Emile Heskey, despite his recent return to the England fold, is likely to be the fall guy as Sven-G^ran Eriksson ponders who is to partner Michael Owen in the World Cup finals next summer.
The England head coach hailed Wayne Rooney as the "star" to inspire England in Germany and he warned Brazil to expect a much sterner test than in 2002.
Eriksson, who admitted he is "privileged" to be working with Rooney, believes England have the best team since he took charge in 2001. The biggest difference in personnel since the 2002 World Cup campaign is in Rooney having replaced Birmingham City's Heskey as Owen's strike partner.
Eriksson insists England have progressed significantly enough since their quarter-final defeat by Brazil in Shizuoka to expect a much different outcome.
"We would do better now because we are more mature and, technically, we're better than we were then," he said.
"Physically we are also much better than in 2002. Would we beat them? Who knows. You are talking about two top teams in the world meeting each other and you need to have luck.
"As I've said before, it's the best team we've had in the past four years and they are extremely confident as well.
"Of course, we need to make the step to win a big tournament. But from what we have shown in these past two games against Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan, we are absolutely going in the right way."
While David Beckham sparkled against Azerbaijan and Joe Cole emerged against the Irish, Rooney was undoubtedly the star performer in both victories.
Eriksson discounted the idea England were too dependent on the teenage striker.
"I do feel privileged," he said. "Not only in working with Wayne Rooney, but with this whole squad.
"All the teams that win a big trophy, there's normally one star who can do something extra. I think we have more than one star but, of course, Wayne Rooney is something extra.
"In 18 months' time, hopefully he will be even better."
England also need Beckham to be at his best in a major tournament, having failed to shine at either the 2002 World Cup or at Euro 2004 while afflicted by injury.
His inspirational leadership returned against Azerbaijan as he seemed to take confidence from the England coach's public show of support on the eve of the game.
"So then it was good what I said!" reflected Eriksson, after Beckham added to Steven Gerrard's opener.
Rooney's emergence should at least reduce the pressure on Beckham, while Eriksson believes England now have a wealth of goalscoring options, including midfielders Gerrard and Frank Lampard.
"In the team that played these two games, how many of them can score the winning goal? All four midfielders scored in these past two games."
Eriksson also believes Joe Cole has finally provided the answer to England's left-sided problem.
"Yes, he has solved the problem."