England disappointed at a major competition yet again as they meekly bowed out to the Italians in the Euro 2012 quarter final stage. While the tactics were the major reason why England were poor against Italy, the squad picked for the Euros was also inappropriate to a degree.
Let us try to pick a squad that may realistically stand a chance of reaching the latter stages of the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil. England have the dubious distinction of not having beaten a major footballing nation in a knockout game since 1966.
One of the reasons for this may be that the players simply do not know too much about each other and find it hard blending as a team. However, there are examples at the ongoing tournament itself that make that theory vulnerable as a foregone conclusion.
Roy Hodgson did not pick a team to execute a strategy. He simply tossed a coin. How else would you justify his baffling decision to pick Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson? Moreover, these players weren't even used much. That just says it all.
Henderson and Downing perhaps requested Hodgson or "Uncle Woy" to show them around Europe. Hodgson saw Ukraine and Poland as tourist spots and befitted the performance of these two. I guess this was his way to do it without spending a penny.
Admittedly, this was a little harsh, but Hodgson had little clue with his tactics and strategy.
Let us now pick the squad of 23 that will be able to execute a strategy that may make England contenders in Brazil in two years time.
1. Joe Hart - Arguably one of the best goalkeepers in the world at the moment, Joe Hart will be certain to make the trip to Brazil. Lest he gets injured, he will be the person who will start all the games in between the sticks.
2. Ben Amos - Amos does not find much playing time at Manchester United at the moment. I hope that will change in the near future because he does look like a good prospect. He should look to play on loan on another Premier League side to gain experience at the very top level.
3. Scott Carson - Playing in Turkey at the moment, Carson is still in top shape to represent England at the international level. I will keep Carson as the third choice goalkeeper behind the aforementioned names for England's squad.
1. Leighton Baines - Who knows, England may well have found themselves playing Spain instead of Italy on Sunday in the final had it been Baines instead of Ashley Cole playing against Italy in the quarterfinal. Playing every player on merit should be one of a manager's top priorities. Cole simply gets into the national team on account of playing for Chelsea. England should have started with Baines against France in order to try someone new in that position.
2. Phil Jones - Jones is a versatile defender who is also comfortable with the ball at his feet. England will need ball-playing central defenders to increase their chances of dominating matches rather than being dominated like they were at the hands of Italy. Jones plays full-back for Manchester United, but has played at the center of defense for Blackburn previously. He likes to go forward and can help serve as an extra attacker at times in matches.
3. Joleon Lescott - The left-footed Lescott will provide balance at the heart of defense. He is also a good strong presence in the box when defending set-pieces and when scoring them at the other end too.
4. Micah Richards - Richards has developed into a powerful full-back who can contribute to the attack very well. He has abundant pace and can function at center-back too.
5. Kyle Walker - The Tottenham youngster is another player that, on present form, deserves to be selected for England. Besides being very quick, Walker can be a very good option to take set-pieces. With Gerrard in his thirties and his international career in uncertainty, England need to find new set-piece takers. Walker can certainly be one of them.
6. Phil Jagielka - This Everton man has been consistent for a long time and shall be picked for his versatility. He can also play in midfield as a defensive-minded player who will help win back possession.
7. Michael Dawson - To add some experience and have a good solid backup to the starting central defenders, Dawson will be vital.
8. Kieran Gibbs - Even though playing for an Arsenal side that does little to afford protection to its back four, Gibbs has done admirably well. He will be good cover for Leighton Baines for the left-back position. Although, Phil Jones will be a better option at left-back in case he is not already playing.
1. Theo Walcott - The Arsenal man is inconsistent but has the ability to produce magic at vital times. Walcott shouldn't start till he proves himself further, but he justifies the term "super-sub" to a good degree.
2. Ashley Young - In the absence of the likes of Beckham and Gerrard, Young will be another one who will have to step up in order to take set-pieces. Further, Young's delivery, while working from the wing, is one of the best in the English Premier League, if not the world. His in-swinging crosses are hard to deal with and will be utilized to keep up the pressure on the opposition's defense.
3. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - In his short time with Arsenal in the Premier League, Oxlade-Chamberlain showed what he is capable of. He will be another flair player that the England manager can look to use in times of desperation.
4. Tom Cleverley - England created next to nothing from the center of midfield at Euro 2012. Other than Liverpool and England talisman Steven Gerrard, there were little offensive options on offer from the others. Cleverley will be one of the players who can create something through his vision and darting runs.
5. Jack Wilshere - A tasty option for England would be to pair up Cleverley and Wilshere in central midfield in games that the English would be expected to win. It would take some guts from the manager to use the same pairing in games against top teams, but it may just work given that these players do not lose possession easily.
6. Raheem Sterling - Still only 17, Sterling has already earned rave reviews through his performances for the Liverpool reserves and the English team at the under-17 level in the World Cup. If Young is having an off-day, Sterling is a great option to bring off the bench. Sterling is unpredictable and can harm defense with serious pace.
7. Lee Cattermole - This selection might surprise many, but England need an enforcer in midfield who will break up opposition attacks and help to gain ball control. Cattermole is one of a very few who can do that for England. Gerrard, even with all his brilliance, is tactically naive and cannot execute this role well.
8. Jack Rodwell - Having someone like Rodwell on the bench to replace the starting midfielders will only help sure up the game during the latter stages. Protecting leads once you get one is imperative in international games as Greece have shown on many occasions. Rodwell will be a great option to do just that after the flair players have done their job.
1. Andy Carroll - With only four spots left for strikers, every manager wants different options. Having four types of strikers gives you ability to utilize different strategies according to the opposition. Carroll is a powerful forward who is a great header of the ball and has a hammer of a left foot. Carroll will find Young's crosses very beneficial in hurting opponents.
2. Wayne Rooney - England cannot go to the World Cup without their talisman Wayne Rooney. Rooney, like Gerrard and Beckham, has the ability to conjure magic at any moment of the match. He will have to be coached to keep his temper in check by the manager so that he will not miss any matches because of silly bookings.
3. Daniel Sturridge - Though Sturridge may be seen similar to Rooney, he is not and provides more than just balance by being left footed. Sturridge likes to play up-front in a position he is not afforded at Chelsea. England may give him that position with Rooney playing just behind. England may also go with a front-three with different permutations from among these four strikers.
4. Darren Bent - Bent is the fox-in-the-box type of player that a team creating many chances should always have. He has pace and will thrive while playing in front of Rooney or Sturridge or both. An option of partnering him with Carroll will also be one worth trying if somehow the others become unavailable.