World Cup Qualifiers: Picking England's Best XI to Face Moldova

Tony MabertContributor ISeptember 3, 2012

World Cup Qualifiers: Picking England's Best XI to Face Moldova

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    The moment when Roy Hodgson truly begins his job as England's manager comes on Friday when he sends his team out to contest its first 2014 World Cup qualifier in Moldova.

    Euro 2012 was, in essence, a bit of a freebie for Hodgson, as he was parachuted in the month before the tournament to pick up the pieces following Fabio Capello's departure.

    In Chisinau, Hodgson will be without veteran left-back Ashley Cole, due to an ankle injury and striker Andy Carroll, due to a hamstring problem.

    Here is how Hodgson could line up his starting XI on Friday. Feel free to share your own thoughts on who should play below.

The Squad

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    Goalkeepers


    Jack Butland (Birmingham City), Joe Hart (Manchester City), John Ruddy (Norwich City).

     


    Defenders


    Leighton Baines (Everton), Ryan Bertrand (Chelsea), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Joleon Lescott (Manchester City), John Terry (Chelsea), Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur).

     


    Midfielders

     

    Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Tom Cleverley (Manchester United), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Adam Johnson (Sunderland), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), James Milner (Manchester City), Theo Walcott (Arsenal).

     


    Forwards

     

    Jermain Defoe (Tottenham Hotspur), Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea), Danny Welbeck (Manchester United).

GK: Joe Hart

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    Hodgson will be grateful that he can have no concerns about the first name on his team sheet, as Hart is England's undisputed No.1.

    The 25-year-old has not kept a clean sheet in any of his last four matches in Manchester City colours, but he kept clean sheets in each of England's final two games at Euro 2012 against Ukraine and Italy.

RB: Kyle Walker

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    Hodgson has a clear choice at right-back between the more experienced Glen Johnson, who served him reasonably well at Euro 2012 having previously had a patchy career in England, or Kyle Walker, the PFA Young Player of the Year who missed the trip to Poland and Ukraine because of an injury.

    Walker, whose pace can be a weapon in attack and a saving grace in defence, appeared to be on course to take the starting spot, and Hodgson has the chance to get him bedded in from the start of this World Cup campaign.

CB: Phil Jagielka

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    Everton's uncharacteristically good start to the season may have had the buffers with their defeat at West Brom on Saturday, but Jagielka's form has nonetheless been great, even by his high standards.

    The centre-back scored his first international goal in the recent friendly win over Italy, ensuring his slow but steady rise on the international scene continues.

CB: John Terry

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    Whatever the merits of the other players vying for a berth in the centre of the England defence, when Terry is fit, Hodgson has shown that he will play him.

    The Chelsea captain will have had a good 10 days rest after serving the final game of his European suspension for the Super Cup defeat to Atletico Madrid, so he will be raring to go for England, who have called him up despite an FA charge (which he denies) hanging over his head. 

LB: Leighton Baines

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    With Ashley Cole out, Baines gets another chance to reprise his role as England's undisputed second-choice left-back.

    The Everton man's influence is routinely stifled at the international level, as he does not get to maraud down the flank as much or take as many set pieces, but he still makes a worthwhile contribution to the national team.

RM: James Milner

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    He may not be the most popular player among fans in England shirts, but Milner ticks so many of the necessary boxes for a manager like Hodgson that he is impossible to ignore, especially after his game-changing cameo against Italy last month.

    The Manchester City man offers good balance on the right flank and would be a good senior partner for the exuberant Walker on that side, while he would also be useful at coming inside to help make up for the absence of the injured Scott Parker. 

CM: Steven Gerrard

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    Euro 2012 was the second consecutive tournament in which Gerrard both captained the English team and was arguably their best player.

    Frank Lampard skippered the team the victory against Italy the last time—just as he did against Spain in a friendly last November—but a fit-again Gerrard will surely return to reclaim both his place and the armband at the expense of the Chelsea midfielder.  

CM: Tom Cleverley

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    With Gerrard taking the place of Lampard, Hodgson may want to use his other central midfield berth to help further encourage the progress being made by Manchester United's Tom Cleverley.

    The 23-year-old has started all three of United's games so far this season after a summer in which he was one of the most prominent members of Team GB's Olympic football team, and he also played all 90 minutes against Italy in Berne last month.

LM: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

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    In a little more than 12 months "The Ox" went from playing in League One to starting for England in their opening match of a European Championship against France and all before his 19th birthday.

    The Arsenal winger is one of the most exciting prospects in English football, and a few solid performances for England between now and Christmas would go a long way to him making that troublesome left wing spot for England his own.

FW: Danny Welbeck

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    The Manchester United striker's decision to represent England rather than Ghana appears to have been vindicated, as he earned a spot in the Euro 2012 squad and acquitted himself well in Poland and Ukraine, not least with his back-heeled winner against Sweden.

    In the absence of the injured Wayne Rooney and Andy Carroll, Welbeck can add some of the former's dynamism and the latter's aerial strength to ask plenty of questions of the Moldovan defence. 

FW: Jermain Defoe

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    As England's match-winner against Italy last time, Defoe has also started every game for Tottenham so far this season, despite the summer arrival of Emmanuel Adebayor.

    Defoe is another beneficiary of Rooney and Carroll's enforced absences, but his only rival for a place in the side if Hodgson goes for the 4-4-2 deployed here is Daniel Sturridge, who is yet to start a game for Chelsea this season and was only a standby for England during Euro 2012.