5 Changes England Must Make Following Loss vs. Italy

Rob Pollard@@RobPollard_Featured ColumnistJune 15, 2014

5 Changes England Must Make Following Loss vs. Italy

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    England suffered a painful defeat to Italy in Manaus in their opening World Cup match, but it was a defeat which came with many positives. England were bright and inventive, with an attack full of pace creativity. Compared to the football they've produced in recent major tournaments, it was a definite step up in quality.

    Italy, though, were excellent, and deserved their 2-1 win, despite never really dominating proceedings in the same way they did when the two sides met in Euro 2012. Their midfield three possess great technical quality, and Mario Balotelli is a fearsome forward capable of winning matches.

    Attention for England now turns to their crucial match with Uruguay on Thursday, with Roy Hodgson likely to be contemplating changes he can make to ensure they take the three points and put themselves in a strong postion to qualify for the round of 16.

Rooney Must Play Centrally or Sit on the Bench

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    One of the most bizarre elements of England's line-up against Italy was Hodgson's decision to play Wayne Rooney on the left, a move which failed to benefit the team or the Manchester United forward, who, at present, is painfully out of form.

    Rooney is England's best player when he's in form, but he's off the pace badly at present, and moving him to the left was never going to solve the conundrum. Hodgson must play him centrally where he can best flourish or drop him and play a more balanced side.

Could Oxlade-Chamberlain Fit In?

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    If Hodgson does decide to drop Rooney, could Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who is expected to return for Engalnd's next match (via Paul Joyce at the Express), be the answer?

    He could take up a role on the right of England's three supporting forwards, with Danny Welbeck, who impressed against Italy, shifting to the left, leaving Raheem Sterling, England's best player in Manaus, to continue playing centrally just behind Daniel Sturridge.

    He impressed in England's warm-up games and Hodgson will be keen to use him.

Question Marks over Baines

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    Leighton Baines' performance left a little to be desired, and although it's unlikely he'll lose his place after one poor showing, it did raise question marks about the decision to leave Ashley Cole out of England's 23-man squad.

    Baines failed to get forward as well as he does for Everton and was beaten to easily in the build up to Italy's winner. With the inexperienced Luke Shaw as England's only other left-back though, it seems he will start vs. Uruguay.

Glen Johnson's Form Also a Worry

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    Arguably the most out-of-form player in the England set up, despite the focus being firmly placed on Rooney, is Glen Johnson. He looked short of confidence in England's recent friendly matches, and, in truth, didn't have the best of seasons for Liverpool, despite their excellent year.

    The problem for Hodgson is a lack of viable alternatives. Chris Smalling and James Milner, neither of whom are natural right-backs, are the only possible candidates to replace Johnson, but both have failed to fully impress when given chances.

Final Ball Must Improve

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    England's ability to keep the ball has improved considerably under Hodgson, yet against Italy their final ball would often let them down after good periods of possession.

    Time and again, particularly toward the end of the match, they found themselves in good shooting or crossing positions, only for the execution of the final ball to ruin the move. If they can improve that, they have every chance against Uruguay.