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Sunday, May 3, 1998 Published at 17:40 GMT 18:40 UK

Meet the BBC Team
England can't rely on lady luck


Alan Green reporting on the friendly between England and Portugal [50'']
We needed a win against Portugal and we got it. But let's not get too carried away. It takes more than goals to win the World Cup and however pretty the approach play, defence will be a key component of England's chances in France.

A little harsh? Well, maybe. Alan Shearer seems to have found the form he enjoyed during Euro 96 and at the opposite end of the field, David Seaman is as reliable as ever.

The squad has undoubtedly settled down. The defeat against Chile and a poor performance against Switzerland were partly caused by injury problems. It meant that Glenn Hoddle had to be a little experimental with his selection. Thankfully, things have now changed.

The backbone of the team is already evident. Against Portugal, Sol Campbell and Tony Adams both performed well, as did Graham Le Saux and while David Beckham has experienced a dip in form, he's too good a player to be left off Glenn's list.

Up front, Michael Owen did enough in 20 minutes to book his place in the final 22. Perhaps it's a bit much to expect him to be our World Cup winner, but he's relatively unknown on the continent and his pace could surprise more than a few defenders.

The talent is surely there for England to succeed. But to do that we have to win our big games. We can't rely on penalty shoot-outs and we can't rely on luck.

During Euro 96 most of us would agree that Spain were the better side in the quarter-final. Against Germany however, it was ours for the taking. To win in France we must learn from our mistakes. We must win our games in the knockout stages comfortably.

To do that however, we've got to perform well in the group stage. We've been relatively lucky, but there's no room for complacency in the World Cup. Three points against Tunisia is a must, but both Romania and Colombia are dangerous floaters.

Romania, particularly, qualified well and with the likes of Georgi Hagi and Viorel Moldovan they will always pose a threat. Colombia too, can slide through the opposition, but they're a little more temperamental and a little weaker defensively.

We now enter the tournament as one of six or seven countries with a realistic chance of winning. Brazil are rightly the favourites. They won in 1994 and their 1998 side looks even more exciting. Romario and Ronaldo are exhilarating to watch and Denilson could also prove to be one of the best players in the tournament.

After Brazil, there a number of teams, including England, who have a chance of winning the tournament. France are the hosts and they have some of the world's most outstanding players. If they click they'll be a team to avoid but they undoubtedly lack a striker. The same goes for Spain. If Alan Shearer had been Spanish I've no doubt they would have won Euro 96.

Despite their struggle to qualify, Italy should never be ruled out. Alessandro Del Pierro and Christian Vieri have both proved outstanding for their clubs and can break down even the most organised defence. As for Germany? They're no longer the force they once were. Whilst they may be the champions of Euro 96, I don't expect to see them in the final.

In fact, Argentina may pose more of a problem and as a rank outsider Yugoslavia are also an impressively talented side. If the red and yellow cards are imposed with any consequence then such a side could easily move into the last eight.

It's a tough tournament and only a fool would suggest that winning is a certainty for any team, no matter how talented. For England, it's a chance to prove that we can hold our own against the world's best. The last eight would be a reasonable finish, the semi-finals would be a good finish and anything after that would be great. So can we really win? Yes, yes I think we can.





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Radio 5 Live's France 98 Coverage

Platini - legend on and off the pitch

Ten of the best

England can't rely on lady luck

Uruguay 1930

USA 1994

Italy 1990

Mexico 1986

Sweden 1958

World Cup History

Switzerland 1954

Spain 1982

Brazil 1950

France 1938

Mexico 1970

England 1966

Italy 1934

Argentina 1978

Germany 1974

Chile 1962

No ticket to ride

Tackling new rules

BBC TV at the heart of France 98