Key Selection Choices for England in World Cup Clash with Uruguay

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistJune 18, 2014

England national soccer team coach Roy Hodgson, left, and Wayne Rooney walk away from each other after talking during a squad training session for the 2014 soccer World Cup at the Urca military base in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014.  (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Matt Dunham/Associated Press

Since England's defeat to Italy in their opening match of the World Cup, one topic has dominated a nation's consciousness—Wayne Rooney and where he should play.

The media has led the debate, with players and coaches also letting their opinions be known.

"Unfortunately we do seem to have a fixation with one player at a World Cup, and it is frustrating when you are all in a squad working together," said Frank Lampard at England's press conference on Tuesday, per Sky News.

It's a view echoed by England coach Gary Neville, who told BBC Sport: "Our country love it, creating a drama around one player. This time it's Wayne Rooney, but that comes with the territory of being an important player in a big nation."

As frustrating as it may be, the debate around Rooney has intensified for good reason. Failure to defeat Uruguay on Thursday will leave England's World Cup hanging in the balance—they need a victory to get their campaign up and running, and with Rooney on form, it will make that task far easier.

Manager Roy Hodgson has more on his mind than just Rooney, though, with the fitness of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also making headlines of late.

With a day to go before England's crunch game in Sao Paulo, Bleacher Report looks at the key selection choices facing the England manager.

MANAUS, BRAZIL - JUNE 14:  Wayne Rooney of England and Daniele De Rossi of Italy battle for the ball during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group D match between England and Italy at Arena Amazonia on June 14, 2014 in Manaus, Brazil.  (Photo by Adam Pretty
Adam Pretty/Getty Images

Wayne Rooney

Let's get this one out of the way first.

The constant stream of headlines surrounding Rooney's place in the England team is becoming tedious, but if Hodgson opts to play him in his natural central position, it may well end the debate.

Rooney started on the left for England against Italy on Saturday, assisting Daniel Sturridge for England's equalizer but proving largely ineffective on the attack.

For a player of his ability, so much more is expected. Indeed, the hopes of a nation rest on his shoulders.

The only way Rooney will be able to deliver on his talents, though, is by playing in the position he occupies for Manchester United.

MANAUS, BRAZIL - JUNE 14:  Ross Barkley of England and Wayne Rooney in action during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group D match between England and Italy at Arena Amazonia on June 14, 2014 in Manaus, Brazil.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Playing just behind Robin van Persie, Rooney enjoyed a productive season considering how United struggled for most of the year. He finished with 17 Premier League goals and, when fit, was among United's key players.

Rooney is a massive threat in front of goal, and playing him out wide weakens England significantly.

The big question is, does he warrant a place in the No. 10 role ahead of Raheem Sterling?

The Liverpool youngster was England's man of the match on his World Cup debut, proving one of England's biggest threats.

By playing Rooney more centrally, Sterling will be forced out wide, although the 19-year-old doesn't appear to be concerned by that prospect given it's where he plays for Liverpool.

"I would be happy to play anywhere the manager puts me," said Sterling at England's press conference on Tuesday, per BBC Sport. "I will be working for the team regardless of the position I play in."

Lynne Sladky/Associated Press


Should Rooney play more centrally, will it mean Hodgson tweaks England's formation?

Against the Italians, Hodgson opted for a 4-2-3-1 set-up, although Rooney's position on the left often meant Leighton Baines was isolated, with Italy doubling up on the left-back.

It's also the side of the pitch where both Italian goals came from.

England need to ensure Baines is given sufficient support, but that in doing so, other areas are not weakened.

Sterling will be au fait with the defensive contribution required of a winger, but a switch to 4-3-3 may also reduce the risk of England being exposed.

Deploying a front three of Rooney, Sterling and Sturridge will mean Danny Welbeck being sacrificed for a more natural midfielder, with the likes of Lampard, Jack Wilshere or James Milner coming in to provide more cover.

What England gain defensively, though, they may well lose on the attack, and given the exciting performance we saw from the Three Lions, Hodgson will be eager to maintain that threat.

Martin Mejia/Associated Press

Adam Lallana

Heading into the World Cup, Southampton's Adam Lallana appeared a dead cert to be starting for England. Since the Italy game—when he came off the bench late on—Lallana has become a forgotten man, almost.

Much of the debate has been focused on Rooney, yet we shouldn't forget what Lallana can bring.

Maintaining possession in the final third will be crucial for England against Uruguay. Not only will it put them on the back foot, it will allow for Hodgson's men to pile on the pressure and be the dominant team.

They cannot afford to offer Uruguay a way out when the pressure is on, and given how they crumbled when Costa Rica did the same, England know they can score goals.

Using Lallana will bring more shape to the attacking midfielders, with Welbeck potentially being the man sacrificed.

Matt Dunham/Associated Press

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Just two weeks ago, it seemed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's World Cup was over before it had even begun, after he damaged knee ligaments against Ecuador.

After pushing his body to the limit this past fortnight, though, images of him in training seem to suggest he has recovered enough to be in consideration for the Uruguay game.

If it proves to be the case, Hodgson will surely feature the Ox from the bench. It would be unwise to risk him from the off, especially given the performance of England's other attackers against Italy.

Above all else, what Oxlade-Chamberlain gives England is raw pace, and after what we saw Costa Rica do against Uruguay by punishing them with their intensity on the flanks, the Ox will pose a considerable threat.


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