Norway vs. England: Picking Roy Hodgson's Starting XI for Euro 2012 Warmup
After the hoohah that surrounded his appointment as England manager and the furore sparked by his first ever squad selection, it will be interesting to see Roy Hodgson's first team selection when his players line up in Norway on Saturday.
There was some consternation surrounding certain names picked and others omitted from the list of players heading to Euro 2012, but the sad truth is that any manager would struggle to pick a squad that had England looking like world-beaters.
Hodgson is even more hamstrung for the trip to Oslo by the fact that several players are missing. Danny Welbeck and Glen Johnson could miss out this weekend while Wayne Rooney and the four-strong Chelsea contingent will definitely not be involved.
No matter how much rhetoric there may be about it only being a warmup match and the result not mattering, a defeat in Norway would be a blow for both Hodgson's start to life in the job and England's tournament preparations. Therefore, debuts for the uncapped John Ruddy and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may be saved for the second half, if not the June 2 game against Belgium at Wembley, if at all.
Hodgson loves a 4-4-2, but given the players he has available, we may see England line up in a 4-2-3-1, which is how the XI here is assembled.
To serve as a reminder of who exactly Hodgson has to choose from, here is that squad in full:
Midfielders: Gareth Barry (Manchester City), Stewart Downing (Liverpool), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), James Milner (Manchester City), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Scott Parker (Tottenham Hotspur), Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Ashley Young (Manchester United)
Forwards: Andy Carroll (Liverpool), Jermain Defoe (Tottenham Hotspur), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Daniel Welbeck (Manchester United)
On stand-by: Jack Butland (Birmingham City), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Martin Kelly (Liverpool), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Adam Johnson (Manchester City), Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea).
GK: Joe Hart
England's No. 1, and for good reason.
Hodgson will not need to learn anything about the Manchester City goalkeeper, who kept 17 clean sheets in the Premier League last season. But putting Hart's name on the team sheet first will be reassuring for the new manager.
West Ham keeper Robert Green has not played for England since his awful spill which led to USA's equaliser at the 2010 World Cup, so it is likely he will be eased back into international football off the bench.
RB: Phil Jones
With Kyle Walker missing the tournament due to injury, Glen Johnson a doubt with a toe infection and Micah Richards left out altogether, England are suddenly lacking in right-backs.
The ever-willing Jones has shown his versatility for Manchester United this season, playing in several positions in defence and midfield, and he seems the logical choice to fill the vacancy against Norway.
Liverpool's Martin Kelly has been brought in as an extra stand-by, but he is unlikely to get on the pitch as England have precious little time to experiment.
CB: Phil Jagielka
Jagielka may only be involved as a stand-by at the moment, but it is worth remembering that he was one half of the central defence that kept a clean sheet against Spain back in November.
The Everton defender is a strong, authoritative presence who makes the absence of John Terry, Gary Cahill and the unselected Rio Ferdinand seem less pressing.
Jagielka's ability to also play at right-back means that Hodgson could field him and Jones the other way around to how they line up here.
CB: Joleon Lescott
Like Jagielka, Lescott was part of the England defence that kept world and European champions Spain at bay in a friendly at Wembley six months ago.
Once a much-maligned figure as he struggled to adapt following his big-money move from Everton to Manchester City, Lescott enjoyed an excellent season alongside Vincent Kompany as he won his first Premier League winner's medal this season.
That, like John Terry, Lescott is left-footed and that, unlike Gary Cahill, he does not play with the deposed England captain at club level may count against him. But this friendly is a chance to prove he is deserving of a starting berth against France.
LB: Leighton Baines
Between them, left-backs Ashley Cole and Leighton Baines have 100 England caps. Cole, England's most-capped current player, accounts for 93 of those.
England's undisputed second-best left-back must be fully aware of the deal by now. Whenever Cole is away or it's time for the remainder of the squad to get a run-out, Baines gets some international game time. Otherwise, it's a front row seat from the bench.
Still, as a highly-talented attacking full-back, Baines provides great cover for England in a niche position.
RM: Theo Walcott
The international career of Theo Walcott is a curious one. The Arsenal forward was picked for the 2006 World Cup at the age of just 17 but understandably never got a game in Germany. Then, England failed to qualify for Euro 2008 before Fabio Capello declined to select him for his 2010 World Cup squad.
However, after enjoying another productive if frustrating season for Arsenal with eight goals and another eight assists in the Premier League, he will surely make his first appearance at a major finals this summer.
Walcott's main competition for a place on the right wing comes from James Milner and Stewart Downing. Enough said.
CM: Gareth Barry
It may seem like an odd and distant dream now, but around this time two years ago, a nation was waiting anxiously for news on the condition of Barry's ankle ligaments.
The Manchester City midfielder had shown himself to be the ideal solution to the age-old problem of playing Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard together, ostensibly by keeping them apart.
His sluggish performances in South Africa—most notably when running through treacle as he desperately chased Germany's Mesut Ozil and Thomas Mueller—greatly damaged his reputation. But Barry still has his uses, as the newly-crowned Premier League champions will confirm.
CM: Scott Parker
"The new Gareth Barry" may not be a title many footballers will fight over, but that is what Parker is set to be this summer.
The Tottenham man is able to provide the defensive cover once offered regularly by Barry, but he also adds drive and dynamism to an England midfield that has almost developed an allergy to such concepts over the years.
Parker's value to the team despite the late blossoming of his international career—at 31 years old, he has just 11 caps to his name—was summed up when he captained the side against Netherlands recently.
LM: Ashley Young
England's joint-top scorer in Euro 2012 qualifying—alongside Wayne Rooney, Darren Bent and Jermain Defoe, with a colossal three goals—is the latest solution to England's ongoing problem with filling the left wing, and the best for some time.
The Manchester United winger has seen his international career blossom since making his first start in 2010, and he is now a regular in the side.
His ability to use both feet, drift into a more central role and take good set-pieces are all factors which point to the former Aston Villa attacker making the position his own in Poland and Ukraine.
ACM: Steven Gerrard
Hodgson confirmed when announcing his Euro 2012 squad that Gerrard would be his captain. As such, the Liverpool skipper is virtually undroppable going into what will be his sixth international tournament.
Although it was not exactly the most difficult honour to claim, Gerrard was England's best player at the last World Cup, as he wore the armband in the absence of the injured Rio Ferdinand, who himself was only named captain after John Terry was stripped of the captaincy (for the first time).
It seems likely that, against Norway at least, Gerrard will be played at the top of the midfield in support of a lone striker.
FW: Andy Carroll
With Rooney unavailable, Welbeck an injury doubt and Jermain Defoe unsuited to the role of a lone striker, Carroll is set to win his fourth senior cap by starting up front just two games before the start of a major finals.
The Liverpool striker's name and £35 million price tag have served a handy punchline for much of the time he has been on Merseyside, but in recent weeks he has begun to show flashes of the form that convinced the Reds to pay out such an exorbitant sum in January 2011.
Late winners in back-to-back games against Blackburn and Everton—the latter an FA Cup semifinal—and then a thrilling cameo in the final itself, in which he also scored, will have Hodgson hoping that Carroll can bring big-game moments as well as aerial prowess to the national team.