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Group D - England v Costa Rica & Italy v Uruguay

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14 JUN 2014 Uruguay v Costa Rica 8pm sm_itv1hd.gif


14 JUN 2014 England v Italy 11pm sm_bbc1hd.gif


19 JUN 2014 Uruguay v England 8pm sm_itv1hd.gif


20 JUN 2014 Italy v Costa Rica 5pm sm_bbc1hd.gif


24 JUN 2014 Italy v Uruguay/Costa Rica v England 5pm sm_itv1hd.gif




eng.pngEngland: 13 Apps, 1 win.

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Manchester City), Fraser Forster (Celtic), Ben Foster (West Bromwich Albion)


Defenders: Leighton Baines (Everton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Luke Shaw (Southampton), Chris Smalling (Manchester United)


Midfielders: Ross Barkley (Everton), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Southampton), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), James Milner (Manchester City), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)


Forwards: Rickie Lambert (Southampton), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Daniel Welbeck (Manchester United)


uru.pngUruguay: 11 Apps, 2 wins.

Goalkeepers: Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray), Martin Silva (Vasco da Gama), Rodrigo Munoz (Libertad).


Defenders: Maximiliano Pereira (Benfica), Diego Lugano (West Bromwich Albion), Diego Godin, Jose Maria Gimenez (both Atletico Madrid), Sebastian Coates (Liverpool), Martin Caceres (Juventus), Jorge Fucile (Porto).


Midfielders: Alvaro Gonzalez (Lazio), Alvaro Pereira (Sao Paulo), Walter Gargano (Parma), Egidio Arevalo Rios (Morelia), Diego Perez (Bologna), Cristian Rodriguez (Atletico Madrid), Gaston Ramirez (Southampton), Nicolas Lodeiro (Botafogo).


Forwards: Luis Suarez (Liverpool), Edinson Cavani (Paris St-Germain), Abel Hernandez (Palermo), Diego Forlan (Cerezo Osaka), Christian Stuani (Espanyol).


ita.pngItaly: 17 Apps, 4 wins.

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Mattia Perin (Genoa), Salvatore Sirigu (Paris Saint-Germain)


Defenders: Ignazio Abate (Milan), Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Matteo Darmian (Torino), Mattia De Sciglio (Milan), Gabriel Paletta (Parma)


Midfielders: Alberto Aquilani (Fiorentina), Antonio Candreva (Lazio), Daniele De Rossi (Roma), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Marco Parolo (Parma), Andrea Pirlo (Juventus), Thiago Motta (Paris Saint-Germain), Marco Verratti (Paris Saint-Germain)


Forwards: Mario Balotelli (Milan), Antonio Cassano (Parma), Alessio Cerci (Torino), Ciro Immobile (Torino), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli)


crc.pngCosta Rica: 3 Apps, 0 wins.

Goalkeepers: Keylor Navas (Levante), Patrick Pemberton (Alajuelense) Daniel Cambronero (Herediano).


Defenders: Johnny Acosta (Alajuelense), Giancarlo Gonzalez (Columbus Crew), Michael Umana (Saprissa), Oscar Duarte (Bruges), Waylon Francis (Columbus Crew), Heiner Mora (Saprissa), Junior Diaz (Mainz 05), Christian Gamboa (Rosenborg), Roy Miller (New York Red Bulls).


Midfielders: Celso Borges (AIK), Christian Bolanos (Copenhagen), Esteban Granados (Herediano), Michael Barrantes (Aalesund), Yeltsin Tejeda (Saprissa), Diego Calvo (Valerenga), Jose Miguel Cubero (Herediano).


Forwards: Bryan Ruiz (PSV Eindhoven, on loan from Fulham), Joel Campbell (Olympiakos, on loan from Arsenal), Randall Brenes (Cartagines), Marco Urena (FC Kuban Krasnodar).

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just when it occurs to me that, one or two obvious cunts apart, this England squad is actually very likeable now, up pops Mark Lawrenson...



How many players in the Italy side would get into our England World Cup first team?

I wouldn’t take any of them. Not even Pirlo. Italy just don’t scare me. Nor do Uruguay.

I think both those teams look at England’s rising stars and think to themselves: “If they have a good day they could hurt us”.

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No expectations + Woy having faith in the youngers


Reckon we'll do alright


Beat Italy, and we're golden.......Draw and it's curtains



Im not buyinh a jersey til we're knocked out, so every cloud n all that

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If Italy are clinical(they will dominate this game from the 1st whistle)this won't end well for England

I have never seen a squad who are so flexiable like Azzuri are.


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Roy needs to be brave on Rooney for England to have any chance.


The lack of fear of youth could be England's trump card, reminds me of Hoddle in 98.

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Toney, do You mean brave enough to not start him? I agree, but know it will never happen. 

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Hodgson had claimed before training that his Tuesday and Wednesday sessions would be serious preparation for the Italy game and that appeared to be encouraging for Sterling.

The Liverpool star played in the No 10 role behind his Anfield team-mate Sturridge for an entire practice match, with Wayne Rooney out wide.

Rooney initially started on the right, with Welbeck left. When Welbeck went off, Rooney moved left and Adam Lallana took over on the right-hand side. James Milner also spent some time wide.


3HUNNA being moved away from the #10 role #Progress

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#rooneyoutfor6weeks trending on twitter

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Italy: Prandelli not sure of his formation

June 9, 2014


Two years ago, during Italy’s impressive run to the Euro 2012 final, Cesare Prandelli switched between 3-5-2 and 4-3-1-2 formations. At this tournament, his preferred shape is again unclear.

This is partly because Prandelli has struggled to find the right balance in the final third, having generally played a 4-3-2-1 formation in qualifying. Mario Balotelli is certainly his main striker, but in the qualifiers Prandelli used eleven separate attackers, none of whom started more than four of the ten matches. In fact, three of the attackers in the 23-man squad – Alessio Cerci, Antonio Cassano and Ciro Immobile – didn’t start any.

Prandelli could play a 4-3-1-2, a 4-3-2-1, a 3-5-2 or even a strange, Y-shaped midfield.  ”If you haven’t worked out [the formation], it shows we are on the right track,” he told journalists last week. “We don’t want anyone to understand anything.” There’s a certain truth in the unpredictability being an advantage, of course, but it shouldn’t hide the fact that Prandelli doesn’t know his best shape.

Italy will continue to play the positive, attack-minded football Prandelli has encouraged since taking charge in 2010, with Andrea Pirlo still the star player in his final World Cup. But there are still lots of question marks, and a few underwhelming options in various positions.

Excellent defence

Juventus’ use of a 3-5-2 over the past couple of seasons, and the option of using Giorgio Chiellini, Leo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli in their club positions, with Gigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo either side, means that system remains a realistic option for Prandelli, and could well be utilised at some point.


A potential 3-5-2

But over the past couple of years he’s been more determined to use a four-man defence, despite the lack of quality in full-back positions. This would mean Bonucci dropping out of the side, a great shame considering he’s a fine defender and capable of playing Pirlo-esque diagonal balls.

It also means playing two full-backs who are nothing more than ordinary – Ignazio Abate hasn’t developed into the right-back we expected, while Mattia De Sciglio is right-sided but likely to be played from the left. That didn’t hold back Paolo Maldini or Gianluca Zambrotta, but De Sciglio hasn’t reached that level.

The indecision isn’t ideal, but the defenders, and in particular the centre-backs, will adapt to the two systems without any problems. Prandelli might be an atypical Italian coach with his emphasis upon possession and attacking play, but Italian players are very much accustomed to changing formation regularly. The key is when, and why, Prandelli uses his different systems.

Arguably the major problem with the three-man defence is the lack of a left-wing-back. De Sciglio could play that role too, but his awkwardness on that side becomes more of an issue, and it’s a slight surprise Prandelli didn’t call upon Emanuele Giaccherini, even after a poor campaign for Sunderland. He was excellent at the Confederations Cup last year, and is the jack-of-all-trades man that is perfect when a manager isn’t sure of his formation.

Talented ball players

The midfield is the strongest part of the Italian side, and Pirlo will continue to play at the base of the midfield. He plays the same game, wandering across the field and knocking brilliant passes forward into attack, and it’s reached the point where failing to mark him is absolutely unforgivable. This was England’s problem at Euro 2012, and they surely won’t make the same mistake again in their opener.

The absence of Riccardo Montolivo robs Italy of an excellent midfielder, but possess other options. Daniele De Rossi is a sure starter if fit, providing physicality, energy, technical quality and leadership from the central role. He’s also capable of dropping into a centre-back position, as he did at Euro 2012, although it seems less likely he’ll play this position in Brazil. Italy will need his midfield presence without Montolivo, and with Claudio Marchisio dipping in form since the Euros.

Marchisio will hope to slot in somewhere, but Thiago Motta might be a better option. A little like De Rossi, he’s an all-rounder with great physique and power, but also passing ability. When Italy played a diamond, Motta was often pushed forward to the top of the quartet to disrupt the opposition’s possession play, but he’s happier in a more withdrawn role. If Prandelli needs other passers, Marco Verratti and Alberto Aquilani will come into play – there are so many options in this respect, that you can understand Prandelli’s temptation to play a diamond.

If he wants to play a 4-3-2-1, he could push Marchisio forward, although he never looks comfortable in a more advanced role, suffering from the problem Frank Lampard used to have – he wants to drive there from deep, rather than being positioned there permanently.

Options upfront


Potential Italian 4-3-2-1

In the Christmas Tree shape, Prandelli could choose to play Lorenzo Insigne in the inside-left role. The diminutive playmaker is coming off the back of a good season at Napoli under Rafael Benitez, where he learnt tactical discipline without ruining his attacking instincts. Likely to work hard defensively, and look to pick the ball up before curling it inside the far corner, he seems the perfect player if Prandelli goes for a 4-3-2-1, although it’s difficult to see a place for him in either the 4-3-1-2, or the 3-5-2.

Upfront as the main striker will be Mario Balotelli, who everyone knows all about. Capable of coming short to link play, or spinning in behind to reach balls over the top, it’s this combination that makes him such an unpredictable opponent. He remains inconsistent and infuriating, but on his day is Italy’s best attacker by miles.

Then, assuming Italy are using a back four, there’s the question of whether Prandelli wants to play a second striker alongside Balotelli, or someone slightly deeper.

Antonio Cassano (who, scarily, must now be considered a veteran) was a surprise pick, but worked excellently alongside Balotelli at Euro 2012, and their combination feels very natural.

Ciro Immobile doesn’t live up to his name – he sprints in behind the defence and finishes smartly, and his performance in the 5-3 friendly win over Fluminese might have guaranteed his position in Italy’s opening game. He scored a hattrick and created the other two, and while Prandelli isn’t fickle enough to select players based on a single game, Immobile was continuing the form that saw him top the Serie A goalscoring table.

If Prandelli goes for a 4-3-2-1, he has two further options. Alessio Cerci is a natural wide player brought into more of a goalscoring role in recent seasons. He collects the ball from deep and runs with it, something lacking from elsewhere in this Italian side. The alternative is Antonio Candreva, more of a disciplined player, the sort who is admired by managers more than supporters. He gets through plenty of running and has become more useful in the final third too. Prandelli admires his work rate, and there’s a very good chance of him starting matches.

In truth, however, not even Prandelli knows his best side at this stage. Buffon, Abate, Barzagli, Chiellini and De Sciglio will start, as will Pirlo, De Rossi and Balotelli. Then, there are six or seven players fighting for the final three spots in the side, and there’s the usual chicken-and-egg thing here – does the coach pick the players according to the shape he’s decided on, or pick the shape according to the players he’s decided on? Italian coaches instinctively choose the former, but Prandelli is all about the latter.


Prandelli has freedom to vary the structure of his side, because he knows his defence will always be solid and his midfield will always retain possession. It’s upfront where he has problems – Balotelli is clearly the best forward but is unreliable, and the others are either inconsistent or inexperienced.

The chopping and changing shouldn’t be too problematic – it’s what Marcello Lippi did in 2006. But this is a tough group, and the traditional Italian slow start won’t be acceptable.

Quick guide

Coach: Cesare Prandelli – great man-manager, great coach, sometimes a good tactician

Formation: It could be anything…

Key player: Balotelli – the difference between his best and worst is huge

Strength: Lots of great passers

Weakness: Uncertain structure to the side

Key tactical question: What formation does Prandelli use?


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Costa Rica: extremely defensive

June 9, 2014


Costa Rica aren’t the worst team at this World Cup, but they might have the least chance of getting out of their group.

Drawn alongside Italy, Uruguay and England – three past winners and three of the top ten favourites for the competition – it’s difficult to see how they’ll record a victory, but they might manage to frustrate opponents with good defensive organisation and clever tactics.

While the difficult draw was always going to force Costa Rica to play defensively, that’s essentially their favoured style anyway. Their Colombian coach Jorge Luis Pinto, a good tactician who has won the league in four different countries, has generally favoured a cautious system that is 3-4-2-1 on the rare occasions Costa Rica have possession, but in reality more like a 5-4-1. They’re happy for the opposition to have time on the ball, concede space in midfield, and instead pack their penalty box.

Pace upfront

However, Costa Rica boast individual quality in the final third. Joel Campbell is extremely quick, and while his link-up play isn’t particularly impressive at this early stage of his career, he’ll relentlessly sprint in behind the opposition defence, particularly in the right-hand channel. He’ll always offer an outlet, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Costa Rica launch long diagonals towards the corner, and hope Campbell’s pace creates chances. Considering some of the centre-backs he’s likely to be up against in this group, it’s not a bad plan.


Costa Rica's probable starting XI

His closest support – although it might not be very close at all – will come from Bryan Ruiz, who would play as a second striker in the unlikely event Pinto switches to a 4-4-1-1. Ruiz is a fine footballer with a good record in Holland (if not England, where his Fulham experience was disappointing) but he’s not particularly compatible with a counter-attacking system. Still, he’ll provide a link between Campbell and the rest of the side, and is capable of holding up play and waiting for the wing-backs to offer an option – when Costa Rica get the ball wide, they’re decent at getting on the end of the crosses.

Christian Bolaños isn’t as talented as Ruiz, but better for the system. Capable of using either foot, but more likely to cut inside and shoot with his right, Bolaños is a genuinely good ball carrier and therefore capable of turning defence into attack smoothly, although he tires and is often substituted.


The two central midfielders have very different jobs. Celso Borges is capable of moving forward and dictating play inside the opposition half, spreading play nicely to the flanks and getting himself into goalscoring positions too. He’s a genuinely good footballer, and along with Ruiz, one of the two players opponents need to shut down quickly. Yeltsin Tejeda sits much deeper and is a pure ball-winner.

The left-wing-back position is something of a problem because of Bryan Oviedo’s absence through injury. Junior Diaz is a likeable, hard worker but offers nothing like Oviedo’s quality on the ball. He’ll tuck inside and probably play more as a conventional left-back. That at least allow Christian Gamboa more freedom on the other side – he’s quick and attack-minded, but not a natural defender. The imbalance from the wing-back positions is somewhat unusual.

Overworked defence

The three centre-backs are, frankly, somewhat limited footballers, which is probably partly why Pinto is playing three of them: quantity where there’s little quality. While right-sided Johnny Acosta is only 5′9, amazingly short for a centre-back, Giancarlo Gonzalez and Michael Umaña are decent in the air, and will happily head away a stream of crosses.

All three are rugged, old-fashioned defenders, who can be guilty of very cynical challenges when forced to face fast, tricky forwards high up the pitch. It’s difficult to imagine they’ll relish facing Mario Balotelli, Daniel Sturridge or Luis Suarez – the quicker opponents attack them, the more they’ll struggle, particularly in the channels. Umaña is always in danger of being booked, while Gonzalez fancies himself as a Lucio-style wind-up merchant.

The simple fact they’re playing an unusual system at the back might cause opponents problems – a la New Zealand in 2010. The organisation in defence is very good, too – they sometimes dart out quickly when defending wide free-kicks, catching opponents miles offside.

Then, there’s Keylor Navas. The Levante man is probably the most underrated goalkeeper in the competition, capable of making superb close-range reaction stops. He’s less comfortable coming for crosses, however – again, he’s not the tallest.


Costa Rica will seek to frustrate the opposition, but there’s an intelligence in the way they go about their business – they’re capable of shifting formation to become more solid in one zone, extensively use video analysis in their preparation, and are realistic enough to understand they need to be very cautious.

It remains to be seen how effective this will be, however. They’re unaccustomed to facing sides or players of World Cup standard, and in qualification they were poor away from home. Statistics suggest they concede a lot of goals towards the end of both halves, perhaps due to a loss of concentration. The squad lacks strength in depth, and Pinto can be reluctant to freshen things up, simply as there’s usually a big drop in quality when he brings on a sub.

If they concede an early goal they could crumble, but it feels like Costa Rica will provide frustrate for long periods before eventually being defeated. They’ll play a key role in their group, but they won’t reach the knockout stage.

Quick guide

Coach: Jorge Luis Pinto, a wily old coach who studies the opposition in-depth

Formation: 5-4-1, and 3-4-3 on the rare occasions they have the ball

Key player: Navas – he’ll have a lot of saves to make

Strength: An unusual system, which could cause problems

Weakness: Lack of pace at the back, a basic lack of quality in many positions

Key tactical question: Can Costa Rica work the ball forward and create chances?


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Uruguay: past their best?

June 9, 2014


Three years ago, Uruguay were unquestionably the best side in South America – they were the only South American side to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2010, before winning the Copa America a year later.

Their form since then, however, has been extremely poor. Their qualification was a disaster, forced into a play-off against Jordan (which they unsurprisingly won comfortably) and they’ve clearly regressed in the last four years. In fact, such has been their struggles, it’s tempting to look back at their two tournament successes and remember that they were often rather fortunate, having qualified for the World Cup semi-finals at Ghana’s expense thanks to Luis Suarez’s cynical late handball, and only producing genuinely good football once in the Copa, in the final.

Shift to Suarez-Cavani

Oscar Tabarez’s problem over the last few years was how to accommodate Suarez, Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan in the same side. Four years ago, Cavani was still developing and was often omitted, but there came a point where Tabarez couldn’t ignore his quality, but was also afraid to drop Forlan. This resulted in some strange compromises and some ineffective systems – it was amazing to see Cavani playing an extremely deep wide midfield role in some qualifiers, for example, and it’s actually been rather helpful that Forlan’s form declined sharply. Now he’s no longer a regular, and Tabarez has shifted towards a focus on Suarez and Cavani, two of the world’s most ruthless centre-forwards.

This team is all about that pairing. Suarez is facing a battle to be fit for this tournament, but he’s likely to available and plays a crucial role in the side, running the channels and charging in behind the opposition defence, never giving up on seemingly lost causes. Question marks have emerged about Suarez’s goalscoring record against top sides, both for club and country, but assuming he recovers from a recent meniscus operation in time, he’ll be a great goal threat.


Potential Uruguay XI

Cavani, therefore, plays a supporting role. Often viewed as a pure number nine, Cavani’s actually more of an all-rounder, happy to work the channels and now accustomed to a right-sided role at PSG. At international level his role is that of a hard-working second striker, often located very deep considering Uruguay play a counter-attacking game.

The rest of the side plays close to its own goal, and therefore Cavani spends his time attempting to connect the midfield and Suarez, before haring forward and desperately hoping for a return pass from the Liverpool striker.

Highly functional

As a whole, however, Uruguay are disappointingly functional. While Tabarez has repeatedly attempted to evolve the style of play and incorporate creative players in midfield, his has been a struggle, and he’s fallen back upon central midfield scrappers and hard-working wide options. Uruguay’s major problem is that they pace and mobility at the back, which means Tabarez instructs his side to play deep overall.

The wide midfielders will probably be Christian Rodriguez on the left and Christian Stuani on the right – two efficient players who get up and down manfully, but don’t offer great crossing ability or much invention in possession. Alvaro Gonzalez is another option, but offers something very similar.

The two central midfielders could be the same as the last World Cup – when Tabarez chopped and changed his system relentlessly, but never broke up the partnership of Diego Perez and Egidio Arevalo, two thirtysomething, feisty destroyers who offer little going forward.

It’s a shame there’s not more guile in midfield, and Tabarez certainly has options, although none of them convincing. Nicolas Lodeiro endured a horrendous 2010 World Cup, where he was sent off and later suffered an injury which kept him out for a year, and hasn’t fulfilled his potential since. The same could be said of Gaston Ramirez, a brilliantly talented number ten with a cracking left foot – but his career has stalled since he moved to Southampton, and he doesn’t have the work rate to be accommodated in this midfield quartet.

Walter Gargano is an alternative to Perez and Arevalo and plays a similar role with more ambition in possession, although he’s another who has gone backwards in the past three years. These players will probably be supersubs, with Forlan also set to feature from the bench – he increasingly plays a deeper role than at his peak.


The back four should be familiar from the previous World Cup. The two Diegos, Lugano and Godin, have retained their places – the former has declined badly and lacks mobility, but the latter had a superb season at Atletico Madrid. They’re vulnerable when high up the pitch, but are usually allowed to retreat to the safety of their own box. They’re also both a threat from attacking set-pieces.

Right-back Maxi Pereira is a classic South American right-back, who makes hard tackles and attacks with power rather than invention. On the left, Martin Caceres is a versatile, jack-of-all-trade defender who tucks inside and protects his centre-backs – he’s right-footed, which means he doesn’t overlap very effectively. Alvaro Pereira is a more positive option from left-back – but again, Tabarez will probably view the offensive player as an alternative rather than a regular.

Fernando Muslera is still the goalkeeper, but can make mistakes. His reaction saves are superb, but he’s uncomfortable dealing with crosses and poor at saving long shots – problematic considering Uruguay will sit deep and invite pressure.


Overall, this is an amazingly similar squad from four years ago, a recognition that the dressing room harmony is extremely strong. Indeed, Tabarez’s brilliant work in this respect shouldn’t be underestimated, and nor should his efforts in revolutionising the Uruguayan youth set-up.

But while a successful group remaining together is a positive, the results and performances have steadily declined since 2010. Individually, only three players – Godin, Suarez and Cavani – are better now than in 2010. Others have declined dramatically, have failed to fulfil their potential, or were always hard workers rather than great technicians.

Much like their great rivals Argentina, Uruguay are a broken team, focusing on defensive organisation to cover for individual weaknesses in that zone, and relying on individual brilliance – and maybe some clever substitutions – to get goals.

Quick guide

Coach: Oscar Tabarez, a serial formation switcher at the last World Cup, but appears more rigid these days

Formation: 4-4-2 if you’re being generous, but more 4-4-1-1

Key player: Cavani – he needs to connect the side

Strength: The best front two in the competition

Weakness: Lack of pace at the back, forcing Uruguay to sit deep and play a cautious midfield

Key tactical question: Can Uruguay provide the front two with service?

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England: potentially dangerous on the break

June 9, 2014


When Roy Hodgson named his 23-man World Cup squad, the most controversial decision was about the identity of England’s back-up left-back

If this seems particularly odd, it’s because the debate wasn’t really about Luke Shaw – who was eventually selected – or Ashley Cole. It was more about what that selection symbolised. Were England going to rely upon a member of the ‘golden generation’ yet again, despite their constant failures at World Cups, or were they going to turn to a fresh,  exciting, attacking and technically excellent youngster, to evolve the side?


Hodgson’s decision to take Shaw was surprising, but it’s actually in line with many of his selection decisions since taking charge of England two years ago. He was happy to start Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain against France in England’s Euro 2012 opener, for example, despite the fact he’d started six Premier League games in his career.

Indeed, since Euro 2012 – a tournament where Hodgson was appointed weeks before, with little preparation time – he’s made a very clear attempt to involve new, and often young, players before there were widespread calls for their inclusion.

For example, he called up Adam Lallana three games (and three defeats) into his Premier League career, and Raheem Sterling two games into his. Both had to wait for their opportunity to start England matches, but both experienced superb second seasons, and could be key this summer. Similarly, Ross Barkley was selected after six Premier League starts, and Andros Townsend (injured for the World Cup, but England’s best player in their final two qualification matches) after 12.

Yet despite this, it’s only Shaw’s inclusion that has seen Hodgson’s intention understood. English football loves creating a caricature of a manager, often regardless of the truth – Hodgson is old-school, and relatively old, but he’s put his faith in youth.

Formation experiments

Something similar can be said about Hodgson’s favoured system. While undeniably a natural 4-4-2 man, Hodgson made a deliberate effort to move away from that system throughout qualifying. In half of the ten qualifiers, England played a midfielder (Jack Wilshere or Tom Cleverley), as the number ten, ensuring it wasn’t a 4-4-2, but a 4-2-3-1. In the other half, Wayne Rooney played deep enough to suggest it was a continuation of that system. In March’s 1-0 friendly victory over Denmark, England played a 4-3-3, with Rooney and Daniel Sturridge taking it in turns to play on the flanks. England have hardly played 4-4-2 in the last couple of years.

That experiment with a 4-3-3 was unquestionably an attempt to replicate the system Liverpool were using, and featured five Liverpool outfielders, including four of the front six. Rooney was essentially the Luis Suarez figure, with Jack Wilshere as Coutinho. Steven Gerrard sat deep in his new-found holding role, Jordan Henderson provided the energy, while Sterling and Sturridge played in the front three. Liverpool might have failed to win the Premier League title in dramatic circumstances, but they still enjoyed a fantastic campaign, and Hodgson was right to try that shape in an attempt to bring some of Liverpool’s sparkling attacking football to the national team. (That, of course, is ironic considering he was highly unpopular as Liverpool coach due to lack of success and an unpopular defensive style.)

The 4-3-3 didn’t quite work, though, because neither Rooney nor Sturridge are best out wide, and also because Gerrard remains something of a worry in that very deep role. It was a worthwhile experiment, but Hodgson has instead moved back to the 4-2-3-1. Gerrard will now have a midfield partner, probably Jordan Henderson, with two standard wide players and Rooney just behind Sturridge.

Rooney issue

Rooney retains his place because theoretically he offers moments of magic, but there’s increasingly a sense he causes problems in terms of structure. He can play too high up in the number ten position – which, of course, risks turning the 4-2-3-1 into a 4-4-2, which was precisely what happened at World Cup 2010.


Probable starting line-up

The following tournament, Euro 2012, demonstrated Rooney’s lack of tactical discipline because he failed to mark Andrea Pirlo effectively, allowing Italy’s regista the run of the midfield. At England’s past two major tournaments, Rooney’s positional indiscipline has been the major tactical problem, and it will be amazing if Pirlo is allowed to go free in England’s opening game, especially considering the likes of Henderson, Welbeck and even Sterling are all extremely disciplined.

England’s Plan B is Rickie Lambert, a late developer who is a more well-rounded player than often given credit for, but he really is a Plan B – it would surely take injuries to all three of Rooney, Sturridge and Welbeck for him to actually start.

Rooney and Sturridge looks to be the combination upfront, while Henderson’s club form and Liverpool connection means he’s a better partner for Gerrard than Wilshere. The real question mark is on the flanks, where Hodgson has genuine options – Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lallana, Sterling, James Milner and Welbeck.


First choice on the left appears to be Welbeck, who started there in four of England’s final five qualifiers, (he was suspended for the other) and two of the three warm-up games. Although as a natural striker you’d expect him to run in behind from that position, in reality he drifts into very narrow positions and holds the ball up – his pass completion rate is always very high.

Lallana is the favourite on the opposite side. He’s a very unEnglish player, capable of creating chances with clever through-balls, using space intelligently, and playing the ball with both feet. His one shortcoming is his lack of outright pace, at least when comparing him to the likes of Sterling, Sturridge, Welbeck and Oxlade-Chamberlain, and this might prove his downfall. Hodgson likes speed on the flanks, and wants to hit opponents quickly with speedy transitions before they can get their defence organised, and get men behind the ball. Lallana might be better suited to the number ten role, if Rooney gets injured or suspended (or if Sturridge becomes unavailable, with Rooney moving forward). It would be a shame to waste the pace of some excellent young wingers.

Sterling, in particular, is heavily pushing for a starting place. Although he was dismissed in a warm-up match (as a substitute, meaning he didn’t start any of England’s pre-tournament friendlies), he seems to have both the discipline and the tactical discipline to play a wide role in this system. He’s incredibly quick, a good dribbler, and the type of fast, technical player this England side needs on the flanks.


Regardless of whether he’s protected by Wilshere (more technical quality) or Henderson (more energy), Gerrard as England’s deepest midfielder remains an unconvincing solution. While he performed solidly for Liverpool throughout their title charge, his nomination for Player of the Season overstated his impact, and ignored his defensive deficiencies.

He was outclassed by top-quality players like Lallana and David Silva in a deep role, even if Liverpool won those matches to hide his struggles. He’ll be playing a slightly different role for England, in a midfield two, but England have so frequently struggled in the zone between defence and midfield, and it’s easy to imagine something similar happening here.


The defence is relatively solid. Gary Cahill had an excellent campaign with Chelsea, while Phil Jagielka has been struggling with injury but is rarely outbattled. Leighton Baines is excellent technically and a fine set-piece taker, but his major quality is crossing, which might not be particularly useful for a defensive-minded, counter-attacking side without a natural target man – which is why Cole can feel so disappointed not to be part of the first XI, never mind the squad. On the right, Glen Johnson is habitually caught on the ball and caught out of possession in qualifiers and friendlies, particularly at Wembley, but performed solidly at World Cup 2010 and was England’s sec0nd-best player, behind Gerrard, at Euro 2012.

There’s a real worry about the lack of depth in defensive positions, however. Shaw is a great talent but has little experience, while Phil Jones and Chris Smalling have stagnated at Manchester United. Both those players theoretically act as cover for right-back as well as centre-back, with a recent experiment with Milner at right-back unsuccessful. Joe Hart had a wobble late last year, but is nevertheless a good goalkeeper.


Hodgson’s usual gameplan is about sitting deep and breaking quickly, which seems to suit the majority of his players, but England’s transitions haven’t been particularly impressive in recent matches. If this can be solved, however, and Sterling and Sturridge replicate their Liverpool form, England could be both exciting and effective on the break.

It feels like Hodgson’s style acts a leveller. England fare better than you’d expect against strong opposition, but aren’t good at breaking down weak opponents, and it’s easy to imagine them drawing plenty of matches – which won’t be appreciated if they reach the knockout stage, considering their atrocious penalty shoot-out record.

Quick guide

Coach: Roy Hodgson, an old-school manager who concentrates heavily on defensive shape.

Formation: It should be 4-2-3-1, although in the past Rooney’s lack of discipline has made it more 4-4-2.

Key player: Henderson – England need mobility to prevent Gerrard being overrun.

Strength: Good defensive shape and pace on the break.

Weakness: Likely to be exposed in midfield

Key tactical question: How good are the transitions?

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:lol:@Prandelli not knowing his best formation its called having players who are flexiable and being able to adapt

Thats why I cannot take these team profiles seriously

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just when it occurs to me that, one or two obvious cunts apart, this England squad is actually very likeable now, up pops Mark Lawrenson...



How many players in the Italy side would get into our England World Cup first team?

I wouldn’t take any of them. Not even Pirlo. Italy just don’t scare me. Nor do Uruguay.

I think both those teams look at England’s rising stars and think to themselves: “If they have a good day they could hurt us”.





:confused:  :/  8-) 

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