Predicting England's Team for UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifiers

Liam Newman@@thatliamnewmanContributor IMarch 5, 2014

Predicting England's Team for UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifiers

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    Tonight, Roy Hodgson's England continue their preparations for the 2014 FIFA World Cup with the visit of Denmark. 

    The Three Lions are now just 100 days away from their first match against Italy, but we're looking ahead to life after Brazil by predicting what Hodgson's side may look like throughout the next campaign.

    With a number of long-serving players set to retire from international football, a new dawn for the national side is coming and here's what we think it may look like.

    On the road to France, England will face Switzerland, Estonia, San Marino, Lithuania, and Slovenia.

    In the words of Mike Bassett, England will play four-four-[naughty word]-two. This is mainly due to the easy nature of the opposition; if you can't attack the likes of San Marino and Estonia then you may as well throw the towel in now.

    Is there anyone we've missed who deserves the call? Let us know your thoughts below.

GK: Joe Hart

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    Alastair Grant/Associated Press

    Still England's No. 1 between the sticks and will remain so for years to come.

    The Manchester City custodian will already have two tournaments and nearly 50 caps under his belt by the time September's first qualifier arrives. There's very little competition to his place in the starting XI and, at 26 years old, he's got a lot of Three Lions appearances left in him.

    An absolute certainty to retain the gloves.

RB: Kyle Walker

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    Alastair Grant/Associated Press

    Tottenham's Kyle Walker is the only real contender for the No. 2 jersey.

    With Glen Johnson suffering from injury, there is a chance he'll retire from the international scene, and even if he doesn't, the Liverpool man has hardly shone in the England shirt. Meanwhile, neither Chris Smalling nor Micah Richards get enough game time for their clubs to be considered.

    Walker isn't the best defensively, but he does get well extremely well. To be honest, his defensive shortcomings won't be tested too often during this qualifying campaign. Also links up with team-mate Townsend if and when the midfielder is picked.

CB: Phil Jones

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    Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press

    Having been touted as a future England captain for at least two years, Euro 2016 qualifying is where the Manchester United man needs to nail down his spot in Hodgson's team.

    The 22-year-old has been a regular face amongst the England setup, but he has only amassed nine caps to date, and not all of those have come in his favoured position of centre-back.

    Natural versatility has been somewhat of a hindrance to Jones' progression at both club and international level, thus it is vital that he cements his place in the back four before he becomes the next Phil Neville.

CB: Phil Jagielka

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    Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

    It's a toss-up between Jagielka and Gary Cahill, but the Everton man just about edges it, mainly due to the fact that Leighton Baines plays left-back.

    The Everton stopper has been one of the best English defenders for a number of seasons and has adapted well to the international scene. With over 25 caps (by the time September comes) to his name, he offers an experienced head to sit alongside Jones.

    At 31 years of age, this will probably be his last campaign in an England shirt. He should enjoy a fair few clean sheets.

LB: Leighton Baines

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    Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

    For years, the Everton star waited patiently for his time, behind the brilliant Ashley Cole, but the 2016 campaign should be the first in which he gets a real chance to cement the position as his own.

    With centurion Cole set to retire from the international game, Baines will be guaranteed the No. 3 for at least a couple of years. It's quite likely that he'll actually make the starting XI in Brazil this summer but, even if he doesn't, he can rest assured that his place in France is nailed down.

    Meanwhile, Southampton's Luke Shaw will be promoted to the reserve role previously occupied by Baines.

RW: James Milner

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    Alastair Grant/Associated Press

    Not everyone's cup of tea, Milner is not only a workhorse, but he'll also offer some much-needed experience to a youthful midfield.

    In addition to 44 senior caps, Milner holds the record for under-21 appearances with 46. Despite that vast amount of experience, the Manchester City midfielder is still only 28 years old. 

    The increased defensive support to Walker more than compensates for Milner's lack of goals. Could be rotated with Andros Townsend to give the Spurs man more experience on the international stage.

CM: Jordan Henderson

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    The Liverpool man has forced his way into Roy Hodgson's thinking with a string of impressive displays and could be an outside shot of making the plane to Brazil. Even if he doesn't, he should be playing in the Euro 2016 qualifiers.

    His individual improvement has ran parallel to that of his club side and the 23-year-old is starting to show signs that he could do a job in the England team. His ability to control the play for Liverpool, particularly when Gerrard is missing, demonstrates a maturity that would be particularly welcomed in the matches with Switzerland.

CM: Jack Wilshire

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    ST ALBANS, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 18:  Jack Wilshire races away from Wayne Rooney during a England Training session at London Colney on November 18, 2013 in St Albans, England.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
    Christopher Lee/Getty Images

    The Arsenal man is many people's choice as first name on the team sheet and is certainly an important figure.

    In terms of technical ability, Wilshire is by far and away the best England has to offer. One criticism is that he is a little lightweight but at 22 years of age, this is the time for him to grow from boy to man.

    If he does that successfully, then there is little doubt that he'll be one of the key players heading to France in 2016.

LW: Raheem Sterling

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    The young Liverpool star broke onto the scene at the start of last season after a string of fine displays and is now starting to look ready for an extended run in the national setup.

    Sterling not only possesses speed and agility in abundance, but he additionally has a great eye for goal. He is arguably the most exciting young winger in the Premiership right now and his stats are even better than Manchester United's Adnan Januzaj.

    If he can link up with Sturridge and Henderson as well as he does at Anfield, then this XI looks destined for success.

CF: Wayne Rooney (capt)

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    Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

    England's greatest talent is an absolute certainty for the team, and should be nailed on to inherit Steven Gerrard's armband.

    Rooney will break England records for both goals and appearances and, especially if he has a good World Cup, could even surpass Bobby Charlton's 49 goals before the tournament in France. 

    There's not much else you can say about the Manchester United man—he will be the focal figure of the team.

CF: Daniel Sturridge

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    Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

    The Liverpool hotshot deserves an extended run in the team, whether that be now or after the World Cup in Brazil.

    He is easily the top-scoring English striker in the Premier League this term and already boasts a couple of goals for the national side. With Liverpool likely to qualify for next season's Champions League, the 24-year-old will also have the chance to gain experience against Europe's elite.

    Sturridge has evolved from a potential talent to a genuine star, and he should be rewarded with a place in Hodgson's XI.

Fringe Players:

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    Fraser Forster: Probably needs a move away from Celtic before launching a genuine threat to Hart's jersey.

    Luke Shaw: With a few caps against the lower-ranked sides or in friendlies, he could be ready to take over from Baines for the 2018 campaign.

    Gary Cahill: Unlucky to miss out. A very capable standby if either Jones or Jagielka get injured.

    Steven Caulker: Boasts one cap so far, could gain a handful more over the next two years.

    Ross Barkley: Replaces Sterling, with Sturridge coming out wide, to make a midfield three during the tough away games.

    Andros Townsend: Will almost certainly get some playing time. Offers pace and a genuine attacking threat, this campaign offers the perfect opportunity for Hodgson to give him more experience at the top level.

    Tom Ince: A bit early to tout him as the future of English football, but the 22-year-old clearly has talent. If he continues to perform at Crystal Palace, then he's bound to be in and around the England camp.

    Danny Welbeck: The Manchester United forward's work ethic and versatility make him the perfect squad member.

    Andy Carroll: Offers a different option. Could be particularly useful in matches away from home.

    Theo Walcott: Has been on the scene for eight years and struggled to make any real impact. His pace is still a threat, but it's time to give someone else a chance.