Can England Live up to their Three Lions Tag?
England’s World Cup was many things, brief and disappointing amongst other things, their performances were better than the results but that counts for very little at the highest level. There was so much optimism going into to the tournament, with exciting young talents such as Luke Shaw, Ross Barkley and most notably Raheem Sterling all set to feature in their first World Cup. Luke Shaw was unused until the Costa Rica game, England were already out at this point, and Ross Barkley was used as a substitute, he therefore did not have the chance to have the same impact he does at his club Everton.
Raheem Sterling was phenomenal, the Liverpool winger was played in the number ten role against Italy, pushing Rooney out wide, and gave the Italian defenders a nightmare. His pace and energy matched by his close control and ability to find a killer pass caused havoc for Cesare Prandelli’s side and never gave them a moment to settle.
The Three Lions were effectively out after two games. Despite the good performance against Italy Roy Hodgson’s men lost 2-1 and against Uruguay an apparently not fully fit Luis Suarez scored a brace in a defeat of the same scoreline. England now have the Euro’s to look forward to. The 1966 World champions will undoubtedly qualify for the tournament, having been drawn against Switzerland, Estonia, Lithuania, Slovenia and San Marino in the qualifying group.
The country of the best league in the world, the Premier League, definitely has quality. So let’s see, barring injuries and in my opinion, what Hodgson’s strongest XI is;
Goalkeeper – Well Joe Hart has his critics, for example he was beaten far too easily in his club’s defeat to Stoke City by Mame Diouf, but Hart no doubt has talent and, for now at least, the Manchester City man remains the countries best keeper and deserves his number one status.
Right back – A tricky one for England, this. Glen Johnson is past his best, Kyle Walker add’s nothing but pace and despite Phil Jones and Chris Smalling being able to play there, you would not really want them to. John Stones had a great season at Everton last year, albeit playing centre back, and his natural position is right back. The 20 year old shows maturity beyond his years and the occasion does not phase him.
Centre back – Well Gary Cahill is the obvious starter, so it is just a question of who partners the Chelsea man. Phil Jagielka is good but his lack of European experience sometimes shows and he is uncomfortable with the ball at his feet. Having said that, he is a much better option than Manchester United duo Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, so the Everton skipper gets the nod.
Left back – Luke Shaw, wrongly, if you ask me, kept Ashley Cole out of the World Cup squad but now has to get past Leighton Baines in the pecking order. The 18 year old’s final ball is not as good as Baines’, nor is his ability from a dead ball. So for now, Baines can offer England more than Luke Shaw can.
Defensive midfielder – Jordan Henderson is a must start after his superb season at Liverpool last year but the question is, who partners the 24 year old? Jack Wilshere is a liability with his injuries, James Milner can play there but has not had much first team football, and Aston Villa man Fabian Delph is unproven in an England shirt. Alex Oxlade Chamberlain could be an option, I remember watching him for Arsenal in this position against Bayern Munich and he was dictating the game, venturing forward at will and giving Guardiola’s defence some real problems.
Number ten role – Sterling or Rooney? Rooney’s favoured position is in the hole, whereas Sterling is comfortable out wide but has put in some astounding performances as the number ten. Not an easy decision, throw in Ross Barkley and it is even tougher as all three are fantastic footballers. Hodgson is spoilt for choice on this one, but I would go with the England captain.
Left wing – Given that I have just put Rooney in the number ten role, there is only one option for the left wing, Sterling. The former QPR man offers pace, endless energy, a direct approach and a good final ball from out wide. Welbeck is a good back up option.
Right wing – Theo Walcott. The Arsenal man not only offers just as much pace as Sterling, he is also a goal threat. Vying to play as a striker for his club, Walcott improved no end on his finishing and now has goalscoring to his game. Currently out through injury, I believe when he is fit, Walcott can offer England so much. Adam Lallana is a good alternative.
Striker – Only one option, Daniel Sturridge. Another Liverpool man in the England side, Sturridge could not stop scoring goals all last season, scoring 21 in the league and finishing second only to Luis Suarez. The former Chelsea man will give England pace, trickery and, most importantly, goals. Rickie Lambert is the other striker option.
Do you feel that with their strongest eleven players on the pitch, England can challenge the world’s best at major tournaments? Let us know in the comments or on twitter @TBRFootball .
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