World Cup 2014: Roy Hodgson’s choice

The England manager will on Monday announce his 23-man squad for the upcoming World Cup finals in Brazil, and with injury and fitness worries he has some difficult decisions to make. Glenn Moore looks at the options and picks his squad

It is when the standby list is considered, to take Roy Hodgson’s World Cup squad up to 30, that reality hits: Michael Dawson or Steven Caulker? John Flanagan or Nathaniel Clyne? Ashley Young or Wilfried Zaha? With respect to all these players, when Lucas Moura, Philippe Coutinho, Lucas Leiva, Robinho and Kaka cannot even make the cut for Brazil’s provisional 30-man squad, and Germany’s Joachim Löw has omitted Mario Gomez from his 30, England’s dearth of talent is laid bare. No wonder Roy Hodgson threw his weight behind Greg Dyke’s proposals this week. 

But Dyke’s reforms are for the future, Hodgson has to deal with the here and now. The England manager names his 23-man World Cup squad at Luton tomorrow in the unlikely setting of the Vauxhall car works, which about as far from the popular images of Brazil as can be imagined. His options have already been reduced by the loss, though injury, of Andros Townsend, Theo Walcott and Jay Rodriguez. The fitness of Kyle Walker, Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Phil Jones is also uncertain.

The doubts over that quartet make one wonder why Hodgson does not, like Löw and Luiz Felipe Scolari, name 30 names tomorrow, which is all Fifa require at this stage, rather than identifying who is in the 23, and who is on stand-by. The answer probably lies in the experience of Glenn Hoddle at La Manga in 1998. Paul Gascoigne’s trashing of Hoddle’s hotel suite, while Kenny G played in the background, is etched in the litany of England’s World Cup mishaps. Less publicised, but no less painful, were the tears of Phil Neville when he, too, was told in Spain he had not made the cut.

Out of control: When Paul Gascoigne was told he had not made the final 23 in 1998, he trashed a hotel room Out of control: When Paul Gascoigne was told he had not made the final 23 in 1998, he trashed a hotel room Hodgson does not want players adding tension to the training camps in Portugal and Miami while they fret over who is in, and who is out. If a player gets called into the 23 through injury will he perform worse because he knows he is a replacement?

The odds on a call-up are short – for Euro 2012 Phil Jagielka and Jordan Henderson both came in from stand-by. Jagielka did not play while Henderson made two substitute appearances – but in the 2002 World Cup Trevor Sinclair was a late replacement, and ended up being one of England’s best players, so there is no reason to think a player will be unable to give of his best if he was originally on stand-by. Who, though, will be in Hodgson’s original 23?

Glenn Moore's possible England squad Glenn Moore's possible England squad GOALKEEPERS

Every squad must include three goalkeepers (Fifa have closed a loophole by which coach could pick an outfield player and designate him as a goalkeeper). Joe Hart’s first team place is secure while Hodgson is a fan of Ben Foster, who played under him at West Bromwich Albion, and worked with England goalkeeping coach Dave Watson at Birmingham.

So, too, has John Ruddy, at Norwich, but Fraser Forster is younger and, through Celtic’s Champions League campaigns, has more experience of big games.

DEFENDERS

Hodgson’s big decision here is whether to take Luke Shaw or Ashley Cole as back-up to Leighton Baines. Logically he should take neither. Managers take too many defenders to tournaments. Martin Keown went to the 1998 and 2002 World Cups without kicking a ball, Viv Anderson to 1982 and 1986 finals, plus Euro 88, without doing so. At Euro 2012 an entire back four – Martin Kelly, Baines, Phil Jones and Jagielka – spent the tournament on the bench. This is primarily because substitutions tend to involve attacking players. Coaches do not like disrupting a back four and back-up defenders tend to play only if there is an injury.

The logical choice would thus be to take three full-backs one of whom can play on either flank. That would be Baines, Glen Johnson (who can play on the left) and Walker. But Walker’s pelvic injury means he has not played since March and is still not in training so Johnson is likely to be needed on the right. If the spare left-back is there only on stand-by it should be Shaw, to give him experience, but Hodgson has been talking of rotating players because of the climate and in the modern game full-back is a physically demanding position. On that basis it would make sense to take Cole, who has the experience and has proven his sharpness in recent weeks. If Walker is out, which seems increasingly likely, Hodgson should take only seven defenders as Jones and Chris Smalling both offer right-back cover.

MIDFIELDERS

Steven Gerrard and Adam Lallana go, as does Wilshere if fit. Hodgson likes James Milner’s versatility and reliability while Frank Lampard has experience, has shown he can adapt his game, and seems to have adjusted to being in the chorus line rather than centre stage. That wins him a place over Michael Carrick who, like Tom Cleverley, pays for Manchester United’s poor season. The rest depends on how Hodgson intends  to play. In a 4-2-3-1 formation, with width from the trio, it is hard to see  a place for Jordan Henderson. In a 4-3-3, the shape he used in the last friendly against Denmark, Henderson is one of the two driving midfielders. But Oxlade-Chamberlain can play either role and Ross Barkley is more explosive off the bench.

FORWARDS

If managers take too many defenders they rarely take enough forwards, notoriously so in 2006 when Sven Goran Eriksson picked four: Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen – neither of whom was fit – uncapped teenager Theo Walcott, and Peter Crouch. Hodgson should take at least five. Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge go. Rickie Lambert gets the nod over Andy Carroll and Raheem Sterling over Aaron Lennon.

AND FINALLY...

We are left with one more question. Jermaine Defoe, who might snatch a goal as sub; Henderson, who has been in fine form but whose qualities seem duplicated elsewhere; or another defender? The bold choice is Defoe, but with doubts over the fitness of Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain Hodgson is likely to go for Henderson.

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