THE countdown to Brazil starts in earnest tomorrow when Peru come to Wembley and Roy Hodgson will give us a pretty clear idea of the team he hopes will kick off England’s World Cup campaign on June 14.
I reckon Roy knows the names of nine of the 11 players he intends to select against Italy. They will be goalkeeper Joe Hart, the back four of Glen Johnson, Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines, captain Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney – those seven pick themselves – plus Adam Lallana and Jack Wilshere…provided he is fit!
I said at the start of the season that Arsenal’s Wilshere was one of the few potentially world class players we have, but that his injury record is a big worry. Sure enough, Wilshere spent long spells on the sidelines during the campaign, the positive note being that he should be fresher than most players. I believe that Southampton’s Lallana has forced himself into contention for a starting role as a player who can go past opponents, make goals and score them.
It will be interesting to see who Roy selects to partner Rooney up front. Liverpool star Daniel Sturridge, the top-scoring Englishman in the Premier League last season, is clear favourite, but Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck, though not a prolific scorer, gives the team height, strength and athleticism and is the one forward who can be relied upon to win headers.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jordan Henderson partner his Liverpool club-mate Gerrard in midfield, for the two know each other’s game so well. Raheem Sterling has that advantage, too.