Roy Hodgson named England's 23-man World Cup squad—plus his seven stand-by options—on Monday, opting to leave Manchester United's Michael Carrick out of the initial 23 in what was arguably his toughest decision.
Bleacher Report UK also revealed the full selection:
Now, all the attention and speculation turns to one primary question: Who will earn a place in his starting 11?
Will Hodgson unleash England's youth on their rivals in Brazil, or will he rely upon experience under the intense South American heat? The decision to go with youngster Luke Shaw over Ashley Cole indicates the former, but that was just one of several tough calls the England boss must make.
Cole spoke about the decision to leave him off of the roster and the players that will be heading to Brazil on his Twitter account:
I got the call from Roy and agree England team should be about the young players. I think it best I retire from England team now. 😢😢— Ashley Cole (@TheRealAC3) May 11, 2014
Let's take a look at the full 30-man squad, and offer some predictions for Hodgson's starting 11.
|GK||Joe Hart||Manchester City|
|GK||Ben Foster||West Brom|
|DF||Phil Jones||Manchester United|
|DF||Chris Smalling||Manchester United|
|MF||James Milner||Manchester City|
|ATT||Wayne Rooney||Manchester United|
|ATT||Danny Welbeck||Manchester United|
|MF||Michael Carrick||Manchester United|
|MF||Tom Cleverley||Manchester United|
|ATT||Andy Carroll||West Ham|
Starting 11 Projections
GK: Joe Hart (Manchester City)
CB: Gary Cahill (Chelsea)
CB: Phil Jagielka (Everton)
RB: Glen Johnson (Liverpool)
CM: Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
CM: Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)
LM: James Milner (Manchester City)
RM: Raheem Sterling (Liverpool)
CF: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
ST: Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool)
Who's In, Who's Out?
Manchester United's poor campaign sees two England regulars miss out, neither of which are particularly surprising.
Carrick, who failed to replicate anywhere near his best form this campaign, will be disappointed to miss out on what is likely his last chance at playing in the World Cup. At 32 years old, the controlling midfielder failed to assert himself under David Moyes, with the tournament arriving one-year too late if we're judging solely on form.
Tom Cleverley, one of England's most heavily mocked players, has played just three times since the end of February, per WhoScored.com. While Hodgson originally favoured the enigmatic midfielder in an advanced role during the early matches of his reign, it's no surprise his lack of form sees him overlooked.
Despite showing signs of versatility throughout his career—being able to play anywhere across the midfield—Cleverley is yet to nail down a role that totally suits his game.
On the contrary, Southampton's fantastic year is highlighted with the inclusion of Adam Lallana, Shaw and Lambert. Shaw is the squad's youngest inclusion at 18, while Lambert completes a remarkable rise up the tiers of English football to enter his first major tournament at 32, at the expense of West Ham's Carroll.
Paul Heyward of The Daily Telegraph gave his thoughts on the squad as a whole:
Can't think of a reason to dispute this England squad. Cole the only grey area but Shaw is the future. No omitted player can feel aggreived.— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) May 12, 2014
Much of the starting England XI should be predictable, but there will be serious questions over certain positions for Hodgson.
For one, is Steven Gerrard and Jack Wilshere the right midfield axis? With Carrick only on stand-by, it appears this pairing will look to provide the answer to a long-term problem area for England.
Will England win the World Cup?
The combination of Gerrard and Wilshere would provide fluidity, with the pinpoint passing and organisation of Gerrard complemented by the box-to-box movement and ball control of Wilshere.
If Hodgson seeks alternatives, Jordan Henderson provides the type of energy that is offered by few other central midfielders in the squad, while Frank Lampard will always have a goal in him.
There will be questions out wide, as well. Both Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have made a strong case for their insertions into the squad, and Hodgson has also shown a preference for utilising Danny Welbeck on the left in the past.
Andros Townsend misses out through injury, and his likely replacement in the starting XI will be Liverpool's in-form speedster Raheem Sterling, who showed incredible maturity during the Reds' Premier League title bid.
James Milner, meanwhile, provides a reliable option down either flank and has never let Hodgson down. He and Sterling would offer England the greatest balance.
Hodgson has options. He can use a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3, although a forward pairing of Daniel Sturridge with Rooney playing in the hole seems like a given.
Finally, it seems this will be the year Leighton Baines finally takes over as England's left-back, surpassing the now-retired Cole. Given the Chelsea man's exceptional international career, it is the first of several potential gambles Hodgson could take over the next couple of months.