England's national football team is like the English weather. Rarely very good, seldom that bad . . . a sort of middle line, occasionally hitting a high like beating Brazil (albeit in a friendly at Wembley) but generally a safe bet with few extremes.

It is a long time since England raised the pulse consistently. The pattern is to qualify for major finals without too many worries and then combust, losing in the knockout stages on penalties. The team's results and performances are as predictable as our weather.

The equation is simple for Brazil 2014: if England beats Montenegro on Friday and Poland next Tuesday, both at Wembley, it will top Group H and qualify for the World Cup finals next year. Anything else will almost certainly see England in the lottery of the playoffs or perhaps even finishing third and missing out on Brazil completely. With two games to go, England could finish first, second or third.