Should England fans be confident heading into the 2014 World Cup?

September 13, 2012 11:08 pm

2014 Europe Draw

England’s 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign has begun. Confidence is quite rightly high for this campaign, but should it be for the actual tournament in two years time?

The extremely experienced Roy Hodgson is the current boss and he has his work cut out to attempt to bring some success to the expecting public. The tools he has to work with fall short in comparison to World Cup rivals like Spain and Brazil. That being said, the squad as a whole looks very capable of reaching at least the quarter-finals. It is a well balanced team featuring both players at the start of their career such as the exciting Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and players nearing the end, like the ever reliable Frank Lampard. The fact that the youngsters are being given a chance, provides some hope for the future of the England team. In order to analyse the team that has recently been called up for the qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine, I shall dissect the four areas of the team, looking at which players I think are good enough for the road to Brazil.

Goalkeepers –¬† The automatic first choice goalkeeper nowadays is Manchester City’s Joe Hart. He has received plaudits from all across the media claiming how he is so outstanding between the sticks; I don’t quite share this opinion. Although obviously a talented keeper, Hart only broke into City’s first team at the beginning of the 2009/10 season. Despite this and his lack of experience, the man himself is well documented to have great confidence, at times bordering on arrogance. I feel that he should tone this down so as to avoid any costly errors. He will surely play most games in qualifying and the actual tournament, mostly because no one else is really challenging him for that number one jersey. I have no doubt that he will pull off some superb saves, however, I am unsure whether he can sustain this throughout another major tournament. The other goalkeepers called up are Jack Butland and John Ruddy, both of whom are good, but not ready to start for England in a tournament like the World Cup. They may get their chance in the future, but as for now, Joe Hart is the way to go.

Defenders – In my opinion, England’s strongest area on the pitch. My preferred back four from Hodgson’s latest squad would consist of Ashley Cole, John Terry, Gary Cahill and Kyle Walker. I believe that this would provide a very solid defensive line due to three of them playing together at Chelsea. This also allows for quality back-ups for each position with the likes of Glen Johnson, Joleon Lescott and Leighton Baines who are all of very good standard and would get into most international sides. Due to varying reasons, three promising defenders are not in the squad. Manchester United’s Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are both players to look out for in the upcoming years and Micah Richards is an able replacement for the right-back position. Having these three absent does not help, but the strength in depth at the back means that they are barely even mentioned.

Midfielders – England’s midfield is mixed and is probably the hardest position to predict. The captain Steven Gerrard is all but guaranteed a starting place in the midfield, but the others are three or two of many (depending on formation). I personally would pair either the returning Michael Carrick or the currently injured Scott Parker, with Gerrard in the centre, providing a 4-4-2 style is adopted. Lampard, Milner, Barry and even Oxlade-Chamberlain are all viable options to come in if a central three is required. The wings are somewhat of a problematic area for Roy Hodgson with players such as Theo Walcott and Adam Johnson not assured of starting most games for the clubs. The previously mentioned Milner and Oxlade-Chamberlain can also play out on the wings and have done in the past, plus the injured Ashley Young isn’t far off returning. This means that although the England national team has a number of options, none of them really stand out as world class wide men.

Strikers – Without the injured Wayne Rooney, the four strikers called up to the team are Danny Welbeck, Andy Carroll, Daniel Sturridge and Jermain Defoe. Carroll is now also injured, leaving three forwards none of which are first team regulars at their clubs. Jermain Defoe is a proven goal scorer and, for me, he has to start up front. Defoe may lack lightning pace but his eye for goal more than makes up for that. He can play on his own or with a partner, who most likely will be Danny Welbeck. His goal scoring ability combined with his movement will help to compliment Welbeck’s strengths which include his height and speed. Welbeck is very inexperienced, but he is always learning and has made amazing strides forward in recent seasons. This partnership could prove very potent during the time which both Carroll and Rooney are on the sidelines. Of course when everyone is back fit, I would play Rooney in place of his Manchester United team mate Welbeck as I think he offers a higher tracking back rate aswell as a being more of a goal threat. Despite not producing his best form of the international stage, I consider Rooney to be too important to drop from a World Cup squad, especially if the only replacements are Carroll, Welbeck or Sturridge. He offers more to the overall team than the others and can also comfortably drop back into the midfield if needed.

Overall I can see Roy Hodgson’s men being a team to look out for. I’m not saying that the 2014 World Cup is theirs, as I think there are much better teams in the competition like Spain, Germany and Brazil. However, if all the main players can stay fit and Hodgson can get his tactics correct, that confidence heading through this qualifying campaign may be justified in the main tournament, as I believe that the quarter-finals is the earliest we will exit the 2014 World Cup.

Stephen Rowlinson

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