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England's Road to Rio clear but long and winding

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England safely through then to the last 32 of the World Cup proper, after two excellent performances against Montenegro and Poland.

Great credit must go to Andros Townsend, Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney and Leighton Baines, all of whom were outstanding in both matches. Baines was so impressive that for me he should now start ahead of Ashley Cole.

However, the Three Lions now face the prospect of two meaningless friendlies during the play-off period in November and I just hope that Roy Hodgson has the good sense to play his second 11 or even the U21s for that matter and give the entire first team a much-needed two-week break to anywhere – Benidorm or Bognor would suffice.

For England to have any chance of impressing in the samba capital of the world (that's Rio and not Bognor, although I gather they do a good hokey-cokey at Butlin’s), then they must arrive without the usual fatigue that seems to haunt them as soon as they reach the knock-out stages of every major tournament in recent years.

It is worth recalling that when England failed to qualify this week 40 years ago for the 1974 World Cup, thanks to the heroics of Polish goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski, there was only England, Poland and Wales in the group. That is a grand total of four World Cup qualifying matches.

This season’s campaign has seen England play 10 preliminary games that has included trips to the Ukraine, Montenegro, Poland, Moldova and San Marino. That has surely got to take its toll to a greater degree than when all that was required for an away day travel 40 years previous, was one return air fare to Slaski (which is somewhere in Poland) and a National Express coach up the M4.

Times have changed of course, and now international players are even expected to play more games during the course of one season than David Cameron’s spin doctors manage in a lifetime.

If one wishes to apply some common sense to the subject then we just need to look at how the football season is structured in Germany.

The Bundesliga has just the 18 teams compared to the Premier League’s 20, so four less games a season already, and the German's top tier take a three-week holiday over Christmas and the New Year.

Is it any wonder then that it is Germany with the finest and most consistent record in World Cup history with three wins and four second places, and that record would probably be even better had the Germans not been banned the last time the World Cup was played in Brazil back in 1950?

That ban of course had nothing to do with the Second World War – I am told it was because a large collection of stolen towels were found on Copacabana Beach just outside the German team’s hotel at six in the morning.

So if a holiday is out of the question for the first 11 then I suggest England’s finest might manage to find some kind of convincing wound that would conveniently materialise in about four weeks time and then heal two weeks later.

Over to Sir Alex Ferguson and some misdirected kicking of a football boot . . .

Bob Morton has a first-class degree in Media and is the only person in history to win the Daily Mirror’s ‘You The Manager’ World Cup and Premier League Manager of the Month prizes back to back.

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