Neville: England not under pressure
England coach Gary Neville says they are not under pressure to perform well at the 2014 World Cup as expectations are already low following poor showings in recent tournaments.
In a joint-interview with the Telegraph alongside former Manchester United teammate Paul Scholes, Neville also said that Roy Hodgson’s side face less pressure in Brazil than any other previous England team.
England have failed to reach the semifinal of a tournament since Euro 96 and their most recent showing, at Euro 2012, saw them knocked out at the quarterfinal stage following an unimpressive performance against Italy.
"I don’t think anybody in the England set-up -- fans, coaches, players or management -- are saying we are going to go Brazil and win it," he said. "When we qualified for the World Cup in 1998 in Rome by getting a draw, everyone thought it was the greatest result of all time.
"All of a sudden, we are made third or fourth favourites for the tournament, but we are not under that pressure any more. England will always put themselves under pressure to perform, the players will do, but no European team has ever won a World Cup in South America -- never mind England! No European team has ever won it, but we go there with probably the least pressure that any England team ever has done.
"The reality is that everyone knows where England are at the moment. It was a good achievement to qualify and hopefully we will surprise people when we get there. It would be brilliant for England to win a tournament."
Scholes added: "Of course it would be, it would be unbelievable, but realistically? It’s not going to happen for a while is it? I know you [Gary] can’t admit it, but if you look at the other teams, they have great players don’t they?
"We have a couple of great players and then the rest around it. It will be very difficult, as Gary says, but if we do get to a quarter-final, it will be a surprise."
Scholes went on to say that England’s main problem heading into the World Cup will be their lack of pedigree at beating historically established teams in the knockout rounds of tournaments.
"Gary can’t really say we have no chance, but I’ll say it if you want," Scholes said. "It will be very difficult to win. I know we have some decent players to go with Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney, but as a team, are they going to be good enough when you think about it? You will have to get past Brazil, Argentina, Chile, who have just come onto the scene, Spain, Italy, Germany.
"I always get the impression that, whenever England come up against a big nation like those, it is usually a signal that we are going to go out. They’re OK against the Polands and Ukraines -- England will beat them all day long -- but as soon as a top team comes along? Well...
"Whenever England come up against a proper team, you always feel as though they are going to get knocked out. I’ve not seen anything different that will change my mind now. I know you have your Daniel Sturridges and Danny Welbecks and Tom Cleverleys, but if you look at the other teams, they have the likes of Messi, Neymar, Tevez, Aguero. And we haven’t even mentioned the likes of Xavi and Iniesta with Spain."