The England national team has consistently disappointed on the biggest stages.
With only a single World Cup title to boast of, and having not entered the semi-finals of any major tournament since the World Cup in 1990, the Three Lions have been one of the most under-performing teams in recent history. And as they look to reverse the trend next year in Brazil, here’s a look at what could work as their best line-up.
In goal, Manchester City’s Joe Hart has been in imperious form over the last two years, and England should feel reasonable safe in this area.
However, defence has been a headache for coach Roy Hodgson, with England unable to find a central defence partnership that works. With Hodgson having tried various combinations using Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka, Chris Smalling and Joleon Lescott at the back, none of these combinations have particularly impressed.
Of these, Gary Cahill has been the most consistent, and should maintain his place in the team. But to find his partner is a tricky proposition. Even though Cahill has performed well with Lescott in the past, the duo looked well out of their depth in recent performances.
In this scenario, Hodgson should try out either the hugely impressive Phil Jones or Tottenham’s massively under-rated captain Michael Dawson to partner Cahill in the centre.
In the left of defence, no team in the world is stronger than the Three Lions with Hodgson having the luxury of choosing between Leighton Baines and Ashley Cole who are among the best left backs in the world today.
However, the team might be better served starting both these stalwarts together, with Baines playing in front of Cole as a left-winger. Baines has consistently shown that he can attack well, and England should try to extract the best out of two exceptional players.
On the right hand side of defence Glen Johnson has consistently performed well and should find his place to be in no jeopardy, even with the emergence of young players such as Kyle Walker and Carl Jenkinson.
In midfield, Steven Gerrard and Michael Carrick are virtually assured to start. But the question lies as to who is best equipped to assist them, and as to which formation should England choose to obtain maximum results.
A central midfield consisting of only Gerrard and Carrick might find itself crowded out by an opposition that plays three players in the centre. The ideal solution to this problem would be to shelf Hodgson’s preferred 4-4-2 formation in favour of a more stable 4-5-1 with Jack Wilshere coming into the team. Wilshere, being a classical schemer, would also provide an extra dimension to the England attack, with neither Gerrard nor Carrick being exceptionally adept at picking out the game-changing pass.
However, in the event that Hodgson chooses to continue with a system that has two strikers, a player of the mould of Danny Welbeck or Daniel Sturridge – both tireless runners – should be used so as to provide more support to the midfield two.
On the right wing, England again have a wealth of options with Theo Walcott, James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all being in contention to start. However, over the past season Walcott has been the most impressive and deserves to start above the other two. Walcott also provides a greater goal-scoring threat than Milner or Chamberlain.
On the left wing, the Three Lions would arguably be best served by playing current left back competitor Leighton Baines, especially with the Everton man being the best crosser of the ball that England have at their disposal.
If the rarely adventurous Hodgson sticks to conventional wingers, then England could choose between Chamberlain, Sturridge, Welbeck or Manchester United newboy Wilfried Zaha. At the moment though, Arsenal’s Chamberlain looks to be the best equipped to play at left wing.
At the front of the pitch, there is no competition for Wayne Rooney, with the Manchester United man being England’s best forward for quite some time. Alternate options are Andy Carroll, Jermain Defoe, Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge – but none of these players are good enough to provide any serious competition to Rooney.
So, the best XI for England next year in Brazil would be:
Phil Jones/Michael Dawson
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