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England blend looks tasty for Brazil 2014

England's win over Brazil suggests they should reach World Cup 2014 - and potentially perform well. Rich Kitto looks at how they might line up.

Last Updated: 07/02/13 at 12:51 Post Comment

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On Wednesday night, Brazil resumed their attempt to reinstate themselves as the best team on the globe, but came up short at Wembley. They will have to play much better next summer if they are to win back the biggest prize in football on their home turf.

But what of England's World Cup prospects following their impressive 2-1 win?

Every other year, there are the expected - and absurd - suggestions from some quarters that they can finally end the pain and heartbreak of 'under-achievement' with victory at a major tournament.

A fanciful notion at best - but Roy Hodgson's side currently appears to be a team showing at least some signs of superiority.

Whilst Wednesday night's friendly largely served the purpose of celebrating a landmark 150th year for the FA, bringing a bit of extra revenue in thanks to celebrated opposition, and trying out a few more faces, it's fair to say that the team that lines up in Brazil may not be very different to the one that faced the Selecao at Wembley.

So who can we expect to see walking out onto the pitch at the World Cup - should England qualify - based on what we have seen so far this season?

We can assume that Joe Hart will step onto the plane as the number one goalkeeper. Whilst English shot-stoppers are known to self-combust at times (see Scott Carson, Robert Green, Paul Robinson and Chris Kirkland), Hart - though not consistently at his best this season - has established himself as integral to the team, and Jack Butland will provide ample cover after what is likely to be a season as the first-choice keeper at Stoke.

The back line is more uncertain at the moment. Positions appear up for grabs to the players that perform strongest and retain fitness over the next year or so.

John Terry will be 33, Phil Jagielka will be approaching the same age and lacks international experience, whilst Rio Ferdinand's England career appears to be over.

Despite his uncomfortable performance on Wednesday night, Gary Cahill appears to be a lead contender to start, as by 2014 he will have had good experience domestically, in Europe, and internationally, whilst Hodgson is a fan of his athleticism and pace.

The other centre-back position is a more difficult prediction. Chris Smalling will be considered favourite if he stays fit as, similarly to Cahill, he is agile and comfortable bringing the ball out from the back, whilst Phil Jones will also be in contention if he gets fit.

Other options include Steven Caulker, who has recently slipped out of favour at Tottenham but has quality, Andre Wisdom of Liverpool - where centre-back is considered his natural position - or his team-mate Martin Kelly.

Glen Johnson has been a consistent performer for both Liverpool and England in recent times, due to his ability to play on either side, and is expected to retain his place at right-back for the World Cup - particularly as Kyle Walker has struggled at full international level and Micah Richards is now a long way from consideration.

Ashley Cole, described as England's greatest ever left-back, will remain an important part of the squad at the World Cup as a member of the 100 club, but many would like to see Leighton Baines given the chance he deserves as his ability to strike a ball from the byline or a set-piece will offer natural width to a team that has traditionally struggled down the left.

Jack Wilshere is a dead cert for the central midfield position if he continues his form. The youngster has been electric since his return from injury, and whilst already proving himself as crucial to the Arsenal team with his pace, determination and distribution, his performance on Wednesday demonstrated his increasing importance at the heart of his national team. Claims that he is 'world-class' are premature, but he'll certainly be there in the near future if he keeps going.

Steven Gerrard will likely feature at his last international tournament by being deployed in a deeper role in front of the defence, acting as the quarterback and linking the play. Though he will be 34 when he boards the plane to Rio, Gerrard has played every minute for Liverpool in the league this season and still retains a huge influence on both them and England with his supply and power on the break. Whilst Frank Lampard is still a fantastic footballer, and scored a great goal on Wednesday night, he'll be edging 36 and is not expected to feature - although it takes a brave man to dismiss him after everything he has proven recently - whilst Josh McEachran needs to prove himself regularly in the Premier League before consideration.

Theo Walcott is finally showing his class, and whilst he has made claims that he wants to play through the middle for England, a position on the wing appears almost guaranteed, as he has all the attributes to be a vital asset for the team and was a regular threat to Brazil's wobbling back line.

James Milner will likely shore up the other flank, being deployed in a similar role to that at Manchester City, in which his desire and fitness offer important support for England's attack minded full-backs. Jordan Henderson, Aaron Lennon, Raheem Sterling and Tom Ince will all likely travel, and it's probably the two from Liverpool that will push hardest as natural understudies to the aforementioned Walcott and Milner.

Rooney will play up top on his own in Hodgson's favoured formation, whilst the manager appears to favour Tom Cleverley to do the running and linking in behind considering they share a changing room at Old Trafford and understand each other's game. Though the former Liverpool manager holds high expectations of Jonjo Shelvey who is seen as the natural midfield successor at Anfield to Gerrard, and it will be extremely interesting to see how Wilfried Zaha develops at Manchester United, and whether Danny Welbeck can continue to prosper.

All in all - and say it quietly - it seems that by the time June 2014 rolls around, England will have a genuinely exciting blend of experience, youth and ability. Over the next year, the Three Lions will have more time to gel and build on the impressive result against the boys from Brazil.

Of course, it wouldn't be an England campaign without the wheels falling off somewhere - but the future is certainly looking a shade brighter as they continue to step towards the sunshine of South America.

Rich Kitto

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