How they qualified: Despite an undefeated campaign, Roy Hodgson's side still needed to beat Poland at Wembley in their final qualifying match to guarantee passage to Brazil. They got over the line in the end, winning 2-0 with goals by Wayne Rooney and captain Steven Gerrard.
World Cup pedigree: Except for a win on home soil in 1966, England have fallen short consistently in their 13 appearances at World Cup finals. A stirring semi-final display on one night in Turin is the other high point, but that ended in defeat on penalties to Germany. Make that forty-plus years of hurt now – the pain is so often inflicted by the same old enemies – and still we're counting.
Main man: Wayne Rooney is England's only world-class player, or self-styled 'big man', but after another gruelling domestic season it remains to be seen what state he'll be in come next summer. Rooney makes things happen but all too often his team-mates don't measure up to the Man Utd forward's high standards.
One to watch: Jack Wilshere. Built up by the English media to messianic proportions after a couple of good games, then knocked down again when he got injured and inevitably lost his form, the Arsenal midfielder is back on track again and reminding us all why we hyped him in the first place. He's England's most assured ball-player, by a mile, and essential to the Three Lions' cause.
What are their chances? Given the presence of Italy and Uruguay in their group, reaching the knockout stages will be tough. An exit in the quarter-finals – on penalties of course – should be seen as an under-par score for Roy Hodgson's middling squad. Whisper it, but the cold, hard truth is that England aren't contenders to win a second World Cup.