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The former Three Lions and Arsenal defender, who featured at two World Cups, expects Roy Hodgson's men to reach the last eight in Brazil despite a tough group stage

Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown has backed England to progress through a difficult group and reach the World Cup quarter-finals this summer.

The retired ex-international, who earned 43 caps during his career and went to World Cups in 1998 and 2002, is optimistic about the Three Lions' chances but admitted Brazil would be the team to beat.

“I expect England to at least reach the quarter-finals, but we’re not going to win the tournament and I expect that whoever does has got to overcome a Brazil team which I noticed at the Confederations Cup has a great feeling between the fans and the players,” Keown told Goal at a Gatorade event in London.

“The players are almost crying through the national anthem, and the passion and emotion that is present when you’re there is quite incredible, and you’re going to have to overcome that if you’re going to beat Brazil to win the World Cup.”

But while he doesn’t think England will win the tournament, the 47-year-old believes that an injection of young players, such as Everton's Ross Barkley, could rejuvenate Roy Hodgson's team.

“There are a lot of youth players involved and I like it that Ross Barkley’s involved, and Luke Shaw,” Keown added.

“I’m a bit disappointed for Ashley Cole, as I was one of those that felt maybe he should have gone. You talk to the Italians and the rest of the world and they are in shock that we’re not going to take Ashley Cole.

“But they don’t know how good Luke Shaw is. We do. So it’s a nice blend of youth and experience and I think that England will go on and do very well in the tournament.”

Keown also believes Hodgson has what it takes to set his team up in different styles to cope with different teams and situations.

“Roy is developing as a manager,” he added. “We saw what he did in the qualifying games, and while I think he’s always been well organised, in those games with Andros Townsend and the way he attacked – of course, he’s not in the squad – but we demonstrated then that we can go and play football.”

England begin their Group D campaign against Italy in Manaus on June 14 before heading to Sao Paulo to take on Uruguay five days later. They finish off against Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte on June 24.

Martin Keown was speaking at Gatorade's 'Unreal Around the World' event in London. Do you have what it takes to #BeUnreal?

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