England set out on the road to Brazil tonight with skipper Steven Gerrard insisting “miracles do happen”.
Built up for every World Cup they enter, this time expectations are low.
Part of that comes from yet another tournament when England failed to progress beyond the quarter-final stage.
A rather more sizeable portion is the knowledge that South America, for any European country, is uncharted territory. Many good European teams have tried and failed. And, despite their present status as third in the FIFA rankings, most do not feel England are a good team.
However, Gerrard, who admits his final tilt at football’s greatest prize will begin in Chisinau when England take on Moldova, is refusing to abandon all hope. “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.”
Miracles are not to be relied upon though. In a group containing Euro 2012 co-hosts Poland and Ukraine, plus a dangerous Montenegro outfit that held England to a couple of draws in qualification for the European Championships, it is results that will count.