In the last few months, the entire English nation has been ooh-ing and aah-ing every time any player dares to go near Wayne Rooney, perhaps highlighting just how important he is to the country’s hopes and dreams. A national referendum would have revealed that most would advocate wrapping the boy in cotton wool, but a certain Scottish manager would have objected to that, of course.

But here we are in June and he’s as fit a butcher’s dog, by all accounts, so there’s no harm done. And if England are to have any success in South Africa, Rooney will certainly need to be a key figure. However, to imply that England are a one-man team is not only inaccurate, it’s also unfair to the rest of the squad.

There are other options up front for Fabio Capello, but Rooney is bound to be at the centre of his plans. Peter Crouch creates problems for defenders, and is a regular scorer at international level. Although he can look as ungainly as a baby giraffe on a skating rink at times, Crouch is more skilful than some people give him credit for. Jermain Defoe has had an excellent season, finding the net more often than a website developer.

Midfield is the one area in which Capello is spoilt for choice, and his starting four, or maybe five, is guaranteed to be strong, although whether it’s creative enough remains to be seen. The impressive Frank Lampard is a prolific goalscorer, an excellent passer of the ball and a more than willing grafter in the engine room. After a disappointing 2006 tournament, he may well feel he has something to prove.

Steven Gerrard is one of the best midfielders in the world, and is a vital cog in Capello’s machine. He’s strong in the tackle, and his passing is as good as anyone’s. Gerrard also scores goals, and it may well be that he ends up playing further forward, just behind fellow Merseysider Rooney.

The rest of the middle-men will include Gareth Barry (fitness permitting), and one or two of Michael Carrick, Aaron Lennon, James Milner, Joe Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips.

There are others on the fringe, too, although the starting line-up is unlikely to change much over the course of the tournament. England’s midfield options are the envy of many other countries in South Africa.

And now we come to the case for the defence, m’lud. And the verdict is that the ‘Gang of Four’ needs to stay fit. Glen Johnson on the right, Ashley Cole on the left and John Terry and Rio Ferdinand in the centre is a good defensive unit, although taking any one of them away will reduce their effectiveness straight away.

All four have had strange seasons on and off the field, but it seems that, just for once, they have hit fitness and form at just the right time. They’ll need to be at their best, though, because if England progress to the latter stages they will come up against some or all of the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Fernando Torres, David Villa, Luis Fabiano and Robin van Persie. It’s about as daunting as being stuck in a lift with Simon Cowell.

And then we come to the bloke with the gloves on. England have something old (David James), something new (Joe Hart) and something, er, green (Robert Green). Whoever gets the nod from Signor Capello, and that could feasibly be any one of them, may prove to be busier than Pete Doherty’s lawyer. Though all of them are good shot-stoppers, they also have their detractors. The days when a Peter Shilton or a David Seaman was the number one choice without question are long gone now.

The next few weeks will bring the usual mix of delirium and abject pain, of course, for millions of fans all over the world. The fact remains that there are probably eight teams that can win it, and England are in that group.

Whichever team emerges triumphant, they will have played some good football, as well as some dreadful stuff. They will enjoy a slice or two of luck, as well, with perhaps a deflected goal here and there and a shocking miss by an opponent. They may need a penalty shoot-out to progress at some point, too.

But they’ll also enjoy some great performances and win some stunning matches. Whether the men of the moment are English or not remains to be seen, of course, but let’s hope that, come July the 11th, the winners are the guys with a trio of rampant lions on their chests.