Analysis: At end of mixed year what are the key issues for England manager Roy Hodgson ahead of the World Cup?

Despite Wembley's boos, England manager's Brazil squad probably only requires tinkering with

Now begins the long winter of contemplation for Roy Hodgson. He watches and he waits, and he waits. Then, as the country starts to thaw in March, he can assemble his last squad before he has to decide on the 23 players he will take to Brazil. The kind of choices that will present themselves then will inevitably be different to those which he has faced in the last two weeks.

At Wembley on Tuesday night, in the aftermath of Germany's victory, Joachim Löw reflected on another splendid year for Die Nationalmannschaft. "We started off by beating France on their own patch and we have ended it by winning at Wembley," he said. Of course, the expectations in Brazil for Löw, who has reached a final and two semi-finals in his last three tournaments, are much higher than for Hodgson but, at that point, they felt a long way apart.

Hodgson was asked if he felt the euphoria that followed qualification had dissipated because of the defeats to Chile and Germany. "That is the risk, I suppose," he said. "That is what defeats do to you. But I think that would be a disappointing attitude, I would rather like to think that what we did in qualifying, especially in the latter qualifying games, still gives us some credit and is a reason for optimism."

Even two months ago, that question would have precipitated a spikier response from Hodgson, who refused to yield an inch to even the highest-profile critics such as Gary Lineker. He would have pointed out in mild disbelief that the point of the exercise was giving chances to new or unproven players –which he has done over the last two games. But he has learnt quickly about the mentality of the England bubble and the Wembley crowd in particular.

"In these two games I deliberately risked and decided against going with what I think is our best XI at the moment," he said. "I decided I want to see players, give them a chance and decided to learn from the two games. I would have loved to have learnt from the two games by going away with a result. Unfortunately, I've had to learn from the defeats."

His England team started the year by beating Brazil at Wembley for the first time since 1990. They ended it with two defeats. Hodgson might well consider that, given he has qualified for the World Cup finals, he was due a bit of slack from those who booed his team off twice this month. But whether it is a lack of patience with the players or him or both, the fans seem unwilling to grant him it. His warning on Tuesday night was that he cannot – he will not – be making sweeping changes.

"I don't expect to be watching games and suddenly find players I have never really thought of before jump out at me and prove to be a lot better [than the existing squad]. We are going to have to work very hard with the ones we have had with us here, add the six or seven who weren't available [this month] and hope that between that 30 or so players we can produce a team that can give a good account of themselves at the World Cup."

Hodgson knows that, injuries aside, his World Cup squad is unlikely to feature many surprises.

Goalkeepers

It was a good performance from Joe Hart against Germany, and one that he needed. He was not at fault for Per Mertesacker's goal and he made good saves in both halves. Hart is England's best goalkeeper by a distance and Hodgson's faith in him over the past few weeks has been vindicated. The question is how much he will play for Manchester City between now and the friendly against Denmark on 5 March.

Beyond the injured Ben Foster, John Ruddy and Fraser Forster, choice is limited for Hodgson. Jack Butland and Jonathan Bond, the Under-21s goalkeepers, are playing outside the Premier League. Bond has not even featured yet this season for Watford.

Defenders

Hodgson's faith in Chris Smalling, his non-league discovery when he was Fulham manager, is strong. Nevertheless, he clearly regards Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill as his first-choice centre-backs. There is no prospect of John Terry being invited back into the fold. Smalling and Phil Jones will, fitness permitting, be the reserves in that position. At right-back, Hodgson seems to consider Kyle Walker to be ahead of Glen Johnson and has not revealed his hand yet in terms of who is his first choice between Ashley Cole and Leighton Baines on the left.

Hodgson continues to throw in the names of Kieran Gibbs, a substitute against Germany, and Southampton's teenager Luke Shaw, but the eight defenders for Brazil would appear to be as good as settled unless fitness issues intervene.

Midfield

Once again, it is hard to see beyond a squad that includes Steven Gerrard, Jack Wilshere, Michael Carrick and Frank Lampard in the central positions. Wilshere's fitness remains a concern. One gets the impression that it would be unlikely for all four to make it to May unscathed, in which case there could be a chance for Ross Barkley or Tom Cleverley but neither are battering the door down. Ravel Morrison is the wildest of wild cards.

The competition on the wing is much more interesting including, as it does, Andros Townsend, Adam Lallana, James Milner and the injured Arsenal players Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – the five most likely to contest the four places. Behind them are Aaron Lennon, a veteran of two World Cup finals; Ashley Young, currently out of favour; and Adam Johnson.

Strikers

Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge and Rickie Lambert: it will require an impressive run of form, or an injury, for anyone to shoulder past those four, and Jermain Defoe, who will miss out if Hodgson does not take five. Lambert's emergence is proof that there is a chance for a striker who hits form, although he has assumed a specific role as a targetman option.

Lambert is vulnerable in that one wonders whether what he offers is dispensable. Peter Crouch was barely used by Fabio Capello at the last World Cup finals. Having taken his place at Euro 2012, Andy Carroll is now injured. Wilfried Zaha is off the radar at Manchester United. If Saido Berahino were in the frame he would have been given a cap by now.

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
life
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Duncan Campbell's hour-long film 'It for Others'
Turner Prize 2014
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hadley in a scene from ‘Soul Boys Of The Western World’
musicSpandau Ballet are back together - on stage and screen
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'
tvCilla review: A poignant ending to mini-series
News
i100
Life and Style
Bearing up: Sebastian Flyte with his teddy Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited
lifePhilippa Perry explains why a third of students take a bear to uni
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Alan Sugar appearing in a shot from Apprentice which was used in a Cassette Boy mashup
artsA judge will rule if pieces are funny enough to be classed as parodies
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.

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style