Why Roy Hodgson Must Start Luke Shaw in England's World Cup Clash vs. Costa Rica

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Why Roy Hodgson Must Start Luke Shaw in England's World Cup Clash vs. Costa Rica
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

With England’s World Cup hopes over after being eliminated just two games into the tournament, it’s highly likely Roy Hodgson will make a number of changes for their final group game.

The dead rubber against Costa Rica is a chance to give his fringe players a chance to shine on the greatest stage of all, and one player who deserves that chance is Southampton left-back Luke Shaw.

Shaw has had a fine season at St Mary's and thoroughly deserved his call-up to Hodgson’s 23-man squad for Brazil, yet Leighton Baines’ experience and defensive superiority has seen him preferred for both of England’s group games so far.

The Everton man hasn’t impressed, though, rarely getting forward to any great effect and looking soft defensively. It's a stark contrast to his form at club level, which has been consistently excellent for two years.

This leaves Hodgson with an easy decision: Shaw should start in the final game.

An exit as swift as England’s leaves a feeling of failure, and quite rightly so, with Costa Rica, a side far less well-equipped than them, making light work of the two sides that have been their undoing. But if there’s one glimmer of hope it's the form of the younger players in Hodgson's squad, who have impressed when given chances.

Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley (who should also start the next match) and Daniel Sturridge have all played a significant role in Brazil, an experience that will undoubtedly aid their progression into the world-class players it’s clear they can become.

England will see the benefit of this in future tournaments, even if the pain of a pitiful points tally that sees them languishing bottom of a fairly average group is yet to subside.

It’s the kind of patient, pragmatic approach England and the country’s media are famed for lacking, but it seems clear that this campaign, with its flashes of youthful promise, has provided at least some positives.

Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Take the pacy and purposeful attacking intent from this tournament, try to add some defensive solidity and further experience of big games, and England may well have the best side they've had in many years by the time Euro 2016 comes around.

Luke Shaw looks capable of being England’s next long-term left-back: a player comfortable in possession, who demands the ball and takes responsibility, and who, above all else, looks to have the necessary class to perform at the highest level for many years to come.

Whether he can ever replace Ashley Cole—one of the world’s finest left-backs over the last 10 years—remains to be seen, but what’s clear is he is showing signs of greatness at a time when few other English left-backs are emerging.

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

And that's not to say Hodgson made the wrong decision in making Baines his first-choice in Brazil. He was far better equipped, in theory, to deal with the rigours and pressure of a World Cup given his age and experience. Few were calling for Shaw to start ahead of him before the tournament started, and so Hodgson can hardly be criticised for doing so.

But Baines' struggles, as well as the pressure-free situation awaiting Shaw at Estadio Mineirao on Tuesday, make it an obvious call to give Shaw 90 minutes of action before England return home to assess what went wrong in Brazil. 

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