Has belief in the English national team fallen so far that winning the World Cup would be a miracle?
Apparently so, at least in the mind of captain Steven Gerrard. On eve of a qualifier against Moldova that kicks off England's campaign in Group H, he downplayed expectations while offering up a breath of hope.
"When I speak I'm realistic and honest: at the moment, we're not one of the favorites to win the World Cup. But that doesn't mean you stop believing or stop working hard to try and improve and learn from the mistakes you've made at previous tournaments. This team has every chance to improve and get better over the next few years, with players coming through and other players who boast experience in the squad. We have to have that faith and keep believing. Miracles do happen in football. That's been proved."
Gerrard will be key figure as England starts new cycle under Roy Hodgson, who took over a few weeks before the European Championships, in which England was eliminated in the quarterfinals. Hodgson is going for experience at the start of the qualifiers but must be mindful that age is creeping into the squad. Frank Lampard (34), John Terry (31), Michael Carrick (31) and Gerrard (32) are getting to that stage of their careers where players start to leave national teams.