England v Germany: Joe Hart and Ashley Cole return to fray for Three Lions
Roy Hodgson goes back to the future in defence as England aim to avoid back-to-back defeats at home for the first time since 1977 when they face Germany on Tuesday
After Friday night's chastening defeat by Chile, Roy Hodgson will reach for Plan A when Germany arrive at Wembley on Tuesday night to conduct another searching examination of England's World Cup credentials.
Steven Gerrard, Phil Jagielka and Andros Townsend are expected to return to the starting line-up along with Daniel Sturridge, if fit, and two long-term regulars whose places have been questioned: Ashley Cole and Joe Hart.
The England manager confirmed that Hart and Cole will start as England seek to avoid back-to-back defeats over 90 minutes for the first time since June 1993, when the end of Graham Taylor's time as manager was hastened by losses in Norway and the US, and the first such brace at home since the dog days of Don Revie 36 years ago. Then, a first Wembley loss to Wales was followed four days later by the infamous pitch invasion in which celebrating Scottish fans pulled down the crossbars. The double humiliation spelled the end for Revie, who began negotiating his exile to the desert.
While a home defeat would be annoying for Hodgson, who resents losing any match, even an experimental friendly such as Friday's, it would not have the ramifications of 1993 and 1977. Regardless of the Chile result, which exposed once more the comparative fragility of English players' technique under pressure, there remains a sense that England are progressing.
How far they still have to go will be clearer after Tuesday. England's previous encounter with Germany was the 4-1 drubbing in Bloemfontein, when Fabio Capello's team were made to look rigid in limb and formation. England will start with as many as six of the players who began that World Cup tie: Cole, Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, Glen Johnson and, possibly, James Milner and Frank Lampard. Hodgson will aim, though, for more energy and pace in the team than in South Africa.
"We'll have a lot of fresh legs coming in, which will be good," he said. "We're aware they have a very dynamic midfield and we're going to have to be dynamic ourselves to keep them at bay. They'll ask big questions of us defensively."
Which means it may be a busy night for the returning Hart, who will not have been overly concerned after watching Fraser Forster's debut but knows Ben Foster, whom Hodgson managed at West Bromwich Albion and persuaded out of international retirement, is returning to fitness. Hart, said Hodgson, knows the focus will be on him: "When you put that England shirt on, whether it be a white shirt or a goalkeeper's jersey, it is a tough mental test, but Joe understands that and is ready for that. All I can do is give him the shirt and the chance to go out and play. Afterwards he's going to have to face whatever he faces.
"If he plays well and keeps a clean sheet and helps us to win the game then I'm sure people are going to be saying some very good things about him. But if he doesn't, and lets a couple of easy goals in, he's going to have to accept that there'll be criticism."
Hodgson added that he had not taken Hart aside for a quiet word, nor would he. "Joe Hart's an experienced goalkeeper. He understands the way of the world."
As does Hodgson, not least the habit that injuries have of interfering with a manager's plans. Thus he made it clear nothing could be read into the selection of Cole ahead of Leighton Baines for Tuesday.
"They're good players," he said, "I'm happy with both of them. There may come a time in the future, as we play our first game in Brazil, when they're both fit and both anxious to play and I need to choose between them. But that is not the case now. I'll push back the decision until I really have to [make it]."
Similarly he has no concerns, at present, over Jack Wilshere's lack of match sharpness. The Arsenal midfielder feels short of matches and the consequence showed at times on Friday, but Hodgson was happy enough with his performance in the circumstances. He needs a fit Wilshere. There are few English midfielders who generate a sense of possibilities the way Wilshere does when he breaks forward.
Germany drew 1-1 against Italy on Friday, dominating much of the game despite having Bastien Schweinsteiger and Per Mertesacker absent, Mesut Özil, Marco Reus, and the brothers Lars and Sven Bender starting on the bench, and Julian Draxler staying on it.
They operated without a conventional central striker, preferring movement around Thomas Müller, which suggests another difficult evening for Gary Cahill. The centre-half followed a poor game for Chelsea with a bad one for England, and will need his established partnership with Phil Jagielka to be far more secure than was the nascent one with Phil Jones. The latter will miss Tuesday through injury. As with Jagielka and Cole on Friday, this may prove a blessing in disguise.
Özil rested as Germany rotate
Germany's manager, Joachim Löw, will rest Mesut Özil, Philip Lahm and Manuel Neuer for Tuesday's friendly. The Borussia Dortmund trio of Marco Reus, Roman Weidenfeller and Marcel Schmelzer are expected to step into the starting XI. One of the Bender brothers, Lars or Sven, is likely to replace Sami Khedira, who tore the cruciate ligament in his right knee in Friday night's 1-1 draw with Italy in Milan. The Real Madrid midfielder is thought unlikely to recover in time for next summer's World Cup in Brazil.
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