Five England Players Who Need To Impress

We'd like a lot more than five of Roy Hodgson's squad to enjoy brilliant tournaments in Brazil, but Matt Stanger says these choices need to impress more than most...

Last Updated: 06/06/14 at 11:16 Post Comment

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Joe Hart
"I have learned a lot this season, that football definitely does not revolve around myself."

You might wonder why Hart waited until 27 to learn what is a fairly obvious lesson, but the keeper's new-found humility has helped him overcome a sticky spell that stretched back to the beginning of last season. While Hart has always been commended for 'fronting up' after costly errors, he was required to accept responsibility on a worrying number of occasions before Manuel Pellegrini dropped him to the bench in the autumn. Doubts were raised over his claim to the England No.1 jersey as a result, but Hart has recovered well to reaffirm his place as first-choice for club and country. An impressive World Cup would silence his critics once and for all.


Leighton Baines
The subject of heated debate in F365 Towers which led to me and Winty refusing to speak for three days and Daniel Storey packing his bags for New York. Despite Cole's glittering career, he barely played this season and, for all the praise of the 33-year-old's performances towards the end of the campaign, he was hardly flawless, finding himself exposed and at fault for Atletico Madrid's equaliser at Stamford Bridge. Baines' inclusion in England's starting XI is therefore justified, but that doesn't remove the pressure that comes with replacing one of the greatest left-backs the game has ever seen. If the Everton man proves his quality, he will stand a strong chance of retaining his place for Euro 2016; should he struggle, Luke Shaw is waiting in the wings.


Gary Cahill
Considering the dismal efforts of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling against Ecuador, it might seem that Cahill's England place is assured for the foreseeable future. However, the defence is the biggest cause for concern in Brazil, with Cahill and Phil Jagielka tasked with the difficult job of replacing John Terry and Rio Ferdinand. The duo performed well in qualifying as England conceded just four goals, but bigger tests await against Luis Suarez and Mario Balotelli. Given that he's three years Jagielka's junior, Cahill can ease the nation's defensive fears for the next few years with a solid World Cup campaign.


Danny Welbeck
Roy Hodgson defended Welbeck's inclusion in his starting XI for the victory over Peru, insisting that the forward has always delivered for England despite a season of mixed fortunes at Manchester United. That may be true - evidenced by eight goals in 23 caps - but Welbeck requires an encouraging tournament to aid his cause for both club and country. With Louis van Gaal set to take over at Old Trafford after the World Cup, Welbeck will hope to impress his new manager with a series of sparkling displays in Brazil. And, should he contribute goals along with his usual diligence, the 23-year-old can stick one in the eye of those deriding his selection.


Wayne Rooney
Ah, the obvious one. The £300,000-a-week striker who has failed to score in eight appearances at previous World Cups. It seems the nation's patience with Rooney has finally run out, with the debate over the 28-year-old's role more fervent than ever. Rooney has undoubtedly been a superb player for the Three Lions - underlined by his record of 39 goals in 91 caps - but his career will forever be tarnished by his woeful displays on the biggest stage unless he stars in Brazil. He claims he is in perfect shape and mentally prepared for the challenge - let's hope Rooney's fighting talk is backed up by a bright start against Italy.

Matt Stanger - he's on the Twitter.

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