Picking an England Team for the Opening Game of Euro 2016 Qualification
England's World Cup campaign may have been desperately disappointing, but there's little time for the squad and staff to dwell on their failures. Their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign starts away to Switzerland in September and improvements are clearly needed.
Their first group stage exit from a World Cup since 1958 saw them take just one point from what was a fairly winnable group. Indeed, Costa Rica—a side without a single world-class player—topped the group with seven points.
Manager Roy Hodgson's positivity after the final game was baffling (via Sky Sports), and picking the next England XI may not be his responsibility, despite Greg Dyke's recent vote of confidence (via John Cross at the Mirror).
Here's a possible XI for whoever is in charge to consider when the Switzerland game comes around. Feel free to use the comment section underneath to suggest your own.
Goalkeeper: Joe Hart
Joe Hart's supremacy as England's No.1 remains virtually unchallenged. Despite suffering a long period of poor form for Manchester City, where he was eventually dropped before returning to the side and improving his performances, there was never any real danger he would lose his England place. There is a serious lack of strength in depth in the goalkeeping department.
Hart will almost certainly start against Switzerland, unless injury strikes.
Right-Back: Phil Jones
It's doubtful Phil Jones' long-term position is at right-back, but right now England have such a dearth of talent in that position that he may well be the safest option to start to the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.
Glen Johnson is horribly out of form, his woeful showings in Brazil were a continuation of his club form. Jones played there against Costa Rica and was unspectacular but defensively solid in comparison to Johnson, who has too often left England horribly exposed.
Centre-Back: Gary Cahill
The only defender to emerge from England's disastrous campaign with any credit was Chelsea's Gary Cahill, who transferred his fine Premier League form onto the World Cup stage. For the most part he was solid, despite those around him struggling.
He may not be in the class of England defenders of the recent past, but he's developing into a consistently excellent one under Jose Mourinho, and he will start the Euro qualifiers as a key player.
Centre-Back: John Stones
It's a mark of the progress John Stones has made in his 18-month stint at Everton that the 20-year-old was on standby for the World Cup. He looks to have all the attributes needed to be an England regular for years to come.
With very few English centre-backs impressing at the moment, it may well be time to give Stones a starting place to assess his capabilities at international level.
Left-Back: Luke Shaw
Leighton Baines was Hodgson's preferred choice at left-back in Brazil, with Luke Shaw only starting the Costa Rica match once England's exit was confirmed. However, with Baines hardly impressing, coupled with the fact he'll be 31 by the time the Euros begin in the summer of 2016, Shaw may well be thrust into the first XI.
The Southampton star looks set to be England's left-back for years to come, and the experience he's gained from being part of the 23-man World Cup squad has likely been invaluable. It's now time for the next phase of his development.
Defensive Midfielder: Jordan Henderson
A switch to a three-man midfield is now absolutely crucial if England want to progress. For too long they've persisted with two in the centre of the pitch, often finding themselves outnumbered and outpassed as a result.
Possession at international level is extremely important, and England spend too long chasing the ball rather than being in control of it. An extra man in midfield will go a long way toward solving this issue.
The problem for England is that system requires a holding player, of which there's a dearth on these shores. Arguably, the best option is Liverpool's Jordan Henderson, even if his energy will be underused in that role.
Midfield: Jack Wilshere
Jack Wilshere remains an underdeveloped talent. When he first burst on to the scene as a teenager at Arsenal, the hype surrounding his emergence was frenzied. He looked supremely talented, a technically gifted player capable of controlling the tempo of a game with his passing in midfield.
In truth, the 22-year-old has barely progressed, often underwhelming for The Gunners and being used in various positions rather than being trusted in one. It's been a strange career thus far.
His one start in Brazil came against Costa Rica when England's exit had already been confirmed. He failed to impress, but there were signs of energy and inventiveness, both of which were missing with Gerrard and Henderson in tandem for the opening two games.
Midfield: Ross Barkley
If there's one player who looks set to play a major role in England's future, it's the supremely talented Ross Barkley. The 20-year-old Everton midfielder has quick feet, great vision and a fearlessness that England have lacked for so long.
Ensuring he is big part of the England setup is now imperative. He was arguably underused in Brazil, which cannot happen again. He's too good to sit on the bench.
Forward Right: Raheem Sterling
Injured back in January in Arsenal's FA Cup third round match with Tottenham, Theo Walcott missed the World Cup. His return is imminent, so he will soon be back into the fold and provide England with options.
However, right now it's Liverpool's Raheem Sterling who is in pole position to play on the right for England. He had a superb season for Liverpool, and was one of the best players for the Three Lions in Brazil. Together with Barkley, he is the future of English football.
Forward Left: Wayne Rooney
It's always better to make sure best player plays in his best position.
Wayne Rooney is England's best player, and finding him a central role would be the best-case scenario. However, with the switch to a three-man midfield so desperately needed, and with Daniel Sturridge so clearly in possession of the striker role, Rooney may well be asked to play in a less-familiar position.
He's played there for Manchester United and operated in that role against Italy in England's first game at this summer's World Cup against Italy. He's not a natural there, but he is too good to leave on the bench.
Striker: Daniel Sturridge
Very few could argue with Sturridge's inclusion. He has impressed for Liverpool since his move from Chelsea, and he is now growing into one of the most important players in the England set up.
He's quick, possesses great movement, has a lethal finish and is becoming more of a team player after accusations he was selfish early in his career. He's the best option to the lead the line in Euro qualification.
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