England start their World Cup 2014 campaign tonight against Italy. For once we have an exciting young team, rather than the usual suspects. Hodgson has already been brave, dropping the likes of Ashley Cole and bringing exciting, attacking players like Sterling and Barkley into the squad.
In last season’s Premier League, two teams stood out for their use of young English players and their fresh, attacking style – Liverpool and Southampton. Hodgson should try to harness these positives.
He must show faith in the new generation and pick an attacking, athletic team to take on the older, slower Italians in the heat and humidity of the Amazon.
The team I’d play is shown above. Some key points for England are:
- The fullbacks must get forward and provide width, Baines in particular. He is a potent attacking weapon.
- Johnson is the weak link in the team. England must hope he doesn’t get exposed.
- We must press high up the pitch and not give the Italians time and space, especially Pirlo. The Juventus playmaker directs Italy’s play from deep but he is 35 and may struggle in the humidity in Manaus.
- Gerrard must retain his tactical discipline. Too often in England games he drifts and starts playing hopeful long balls or taking on ambitious shots. He will be key and must stay patient.
- Rooney could be a vital player but if he is out of sorts, as so often at major tournaments, Hodgson should not be afraid to bring on Barkley in his place.
- Sterling must play. His pace and youthful confidence may provide the extra ingredient England often lack.
- Henderson will provide energy in the centre, complementing Gerrard. He will need to shield the defence, especially when Baines gets forward.
Last night Holland showed the merits of taking the initiative against favoured opposition, rather than sitting back. If England play to their strengths and get a bit of luck, they could get a result which would be key to progression from the group.
Do you think this is the best England lineup to face Italy? Should Welbeck play instead of Sterling? Are you expecting an English victory? Please let us know your opinion in the comments section below.