Saturday, March 08, 2014

MY England Squad for the 2014 World Cup.......and why!

With just 96 days to go until the 2014 World Cup Finals kick-off in Sao Paulo, England manager Roy Hodgson is expected to name his provisional 30-man squad - including seven standby players - in mid-May, shortly after the Premier League's conclusion.

The England boss is then scheduled to cut the list down to 23 for the start of June, two weeks before the tournament in Brazil gets under way.

Following this week’s unconvincing performance against a Denmark side that failed to qualify for the finals, the question on the lips of the nations football fans' is who will be selected to represent England at the greatest football show on earth. So what did we learn from Wednesday's narrow win over the Danes.
Not a lot to be fair, but three things in my opinion stood out!

Firstly Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge (right) do not seem able to play together as a front two. To play together Sturridge needs to play as an out and out striker through the middle with Rooney playing behind him or in a deeper position either side. Either way they are both on the plane. Secondly Adam Lallana must go to Brazil and probably deserves a place in the starting XI and thirdly Luke Shaw is a precocious talent, but this tournament has come too soon for the Kingston upon Thames born Southampton youngster.

As fans we all have an opinion, and rightly so! Up and down the country there will be discussions in the workplace, down the pub, on social media sites, as well as an array of articles by numerous newspaper hacks trying to justify their reason as to who and why 'Woy' should choose certain players ahead of others to wear the 'Three Lions' shirt with its single gold star above the crest, dating back 48 years!

Wednesday nights friendly was the penultimate game for England on home soil before the tournament begins in earnest. Three more friendly games stand between now and our opening Group D fixture against Italy in Manaus on 14th June.

Peru are at Wembley at the end of May before the squad fly out to the USA for their final two friendlies in Miami on 4th June and 7th June. However by the time England take to the field at Wembley on the 30th May, Mr Hodgson will, baring injuries, have selected his final squad to take to Brazil.
England without a shadow of doubt need to go into this tournament with a blend of experience and youth. I think Roy should select only seven defenders, freeing up an extra space in midfield or in attack rather than go for cover in every position. In players like Chris Smalling and Phil Jones he has what I would describe as 'multi-functional players.' In otherwards players that may not be first-choice in certain positions, but should they be required they have enough ability to adequately step-in, in this case as potential cover at right-back and at centre-half, plus Jones also possesses enough competence to play in the defensive midfield role as well if necessary. That versatility is extremely useful, and I think that is why they should go to the tournament ahead of the likes of Joleon Lescott or Steven Caulker.

The centre-halves pick themselves in Gary Cahill (right) and Phil Jagielka. The full-back debate however is a tricky one. Kyle Walker and Glenn Johnson are not good enough to both warrant selection so I would go with the Liverpool man, based on experience, which is key in that area. Walker has more pace,and is particularly good at using that pace going forward, but the full-backs primary function; particularly in tournament football is to defend. Johnson shades it for me on that basis. This discussion also applies to the left-back berth.

Leighton Baines is the stand-out player in that position, but should he get injured 15 minutes into the opening game against the 'Azzurri' then the option is the experienced Ashley Cole (107 caps) or the new kid on the block in Luke Shaw (one cap). For me it has to be Cole, despite his age and lack of regular first team action this season for Chelsea.

Shaw is raw but I admit he looks the real deal and I have no doubt he will be first choice right-back at the 2016 European Championships. The 'no to Shaw' debate is sure to upset many, but if I throw the name Joel Ward into the mix you are left with a similar conundrum. The Crystal Palace right-back has arguably been the South London club's player of the season. Superb reader of the game, great ball winner, pacey and another player who loves to bomb forward. The boy has bags of ability but do I think he could cut it at the highest level in the biggest tournament in world football. Possibly, possibly not! Would I take the risk? No I wouldn't and Ward is 24 year-old and has been playing professional football since 2008. Shaw is only 18 and only turned pro in 2012.

Midfield is key! Adam Lallana's form is impossible to ignore and that means players like Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley won't feature this Summer. I would also select Lallana ahead of Adam Johnson too. Granted Johnson has been in superb form in a struggling Sunderland side, but Lallana is a better player. Johnson drifts in and out of games, whereas Lallana always seems to want to take the game to the opposition. Lallana is also comfortable playing out wide or in a central position without it impeding his effectiveness as an attacking prowess.

Steven Gerrard has found a role for both club and country and that suits all concerned. Frank Lampard's experience is vital at a major tournament. At 35 he may struggle to get in the starting XI, but what a great player to have as cover or to bring on should the situation dictate. Not only an asset on the field but he would be invaluable to the youngsters in the squad in and around the training ground and the dressing room. Lampard is a born winner!

I would take Ross Barkley (right) as cover in central midfield, He is adept at playing in a deeper midfield role, should Gerrard or Jack Wilshere breakdown. Both are prone to knocks and niggling re-occurring injuries, so Barkley could feature prominently. I would choose Ross Barkley ahead of James Milner, who for me is far too conservative. I'd also go with Jordan Henderson, who is developing into an exciting young player. It's taken a while but he could be the surprise player in the England camp, as he finally fulfills the promise he showed during his time at Sunderland between 2009 and 2011. I think he is going to have a cracking end to the season at Liverpool — and I think he deserves his place as a squad member, although not necessarily as a starter.

Andros Townsend misses out this time because of his downturn in form and the emergency of others especially Raheem Sterling. England have a lot of players with pace but it’s what they do with the final ball that counts. Sterling has impressed me of late, after going through a poor spell around Christmas time.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (right) is also in my opinion a better option than Townsend. Fit again after a long-term injury he like Lallana is at home in central midfield or on the flanks. All are quick and direct but they can't all go!
Townsend however could yet still make it if he has a really decent end to the season at Spurs and depending on whether Hodgson takes 4 or 5 strikers.

Danny Welbeck's adaptability to the left flank is the reason I choose to go with five strikers, therefore broadening the attacking options, particularly when chasing a game. He can play wide left of a three, he works hard for the team and is good in the air. His club form may be a concern, but for his country he remains a real threat.

Up front Jermaine Defoe is the best impact striker substitute we have, and although he has had little game time at Spurs this season, you always feel he is somebody who will get you a goal. His recent move to the MLS will have little or no bearing on his ability to score at a World Cup. Andy Carroll just gets the nod from me ahead of Rickie Lambert. He is an imposing figure and could be a nightmare for defenders. I like both Lambert and his Southampton team-mate Jay Rodriquez, but if Carroll stays fit and plays the final ten games of the season for West Ham I think he will go particularly as I believe he is rated highly by Hodgson.

As for the goalkeepers, Fraser Forster's displays for Celtic means he should get the nod ahead of Ben Foster and Jack Butland would be my third choice, as he is never going to see any action but should go in order to gain valuable tournament experience.

My England Squad for Brazil

1/ Joe Hart - Age 26

2/ Fraser Forster - Age 25  
3/ Jack Butland - Age 20

4/ Gary Cahill - Age 28
5/ Phil Jagielka -  Age 31
6/ Phil Jones - Age 22
7/ Chris Smalling - Age 24
8/ Leighton Baines - Age 29
9/ Ashley Cole - Age 33
10/ Glenn Johnson - Age 29

11/ Steven Gerrard - Age 33
12/ Frank Lampard - Age 35
13/ Jordan Henderson - Age 23
14/ Jack Wilshere - Age 22
15/ Ross Barkley - Age 20
16/ Adam Lallana - Age 25
17 /Raheem Sterling - Age 19
18/ Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - Age 20

19/ Wayne Rooney - Age 28
20/ Daniel Sturridge - Age 24
21/ Andy Carroll - Age 25
22/ Jermain Defoe - Age 31
23/ Danny Welbeck - Age 23

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