The England national team's friendly with Peru marks the first phase of the squad's final preparations ahead of the FIFA 2014 World Cup. Manager Roy Hodgson will likely field a line-up closest to the way his team will look at the big tournament in Brazil.
In particular, the spotlight could well shine brightest on young Arsenal star Jack Wilshere. The precocious midfielder has only recently returned from a lengthy spell on the treatment table.
Wilshere had sustained an ankle injury on England duty following a challenge by Liverpool centre-back Daniel Agger during the Three Lions' friendly against Denmark back in early March.
Since then, Wilshere has only made a pair of substitute appearances for the Gunners. But the 22-year-old pass-and-move specialist remains a key figure in Hodgson's team.
Wilshere's form and fitness will be closely monitored before England's first tournament match on June 14. Here are some other key things to watch when Hodgson's men face Peru on Friday, May 30:
Form Guide Favors England
Playing against some quality opponents, as well as travelling to some tough venues, has meant Peru enter this friendly in dire form:
|Home vs. Bolivia||Oct. 16, 2013||1-1||Draw|
|Away vs. Argentina||Oct. 12, 2013||3-1||Lost|
|Away vs. Venezuela||Sept. 11, 2013||3-2||Lost|
|Home vs. Uruguay||Sept. 7, 2013||1-2||Lost|
|Away vs. Korea Republic||Aug. 14, 2013||0-0||Draw|
Meanwhile, England's recent form has been better, but it still remains merely adequate ahead of international football's premier tournament:
|Home vs. Denmark||March 5 2014||1-0||Won|
|Home vs. Germany||Nov. 19, 2013||0-1||Lost|
|Home vs. Chile||Nov. 15, 2013||0-2||Lost|
|Home vs. Poland||Oct. 15, 2013||2-0||Won|
|Home vs. Montenegro||Oct. 11, 2013||4-1||Won|
|Away vs. Ukraine||Sept. 10, 2013||0-0||Draw|
England should use this friendly to build some confidence and establish a belief in their ability to make an impression once the real action begins in Brazil.
Here are some predictions about how the game will play out, including the final score.
Wilshere Will Look Good in a Brief Cameo
The battle for full fitness is one Wilshere appears to be winning, according to quotes reported by Sky Sports:
I've been training for a long time now. I'm yet to play a game, but I've been training now for six weeks.
I'm feeling well. I maybe need a few games, but I'm feeling good. Hopefully I can get some games under my belt before the big kick-off.
The diminutive schemer will use a brief cameo against Peru to impress fans and remind pundits of his obvious qualities. Wilshere will be intelligent and efficient in possession as well as quick and dynamic on the turn.
A few glimpses of him weaving past defenders while displaying seemingly impossible close control will prove Wilshere is ready to make an impact in Brazil.
It will only be a first step, but this crucial cameo will encourage Hodgson that one of his key figures is healthy enough for the rigours of tournament play. But Wilshere won't be the only talented midfielder who shines against Peru.
Ross Barkley and Adam Lallana Will Both Impress
Hodgson's squad for Brazil is supposed to herald a new era of young talent for the England national team. Central to this supposed bright, new future will be Everton's dynamic midfield runner Ross Barkley, along with Southampton playmaker Adam Lallana.
Both players will use this friendly to announce themselves as vital weapons in Hodgson's armoury ahead of Brazil. Barkley in particular generates excitement.
His combination of physical power, technical skill and bravado is something all natural midfield generals have in common. While it's too soon to herald Barkley as a talisman just yet, the 20-year-old certainly has the talent to grow into the role. That growth will begin against Peru.
Meanwhile, Lallana is often lumped in with the new breed of young prospects Hodgson has chosen to favor for this World Cup. But the truth is he is neither particularly young nor a prospect.
What Lallana represents for England is something new. The 26-year-old is a classy ballplayer with a natural impudence to his game.
Lallana won't be cowed into altering his style by the reputation of any opposition. He will simply continue stylishly recycling possession and attacking spaces with intelligent runs.
Lallana is the type of creative talent who at one time would've been considered a luxury at international level. But he is now a key cog for a squad more front-loaded with attacking talent.
Barkley and Lallana will each contribute an assist to cap equally impressive performances.
Predicted Winner: England 3-0
The Three Lions will be in rampant mood. This is an ideal chance for the squad's newbies to prove their worth.
It's a chance several of England's young stars will seize.