players in desperate need of a break after a gruelling season.

Perhaps it's a poor excuse, used by under-performing players at the end of yet another disappointing tournament, but when it comes to the time for the squad to be announced you can bet your life England will have at least one key man fall victim to a tough season and inevitably miss out on that place on the plane.

8. Expectations are too high

Year after year we expect England to go one better. Year after year we're disappointed. We may possess one of the world's best leagues, but simply put, we are not one of the world's best teams.

A country full of football fanatics, it's natural we enter every major tournament with a quiet optimism and a glimmer of hope. Unfortunately, a couple of pre-tournament friendly victories will result in screams of "This is our year!" Three Lions on the Shirt will blare from every car radio and every sound system as England fans insist "we still believe," 

That expectation and that pressure will be all too much for Hodgson's men who will fail to match the pride and passion of the nation and stumble at the first hurdle, leaving us wondering whether or not they deserve to adorn those Three Lions on their shirts.

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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