Film Focus: Daniel Sturridge Now Key to England's World Cup Chances

Rob PollardFeatured ColumnistJune 3, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 30:  Daniel Sturridge of England gestures during the international friendly match between England and Peru at Wembley Stadium on May 30, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

England will play Ecuador tomorrow at the Sun Life Stadium in Miami, looking to build on their 3-0 win over Peru in their last World Cup warm-up match.

The game is likely to played in front of a sparse crowd—just 10,000 are expected inside the 75,000-capacity arena—as Roy Hodgson looks to fine-tune his system before leaving the US for Brazil.

Their solid, if unspectacular, win over Peru was a trouble-free workout, a confidence-building 90 minutes which allowed Hodgson to reintegrate Phil Jagielka—who had missed 11 of Everton's last 13 matches of the Premier League season—into his side.

The idea against Ecuador, according to Hodgson, is to give the players not involved in Friday's match at Wembley a start in Miami, meaning the likes of James Milner and Raheem Sterling are likely to feature. "Our plan really on Wednesday is basically to start the people who didn't start on Friday (against Peru)," the England manager said (via Sky Sports).

There will surely be a temptation to start Daniel Sturridge again, though, with the Liverpool striker now emerging as England's most important attacking player. His pace, movement and ability to score out of seemingly nothing give Hodgson's side an edge previously absent.

Doubts remain over the compatibility of his partnership with Wayne Rooney, but there's little doubt about Sturridge's role: He is certain to start against Italy in England's first World Cup match on June 14th.

It's the flexibility and ingenuity of his play which make the Liverpool forward so difficult to mark.

via the FA YouTube channel

via the FA YouTube channel

The images above show his predatory side, sitting on the shoulder of the last defender and looking to nip in behind and score from close range. His finish, this time, was inaccurate, but it was a piece of positioning in stark contrast to later in the match when he opened the scoring.

Here, he dropped deep, collecting a throw-in from Glen Johnson, before turning and running at the Peruvian defence with devastating effect.

via the FA YouTube channel

via the FA YouTube channel

Two passages of play demonstrating everything that makes Sturridge so vital to England.

Whether Hodgson will rest him like he plans to do with the other starters from the Peru win, or start him in order to keep his momentum high remains to be seen, but it's becoming increasingly clear that Sturridge, more than Rooney, is the key man in England's attack.

Rooney's problem, much like at club level, appears to be his eagerness to help out defensively. His work-rate is commendable, however, winning a tackle in the right-back spot is not what Rooney does best.

He needs to concentrate on giving England the explosive goalscoring that announced him as a world star and saw him bag more than 30 in a season on two occasions.

If he can find the same form Sturridge has, the Three Lions may well spring a surprise or two in Brazil.