England vs. Montenegro: Three Lions Players with the Most to Prove
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The England Men's National Team will enter Friday's match against Montenegro with the slighest of leads in their World Cup Qualifying group, with the Montenegrin team right on their heels pursuing a trip to Brazil in the summer of 2014. In order to secure victory in a crucial match for World Cup qualification, England will need clutch performances from their star players.
The last time these two teams met, they managed a 1-1 draw thanks to a late equalizer for Montenegro by substitute Dejan Damjanovic. But the game on the whole was very competitive, with the hosts from southern Europe getting several chances on goal courtesy of world-class striker Stevan Jovetic.
And it's Jovetic's teammate with his new club in England who we will draw our attention to first as one of the four players with the most to prove for the Three Lions.
No team in the Barclays Premier League has hammered home more goals than the Citizens of Manchester City, but it has been their defense and goalkeeping that have let them down so far this season. Joe Hart is considered one of the main culprits.
Check out this tweet from WhoScored.com, with an infographic showing just how poor of a season it has been for Hart.
But he was in fairly good form the last time these two national teams met, making some very good saves which you can see in the highlight video below.
With Hart's allegiance switching for a weekend as he focuses on wearing goalkeeper shirt for England rather than Manchester City, he has everything to prove in a crucial match for qualification in the World Cup and must leave his shaky recent form with his club behind.
England legend Peter Shilton told the Manchester Evening News that Hart has been making too many avoidable errors, and that he believes something has changed over the past year for the starting goalkeeper for the English side. That's why Hart has everything to prove on Friday against Montenegro.
Hart will be under fire from his teammate Jovetic, and the many other positive, attacking players for the visiting side. He must avoid errors and lapses in judgement to ensure that England have a chance to get a crucial three points in this match.
Jagielka and his Everton teammates have allowed seven goals in the last three matches, which is not the best run of play for a crucial defender tasked with stopping the aforementioned Jovetic and keeping Joe Hart in the best position to keep the ball out of the England goal.
England has found a partnership in central defense with Gary Cahill and Jagielka, but the latter admits that it's still a work in progress for the two as they learn each other's tendencies and work together. You can see him discuss the partnership and the match ahead in the video below.
If Joe Hart continues to be out of form, Jagielka must be responsible for stopping opposing attackers and keeping the ball out of dangerous situations. Rio Ferdinand and John Terry are no longer among those holding down the last line of defense for the Three Lions, and it's a match like the one on Friday that can begin a new legacy for Jagielka and his partner Cahill.
Not a game goes by when Wayne Rooney doesn't have a lot to prove. The controversial yet immensely talented attacking player for England scored the only goal for his country in the 1-1 draw against Montenegro earlier this year, and he'll likely be called upon again to generate most of the offense on Friday.
Rooney will be called upon to lead the attack for England, a role he cherishes and is happy to perform. As he admitted in a press conference, as quoted by Henry Winter of The Telegraph, it was his assignments to play the midfield which caused the disagreements between he and Sir Alex Ferguson, and that he's happy to be playing striker again under David Moyes.
He will be called upon as a striker for England, for whom he has scored 36 goals over the course of his career. And with question marks at goalkeeper for England, it's important that Rooney and his fellow attackers get on the score sheet and put the pressure on the visitors.
Rooney alone may not be enough for England, who will want to do better on the attack than they did in their goalless draw against Ukraine in September. That means Rooney's likely strike partner, Daniel Sturridge, will have just as much to prove for England as his more well-known counterpart.
England captain Steven Gerrard called upon Sturridge and Rooney to "prove they can make it happen," as noted in an article by Simon Stone of The Independent. That's not a massive task for the experienced Rooney, but for Sturridge it is a bit of a leap considering his lack of experience with the national team.
At only 24 years of age, Sturridge is the future of the England team at the striker position. But to earn the trust and respect of his teammates and opposing defenders alike, he'll need to translate his incredible performances with his club into his play for his country.
Sturridge has six goals and two assists in seven games this season in the Premier League, which places him among the most prolific goal scorers in all of Europe. But for fans of England, that form means nothing if he can't find the back of the net in his national team colors.
Some players are simply better with their club or with their country, rather than having equal form with both. Sturridge must prove that he's capable of playing at a high level for both club and country, and that begins with a crucial match against Montenegro on Friday.
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