England National Team: Predicting Their 5 Most Important Players at World Cup
After Roy Hodgson revealed his youthful 23-man squad on Monday, opinions were largely split on the subject of England's World Cup chances.
Whether Hodgson's team flops or flourishes, it will come down largely to the play of the following five players.
Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling: The duo could very well start on the two flanks in Roy Hodsgon's XI, and will be looked upon to create, score, and terrorise opposition defences.
Leighton Baines: The left-back will have to be disciplined in defence to contain the attacking threats of Italy and Uruguay. However, England will expect Baines to create some chances as well, and he could possibly be counted on to slot home a penalty should England go to a shootout.
Daniel Sturridge: The Liverpool striker netted 21 goals in the Premier League this season, and he will need to display his speed, strength, footwork, and finishing ability if England are to stand a chance.
Ross Barkley: The surging central midfielder is an ideal impact sub with the ability to penetrate the opposing half with bursts of speed and the use of his strength. His knack for scoring wonder goals could prove to be vital.
5. Jordan Henderson, Central Midfielder
Criminally undervalued and underappreciated, Henderson was vital to Liverpool's title efforts and the resurgence of Steven Gerrard as a deep-lying midfielder this season.
Despite a lack of fanfare around Henderson, he is a very reliable player and has a legitimate chance of starting due to his strong season and Jack Wilshere's injury problems.
If he can avoid the types of lapses in judgement that got him sent off vs. Manchester City, Henderson can announce himself to the world in Brazil.
4. Joe Hart, Goalkeeper
While goalkeepers are often expected to perform without much trouble, that has not been the case with those who have played between the sticks for England.
David "Calamity" James wore No. 1 for England at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, while Robert Green gifted Clint Dempsey a goal with an atrocious error in the opening match of the same tournament.
This time around, however, England supporters have a goalie they can feel confident in.
Joe Hart of Manchester City conceded less than one goal per game and rediscovered his form in the second half of the season on the way to helping his team claim the Premier League title.
Hart was the starting goalie for England in Euro 2012, and he will remain in that role, with much responsibility, barring catastrophic play in Brazil.
3. Gary Cahill, Central Defender
Though England boast a strong crop of attacking options, they will surely need to be at least adequate in defence to make any sort of run this summer.
That defensive stability and composure will be put largely on the shoulders of Gary Cahill, who helped Chelsea concede a league-best 27 goals, and recorded the sixth-best Squawka performance score of all defenders.
While England haven't been known for having a leaky defence in the past—just one goal conceded in the group stages of South Africa 2010—they face the daunting task of neutralising Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez, and Mario Balotelli in their first two games this time around.
If Cahill can't replicate his EPL form this summer, consider England's chances of progressing extremely slim.
2. Steven Gerrard, Deep-Lying Central Midfielder
The captain of England, Steven Gerrard assumes a large responsibility and burden every team he pulls on the Three Lions jersey.
Aside from providing leadership, Gerrard's primary role in the team will be to spew passes from in front of the defense, setting up his attackers with accurate long balls.
With both his defensive and attacking responsibilities likely to be limited, Gerrard needs to make sure his passes and set-piece deliveries are on point.
1. Wayne Rooney, Central Attacking Midfielder/Striker
Wayne Rooney has failed to score in the last two World Cups, and the farthest England have gone in those tournaments is the quarter-finals.
For England to make good on Rooney's declaration that they can win the tournament, the 28 year-old will need his play to the best of his immense talent.
Rooney had a good season statistically, with 19 goals and 15 assists in all competitions, but was somewhat inconsistent, with good spurts of form followed by lifeless performances.
Whether or not Rooney can still be consistent over a 38-game season is up for debate, but right now he is feeling fresh and healthy for the upcoming challenge.
If he can create, score and be the fiery nuisance to opposing defences that he's capable of being—for seven games, at most—England could surprise some people.