Why Joe Hart Must Start for England in 2014 World Cup Qualifiers

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Why Joe Hart Must Start for England in 2014 World Cup Qualifiers
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Wednesday was another uncomfortable night for Joe Hart as he continued his poor streak of form in goal.

Manchester City fell by a 3-1 scoreline to a dominant, spectacular Bayern Munich side, but Hart's ability and concentration was called into question for both Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben's goals.

On the seven-minute mark, Ribery cut in from the left and released a powerful shot aimed at the England international's near post. He got down quickly but flapped a weak hand at the ball and allowed it to fly into the roof of the net.

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In the second half, after Robben had turned Matija Nastasic inside-out, the Dutchman released a right-footed shot that beat Hart at his near post yet again.

Sky Sports showed the 'keeper face down in the turf moments after, and Twitter was instantly awash with the questioning of Roy Hodgson's No. 1.

These aren't the first mistakes Hart has made this season, and they won't be the last: Against Aston Villa, he came tearing out of goal far too early when approaching the onrushing Andi Weimann and ended up 23 yards from goal and unable to use his hands. The Austrian netted the winner in a shock 3-2 reversal.

In England's friendly against Scotland before the season, Hart was widely judged to have botched James Morrison's long-range shot—despite the 'keeper being unsighted and the shot swerving violently.

His play during set pieces at Cardiff City in September was also cause for concern.

Hart's been around for a long time and it's easy to forget he's only 26—a very young age for a goalkeeper—and he's still working through his formative years in a difficult, heavily scrutinised position.

He suffers from constant comparisons to Manuel Neuer, Bayern's freakishly good 27-year-old goalkeeper who is a tier or two above Hart, and takes an easy battering from fans and media alike.

We are well within our rights to criticise a poor performer but suggestions that Fraser Forster should be starting in goal for crunch World Cup qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland are way off the mark.

There are some differences, certainly, but does anyone remember the last time England started an untried 'keeper in a critical qualifer? Steve "Wolly with a Brolly" McClaren does.

The conditions were horrible and Scott Carson was not a Champions League-calibre 'keeper like Forster is. Carson didn't have a grand nickname, but the very principle of trying a new shot stopper at such a pivotal time is wrong.

The Carson debacle halted the man's career: Aston Villa refused to take him permanently from Liverpool, and the now-infamous 'keeper drifted from West Bromwich Albion to Bursaspor to Wigan Athletic. McClaren was fired unceremoniously after failing to reach Euro 2012 as a result of the loss to Croatia.

England are by no means a certainty to make the 2014 World Cup in Brazil—why add any more uncertainty in the form of a different presence in goal? 

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