The time is almost upon us, the World Cup is almost here and the question on everyone's lips in England is, "Who will Roy Hodgson be taking?
Let's explore his defensive options, first of all...
Hodgson has an array of second-string 'keepers to take with Joe Hart the obvious choice as his number one. The main contenders for the second and third places are John Ruddy, Fraser Forster, Ben Foster and Jack Butland also has an outside chance.
Personally, I would like to see Foster and Butland travel. The former is the 'best of the rest' and I can't see the harm in giving a young 'keeper some experience of a big tournament.
However, I'm convinced that Hodgson will be taking Foster and Forster. I think Forster will make the cut because although Ruddy may be the slightly better 'keeper - which in itself is debatable - Forster has been part of a championship-winning Celtic side, unlike Ruddy who is part of a crumbling Norwich team. Also, Forster has experienced some huge games in the past couple of seasons so his experience could prove vital.
I think most people would agree that the back four pretty much picks itself with Glen Johnson at right-back, Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka in the middle with Leighton Baines at left-back.
However, the back-up for the defence is not so easily chosen. The left-back position belonged to Ashley Cole for so many years, but in recent times Baines has taken the spot and so it's questionable whether there is any point in taking Cole instead of blooding a youngster such as the talented Luke Shaw.
Some would argue whether Shaw would be able to cope with Italy or Uruguay should Baines get injured, suggesting that Cole's experience would be invaluable. However, there are two main reasons for taking Shaw instead of Cole.
Firstly, England's chances of winning the World Cup are slim at best, so why not blood a youngster, give him some big game experience? Secondly, Shaw is an absolutely class player who is bound to be England's left-back in the near future so why not let him settle into the squad?
The next issue is the centre backs and the right-back which fall into a similar category. This is because with Johnson, Cahill and Jageilka almost certainties for a seat on the plane, some would say it leaves space for three more defenders - however I would only take two others.
The reason being that England possess a very versatile player in Phil Jones who can play centre-back, right-back and even central-midfield (although I wouldn't risk him there).
Jones' presence therefore defeats the need to have both him and Kyle Walker. The other centre-back position would be between Chris Smalling, John Stones and Joleon Lescott.
Smalling may possess the same versatility as Jones, however he is the least talented of the three. Stones offers the same as Shaw in the sense that he is a class player both with and without the ball and looks like a future England star.
Lescott may be the more experienced player, however he hasn't played much football all season and also lacks the technical and defensive ability to cut it for the Engaland side.
So in conclusion, my defensive choices for England would be:
Hart, Foster, Forster
Shaw, Baines, Cahill, Jagielka, Stones, Jones, Johnson.
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