Pubs throughout the country will be hoping to cash in this week as the Football World Cup kicks off in Brazil. The potential revenue the tournament offers is clear when it is taken into account that 300,000 supporters are expected to watch England’s opening game in pubs, bars and other licenced premises in London alone.
This has led to Home Secretary Theresa May exercising her powers to relax licencing hours to allow pubs to stay open later for the game which kicks off at 11pm on Saturday night. In some areas late night travel services will be extended to allow people to get home safely following the match.
It is estimated that the World Cup will boost the UK economy by over £1 billion if England make it through to the second round. This figure includes £175 million spent in pubs and bars, which could increase to £431 million should Roy Hodgson’s young side make it all the way to the final in Rio on 13th July.
But what are the realistic chances of England World Cup success this summer? Well, their opening Group D game against four-times world champions Italy illustrates just how challenging this competition will be for England.
The Italians go into the competition with an ageing squad and in seemingly poor form, but we have seen many times before how they can rise to the occasion on the world stage, and they are masters at getting the results they need to progress.
One thing in England’s favour is the youth and speed of their forward line which could prove too much for the Italians in the tropical heat of Manaus, the Amazonian capital dubbed Brazil’s heart of darkness.
With little expectation on their shoulders, young players like Daniel Sturridge (pictured) and Raheem Sterling could flourish should Hodgson decide on an attacking approach to the game.
Then there is Wayne Rooney. The Manchester United forward has never produced his best form in international competition and must be due a good tournament if he is to be regarded as a truly world-class player.
In England’s second game they face 2010 semi-finalists Uruguay, featuring Liverpool’s prolific striker Luis Suárez, assuming the PFA Player of the Year recovers from injury in time. Again, this could prove to be a tough match for England particularly if they go into the game having lost to Italy.
Finally, they will play outsiders Costa Rica who are expected to be everyone’s whipping boys and England’s best chance of grabbing 3 points. But they should not be taken lightly, and England won’t want to go into this fixture needing to score a hatful of goals in order to qualify for the second round.
Should England make it through Group D they will face either Columbia, Greece, Ivory Coast or Japan in the last sixteen – giving them a realistic chance of making the quarter finals and raising supporters’ hopes of the Three Lions reaching that final in Rio.
But, along with opposition from the likes of favourites Brazil and Argentina, history is also against England. No European team has ever lifted the World Cup when it has been played on South American soil – and with England chalked up at 28-1 to lift the trophy, the bookies are not expecting England to be the first to do so.
For pubs and bars hoping England can defy these odds and set their tills ringing, there is a brighter historical precedent suggesting the team might be able to progress to the latter stages of the competition.
Before the last South American Word Cup in Mexico in 1986, the Guardian’s football writer warned that England faced “a demanding tournament in alien conditions with a squad whose talent is thinly spread.” Turning this pessimistic view on its head, Gary Lineker and co went on to reach the quarter finals, where they were only beaten by Diego Maradona’s infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal.