FIFA Worldcup 2014: 5 Potential Starting Lineups for England Against San Marino
England resume their qualifying campaign for World Cup 2014 this week with a match that everybody on planet football will be expecting them to win comfortably, handsomely and clinically, as they take on the lowest FIFA-ranked European nation, San Marino.
Roy Hodgson's men made something of an indifferent start to their qualification campaign last month, comfortably beating Moldova 5-0 before being held to a home draw by Ukraine, needing a Frank Lampard penalty late on to rescue a point in a 1-1 draw.
San Marino should present no obstacle at all as England search out a second group win, but with the much harder trip to Poland coming just a few days later it might be that several scenarios for the starting lineup in the first match are running through Hodgson's mind.
Here are five different starting XI's that the manager could choose against San Marino.
The Usual Suspects
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The first option is for Roy Hodgson to go with his established side in terms of mixing international experience and those who have formed the large part of his competitive teams to date.
Joe Hart; Glen Johnson, Phil Jagielka, Joleon Lescott, Ashley Cole; Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard; James Milner, Tom Cleverley, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain; Jermain Defoe.
Hodgson has lined up in a 4-2-3-1 with the national side, with the one obvious absence from the last bout of qualifiers being the now-retired John Terry from the defence.
The contrasting talents of Oxlade-Chamberlain and Milner on each flank provide width, pace and endeavour rather equally split.
Wayne Rooney would miss out however, after Jermain Defoe scored and generally impressed in both qualifiers last time out.
This keeps in place an established team, rewarding those who have gone unbeaten so far and likely sees the team lineup who will face Poland a few days later.
Actually Play the Most in-Form Players
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Here's a novel idea; Roy Hodgson could select in-form players from their clubs and see how they get on playing together for England against a very poor side.
Joe Hart; Glen Johnson, Phil Jagielka, Ryan Shawcross, Leighton Baines; Aaron Lennon, Michael Carrick, Frank Lampard, James Milner; Wayne Rooney, Jermain Defoe.
A switch in formation to 4-4-2 would be required to fit in those who are in the England squad and actually playing consistently well for their club teams.
Steven Gerrard, Joleon Lescott, Tom Cleverley, Ashley Cole and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would all miss out as a result of either not playing well, being in and out of their clubs or someone in their position playing better.
Any chance of this lineup?
Didn't think so.
Give Experience to the Inexperienced
Given that England should secure three points even if they played with nine men, no goalkeeper and let Roy Hodgson pick the team—ah, wait—perhaps it might be wise to play the younger and lesser-experienced at international level players.
Fraser Forster; Kyle Walker, Ryan Shawcross, Gary Cahill, Leighton Baines; Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jonjo Shelvey, Tom Cleverley, Ryan Bertrand; Danny Welbeck, Andy Carroll.
Another 4-4-2, this time with a brand new keeper for England, a back four with a combined 24 caps, just 12 in midfield along with new debutant Shelvey, and a strike force who paired up in Euro 2012, with 19 caps and four goals between them.
With Shelvey for one unlikely to play any part for England we won't see this exact line-up, but Roy Hodgson could certainly use the exercise to give at least a handful of players a rare run-out in the national team shirt.
Try a New System, Go All-out Attack
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We won't be so outlandish as to suggest Roy Hodgson do something daring like play 3-4-3, but perhaps a slight switch to an attack-minded diamond might not be out of the question, allowing England to play as many of their creative players as possible.
Joe Hart; Glen Johnson, Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka, Ashley Cole; Steven Gerrard, James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wayne Rooney; Andy Carroll, Jermain Defoe.
Three forwards and three advanced-minded midfielders might seem overly-attacking but England will dominate possession and control of the game against San Marino and should not need any more than a professional attitude and players who know their roles to take victory from the game.
Rooney has shown already he can prove useful in an advanced midfield position, leaving two other forwards to play ahead of him.
Full-backs pushed on to keep the game stretched will be key, as will a disciplined performance from Gerrard in not leaving the midfield area entirely unmanned.
Most of the Side to Play Poland, Resting Some Key Individuals
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What Roy Hodgson, ever safe and pragmatic, is perhaps most likely to do is play the majority of the team against San Marino that he wants to start against Poland—resting a couple of key names who might not cope so well with two games in four days.
Joe Hart; Kyle Walker, Phil Jagielka, Joleon Lescott, Leighton Baines; James Milner, Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain; Jermain Defoe, Wayne Rooney.
Ageing central midfield duo Gerrard and Lampard are left out, while Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole in the demanding full-back roles are also rested.
There might be few complaining voices over Cole being omitted after his most recent brush with the FA, but missing out entirely, even from the bench, would deny both he and Steven Gerrard the chance to reach a century of caps for their country during this international break—both are currently on 98.