Dubbed English football's ‘golden generation', only to fall flat at UEFA EURO 2004 and the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™, South Africa 2010 may well be the last chance of international silverware for some of the most well-known faces in the world game.
However, he appointment of Fabio Capello appears to have brought fresh vigour to the Three Lions' squad, many of whom have a point to prove after lacklustre displays when it mattered most under Sven-Goran Eriksson and Steve McClaren. With the tournament due to take place in the South African winter, conditions which should suit the English players and style, so excuses will be at a premium should Wayne Rooney and Co fall short once more.
The road to South Africa
Following the disappointment of missing out on a place at the UEFA EURO 2008, England bounced back in emphatic fashion in qualifying for South Africa. Indeed, they stormed to no fewer than nine wins from ten Group 6 games, scoring a European Zone high of 34 goals in the process, with their only defeat coming in Ukraine with qualification already secured.
The star players
Leading from the front in terms of both goals and commitment was Manchester United forward Rooney, who responded to shouldering the main responsibility for England's attacking threat by finding the net nine times in as many games. Also chipping in were midfield duo Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, who hit four and three goals respectively. Rangy front-man Peter Crouch certainly made the most of limited opportunities by grabbing four goals in as many appearances, while Tottenham team-mate Jermain Defoe underlined his finishing prowess with three strikes in just 135 minutes on the field.
Winner of Serie A with AC Milan, AS Roma and Juventus, as well as a two-time La Liga champion at Real Madrid, Italian disciplinarian Capello wasted little time in instilling a renewed work ethic and squad spirit in an England squad packed with big-name stars and equally large egos. Qualification for South Africa 2010 with two games to spare and a solitary competitive defeat speak volumes for Capello's impact in his relatively short time in charge.
Previous FIFA World Cups
England have appeared at 11 previous editions of the global showpiece, including their debut at Brazil 1950. Victors on home soil in 1966, their best performance outside their own shores came under the late Sir Bobby Robson at Italy 1990, when a side featuring the likes of Gary Lineker, Chris Waddle, Paul Gascoigne and David Platt reached the last four only to lose out on penalties to eventual winners West Germany.
The 1-0 loss in Ukraine on 10 October 2009 ended a run of ten consecutive victories in FIFA World Cup qualification, which England had begun with a 1-0 win over Austria in Manchester on 8 October 2005.
The Three Lions' leading scorer in qualifying, Wayne Rooney, was at his most dangerous between the 72nd and 76th minutes of play, during which period he scored no fewer than four times.
What they said
"I think we've put the record straight, to some extent. Since the manager arrived, there has been nothing but hard work, our confidence has come on a million miles in the way the team is playing. Today typified everything about us in this campaign. It is the first step and we've qualified now but there's still a long way to go." England midfielder Frank Lampard, following the 5-1 home win over Croatia which sealed qualification for South Africa 2010.