Steven Gerrard says England will need a miracle to win the 2014 World Cup as the Three Lions prepare for their opening qualifier for the tournament against Moldova.
Hosts Brazil are one of the early favourites to lift the trophy and no European nation has ever won the World Cup in South America, but England captain Gerrard is refusing to abandon all hope, insisting "miracles do happen".
"I am realistic and honest," Gerrard said. "We are not one of the favourites to win the World Cup. That doesn't mean you stop believing, working hard to improve, and learning from the mistakes you've made at previous tournaments.
"This team has every chance to get better in the next few years, with some players coming through and others with the experience. We have to have that faith and keep believing. You never stop believing in football. Miracles do happen. It's been proved."
Roy Hodgson's team kick off their qualifying campaign against Moldova in Chisinau on Friday night. Their group contains Euro 2012 co-hosts Poland and Ukraine, plus a dangerous Montenegro outfit that held England to a couple of draws in qualification for the 2012 European Championship, so it is not going to be an easy task to qualify.
"We know what we have to do. We're going to try and do it," Hodgson said. "I'm fully aware the task of qualifying is the all-important one. A World Cup in Brazil has a slightly greater allure than a World Cup in some of the other countries where it's been held recently."
Hodgson has declared himself satisfied with the pitch, which has been criticised by his Moldovan counterpart. However, England's last training session featured no actual match and seemed to be focused on getting balls into the box from flank positions, a typically English trait that, in the absence of Andy Carroll, would not appear to suit the current squad.
It plays to a stereotype, though, and one Moldova have already highlighted.
"You've got to remember the first 10 or 12 years of my coaching career was spent defending the English game to the Swedes, saying that we don't just play kick and rush football," Hodgson said. "I spent 12 years doing that. I'm not going to respond to Moldovan criticism now. They can think whatever they like about our game. We'll see what happens tomorrow night."
Hodgson's midfield is expected to feature his three old stagers on Friday, with Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Michael Carrick. Manchester United's Danny Welbeck is set to operate as a lone striker, with James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott vying for the flank positions.