World Cup 2014: Danny Welbeck at centre of Roy Hodgson’s plan to deal with Italy

The England manager is a huge fan of the Manchester United striker

England’s Danny Welbeck is at the centre of a tailored game-plan for his side’s World Cup opener against Italy which has been under preparation for weeks and which places him ahead of Raheem Sterling in Roy Hodgson’s scheme to deal with Cesare Prandelli’s team.

Hodgson is a huge Welbeck fan and decided weeks ago on a specific tactical plan for him – based on the fact that he is far more capable of winning possession of the ball than Sterling. The England manager also knows that Welbeck  has enough pace to damage Italy on the counter-attack. Though Sterling’s greater ingenuity and unpredictable style of play could make him a more significant player as Group D progresses, a subtly different emphasis against Italy – the game which could dictate England’s fate for the rest of the tournament – means the Manchester United player is the more important cog tomorrow.

Hodgson, who believes that the match against Italy is “Welbeck’s game”, was dealt a huge boost yesterday afternoon when the 23-year-old shrugged off fitness doubts to train with the squad in  a gymnasium session. He had missed Wednesday’s training session with the tight hamstring which saw him limp off from England’s Rio training pitch on Tuesday. Hodgson’s desire is for the United forward to start on the left but come inside to put pressure on Daniele De Rossi – and ideally take the ball off him, stifling a key supply line for the Italians.

It had been initially thought Welbeck’s job would be to thwart the passing capability of Andrea Pirlo. But Pirlo may be used in a more advanced role by Prandelli, with De Rossi operating in the deeper, more defensive position. “We are trying new solutions,” Pirlo said.

In the fluid game which tomorrow’s fixture may turn out to be, Welbeck could also be asked to quell Pirlo’s ability to thread dangerous passes, too. But if Pirlo is operating further forward it will be Jordan Henderson who picks him up . The Liverpool midfielder is likely to sit in a deep position alongside captain Steven Gerrard in a central midfield two, poised to deter Pirlo if he is playing in a more advanced role. Gerrard has told Hodgson about the energy levels which enable his Liverpool team-mate Henderson to work in both boxes.

Read more: Rooney focuses on enjoying himself
Manaus groundsman admits ground is in bad shape'
Messi duped by Ronaldino lookalike

Some will view Welbeck as a less attractive option for another journey of discovery for the England team. But Hodgson’s confidence that Welbeck can achieve the task set for him is based on the manager’s deep appreciation of his work ethic. Some of the England coaching staff actually feel that Welbeck is better as a wide player than he is an out-and-out front-man.

If  Welbeck stays fit, it would appear Adam Lallana and Welbeck will operate wide of Henderson and Gerrard, while Wayne Rooney will play behind Daniel Sturridge. Sterling has impressed Hodgson and it is possible he will start in the Amazon tomorrow, too. But that is more likely to be at the expense of Lallana.

Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
News
UK Border Control
i100
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn