Coral experts choose England’s starting XI
Although Roy Hodgson is renowned for his pragmatism, it could well be time to take a risk at the World Cup. He has already said taking Luke Shaw ahead of Ashley Cole is a gamble, so it proves he has it in his make-up. With a strong Liverpool contingent, there is an obvious system that he should apply. Replicating Brendan Rodgers’ 4-3-3, he has a readymade replacement for Luis Suarez in Wayne Rooney, and Adam Lallana stepping into Joe Allen’s shoes.
Joe Hart (1-20)
The Manchester City custodian is perhaps the most obvious choice out of the starting XI; and literally the first name on the team sheet. Hart has had a consistent second half of the season and kept his club in the title hunt with a string of world class saves. After being dropped by club boss Manuel Pellegrini earlier in the campaign for lapses in concentration and silly mistakes, he is gradually becoming one of the best again.
Glen Johnson (1-5)
Another natural choice, the Liverpool player knows the position inside out. He cemented his place at the last World Cup, under Fabio Capello and has 50 caps to his name. Better known for his attacking prowess, he has pace to burn and his ability with both feet makes him unpredictable when running at opponents. Throughout his career he has scored 16 goals domestically, and one for England, nevertheless, he does have an eye for the spectacular; mainly cutting inside on his left foot and pulling the trigger. If Hodgson adopts an attacking style, he could cause teams problems.
Leighton Baines (1-8)
Although not as good as an all-round left back as Luke Shaw; Baines is a set piece specialist whose left foot could provide England with a wily weapon from free kicks. He has 32 goals in his club career and, like Johnson on the other side, attacks with purpose.
Right Centre Back
Phil Jagielka (1-8)
Everton centre half Jagielka has established himself as a mainstay in the centre of England’s defence, since Rio Ferdinand and John Terry stepped down. Efficient and practical, he reads the play well and has become accustomed to marking some of the best attackers in the world out of the game for the Toffees.
Left Centre Back
Gary Cahil (1-20)
Possibly the nearest to John Terry, in terms of his fearless style and aerial ability, Cahil has also had the advantage of playing next to the former Three Lions captain for Chelsea. Although like Jagielka he usually plays on the right side, he will have observed Terry time and again delivering a master class on the left. Also handy with the ball at his feet, he can chip in with a goal.
Steven Gerrard (1-8)
Under Brendan Rodgers, Gerrard’s role has evolved. His range of passing, and ability to read the game and time a tackle has seen him positioned just in front of the back four, in what has become known as the ‘Pirlo role’. Ironically England face Italy in their first fixture, and it will be an interesting battle of wits between the two. Gerrard will essentially be the heartbeat of the team; everything will go through him, and having the experience of Frank Lampard on the bench isn’t a bad second option. Much more than just another player, Gerrard is a born leader and as captain all eyes will be on him.
Centre Midfield (Right Side)
Jordan Henderson (8-11)
The engine room; Rodgers’ tutelage has transformed Henderson into one of the best all-round midfielders with potential in the world. Although not quite there yet, he is improving with every game. He can do just about everything; pass, tackle, anticipate, shoot, score, and more importantly acts as the catalyst between defence and attack. Football is all about on-field partnerships, and the one he has established with Gerrard at Liverpool will provide England with the foundation to flourish. Ross Barkley is another who could fill the role, and will get a chance to show what he can do in the friendlies against Peru, Honduras and Ecuador.
Centre Midfield (Left Side)
Adam Lallana (4-5)
Slightly more advanced than Henderson, Lallana will provide the creative edge. Although this could go to a number of contenders, there will be question marks over Jack Wilshere’s fitness, and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain is conceivably slightly less refined. The Southampton midfielder, oozes class and footballing sophistication, and has nine goals to his name for the Saints this season.
Attacker (Right Side)
Raheem Sterling (8-11)
This player has burst onto the scene this season, and manager Rodgers has been patient. In the latter half of the campaign certainly, Sterling has started to live up to his name and his blistering pace can scare opponents. For Liverpool he has been utilised on the right side of an attacking trio with the flexibility to drift wide, or cut in. His blossoming relationship with Daniel Sturridge, and also the connection to Johnson on the right could prove vital for Hodgson.
Attacker (Left Side)
Wayne Rooney (1-20)
Like Hart and Gerrard, Rooney for Hodgson is a guaranteed name on the team sheet. The player’s England record at major tournaments has been widely criticised. However, one thing we have learned about Rooney is that he likes the freedom to basically do what he wants on the pitch. Hodgson doesn’t need to control, but unleash him. If afforded autonomy, the player could have his best tournament in an England shirt.
Daniel Sturridge (1-10)
Making up an impressive Liverpool contingent, it shows just what a fantastic job is being done with English talent on Merseyside. Sturridge has become one of the best strikers in the Premier League, and like colleague Sterling, he has pace. Having enjoyed his best season to date with 21 goals and 24 in all competitions, the striker is perfectly primed to take the global stage by storm.
Joe Hart; Glen Johnson, Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka, Gary Cahil; Steven Gerrard (C), Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana; Raheem Sterling, Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge