England: Picking the side to face Italy 0

Okay, so here we are now - England go deep into the Brazilian jungle in search of three World Cup points, and face the side who ended their participation in the last international tournament.

Here’s a preferred side, with justifications below:

Injured: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Injured: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

- Rather fortuitously, this is both the side I would pick and the one I expect to see later.  Nice and neat.

- There are no contentious areas in the defence, because that back-five is basically indisputable - which is an amazing thing to say when Glen Johnson is part of it.

- Steven Gerrard captains the side, and plays the deeper, distributing role he’s transitioned into at Liverpool.

- Jordan Henderson provides some discipline alongside and gives that part of the side a metronomic quality.  Henderson is not exceptional at anything, but he’s capable at everything.  Good enough with the ball at his feet, reliable without it, and he possesses a discipline that someone like Jack Wilshere doesn’t.  England need to be organised this evening, and that’s good news for Henderson - think of him not as an individual asset, but as a sacrifice made for the sake of a stronger structure.

- Wayne Rooney is vulnerable at the moment, but nobody has done enough to displace him.  He starts, and lets hope that finally, finally the rest of the world gets to see why we fawn over him.

- Raheem Sterling and Danny Welbeck provide a nice range at wide-forward.  Both move very well off the ball, both theoretically possess a goal-threat, and Welbeck in particular will be an essential part whatever pressing work England do in the Italian half.  Big Adam Lallana fan though I am, he just hasn’t yet converted his club form to England level.  Whether that’s a mental problem for him, or whether it’s because the system doesn’t suit his style I don’t know, but either way he’s not doing enough to warrant a start.

- Daniel Sturridge starts, but he’s on a short-leash. We’ve seen how good he can be, but beyond the flicks and the scintillating pace, he must also become reliable at taking chances for England.  He can bend twenty-five yarders into the top-corner and he can chip the keeper from the edge of the box, but can he finish that header from five yards out?  Can he put away that side-foot from inside the box? He’s a wonderfully flamboyant player, but he must become as economic for his country as he is for his club - Italy are not going to cough-up a lot of chances for England this evening, so we must take what we’re given.

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