Recent agonies offer hope
Mark Staniforth looks at England's World Cup history.
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From They Think It's All Overs to Hands of God, eighteen-year-old solos and eight-second openers by San Marino, let it never be said that England's 64-year of participation in the World Cup has been boring.
When Roy Hodgson's men step out in Brazil in the hope of putting ever-growing years of hurt behind them and winning the famous gold trophy for the first time since 1966 they may do so as underdogs, but history implies they should not be ruled out of a shout.
There would be something especially fitting about a fine performance in the nation where England belatedly kicked off its World Cup quest in 1950 - and went on to suffer one of its most infamous defeats.
All-conquering in the small, Home International-sized world they had inhabited up to that time, England ventured to South America brimming with confidence and things started well as Stan Mortensen and Wilf Mannion scored in a 2-0 win over Chile.
But an ensuing 1-0 defeat to the United States was considered so surprising it was widely considered to have been a misprint when the result was telegrammed home. England followed on the tails of the telegrams after another defeat to Spain.
Four years later expectations were duly lowered and, after fighting through a group stage, including a 4-4 draw with Belgium, goals from Nat Lofthouse and Tom Finney could not prevent a gutsy 4-2 quarter-final defeat to defending champions Uruguay.
In Sweden in 1958, a team bereft of the glorious talents of the likes of Roger Byrne, Duncan Edwards and Tommy Taylor, who had perished in the Munich air disaster, fell in a group-stage play-off defeat to the USSR.
By 1962 in Chile, a soon-to-be-famous backbone was emerging. Bobby Charlton, who had been a non-playing squad member four years previously, had emerged as a midfielder of global note, while Bobby Moore's emergence also gave cause for optimism, despite the campaign petering out in a quarter-final defeat to Brazil.
Following the departure of manager Walter Winterbottom, Alf Ramsey took charge and with it took the role of choosing the team away from the previous selection committee.
The rest is history. After stumbling through an unremarkable group stage which saw the loss of Jimmy Greaves through injury, Geoff Hurst stepped in to score the only goal against Argentina in the quarter-finals before a brace from Bobby Charlton saw off Portugal in the semis.
Despite nationwide clamour to restore the fit-again Greaves, Ramsey stayed loyal to Hurst and was rewarded with a remarkable hat-trick as England proceeded to write the most famous chapter in the history of the domestic game with a 4-2 final win over West Germany.
Jubilant, having finally restored themselves to the top of the global game, an experienced England squad went to Mexico in 1970 full of confidence that they could retain their crown.
Despite the absence of Gordon Banks due to food poisoning, England strolled to a 2-0 lead over West Germany in the quarter-finals, but this time the Germans strolled back, levelling at 2-2 before Gerd Muller grabbed an injury-time winner after a mistake by goalkeeping stand-in Peter Bonetti.
Twelve dark World Cup years would follow as England failed to qualify for either the 1974 or 1978 campaigns.
Bryan Robson's 27-second opener against France in the 1982 finals in Spain flattered to deceive - England were poor and fell at the second-round group stage.
After a dismal start in 1986, which saw Ray Wilkins become the first England player to be sent off, and Bryan Robson carried off, in a draw with Morocco, Gary Lineker perked England up with a hat-trick against Poland and two more against Paraguay to sweep them to the quarter-finals.
Then came the best and worst of Diego Maradona - the blatant handball to knock the ball past Peter Shilton followed a moment of football majesty. No matter which way you cared to look at it, England were out.
There were more tears in 1990 - mostly belonging to Paul Gascoigne in the course of a heart-breaking semi-final defeat to West Germany after Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle missed in the penalty shoot-out.
From that almost near-miss came the ridiculous, David Galtieri notching the fastest goal in World Cup history as England ended their unsuccessful qualifying campaign with an embarrassing start against minnows San Marino. Their ultimate 7-1 win was not enough to get them to USA '94.
Gascoigne was controversially dropped from Glenn Hoddle's 1998 squad, but his absence was the last thing on England fans' minds by the time they stepped out for their last 16 clash with old rivals Argentina.
In an unforgettable showdown, 18-year-old Michael Owen weaved his magic with a stunning individual strike to put England 2-1 up, but England were hampered by the 46th minute sending-off of David Beckham, who was vilified back home in the wake of England's eventual defeat on penalties.
More agony ensued in 2002, despite the heights of a 5-1 qualifying win in Germany. A quarter-final lead against Brazil raised hopes of a major breakthrough, but Ronaldinho's lob over a frantically stranded David Seaman served up more indelible World Cup misery for the nation.
More penalty heartache followed in 2006 - this time in the quarter-final against Portugal - while a dismal 2010 campaign ended in England's worst World Cup defeat, their 4-1 loss against Germany so emphatic even Frank Lampard's disallowed goal was rendered an after-thought.
However, as England's World Cup history has proved time and time again, it is often the toughest of episodes which evolve into moments of hope.