Key Battles That Will Shape England's Clash with Norway

Mark Jones@@Mark_Jones86Featured ColumnistSeptember 2, 2014

Key Battles That Will Shape England's Clash with Norway

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    England's less than triumphant return to action following the World Cup finals in Brazil comes on Wednesday night when they face Norway in a friendly at Wembley.

    The match serves as a warm-up for Roy Hodgson's men ahead of a tricky looking Euro 2016 qualifier against Switzerland in Basel, and the Three Lions boss will hope to use the former clash as a chance to get things right following the disappointment of the summer.

    Hodgson has called up four new faces in his squad for both matches, and there is a chance that we'll see Arsenal's Calum Chambers, Tottenham's Danny Rose, Aston Villa's Fabian Delph and Newcastle's Jack Colback all feature against Norway but what will be the key elements of the game?

    Here are five crucial battles: 

Jordan Henderson vs. Mats Moller Daehli

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    With Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard now retired, and Delph and Colback only just called into the squad for the first time, the 13-times capped Jordan Henderson suddenly takes on a much more senior role within the team.

    Although often seen sprinting forward and getting involved in attacks for Liverpool, Henderson is—rightly or wrongly—likely to be told to be a little more conservative by Hodgson to help out a defence which are going to come up against Cardiff City's exciting teenager Mats Moller Daehli.

    The former Manchester United youth player was snapped up by compatriot Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in South Wales last January, and although he couldn't save them from relegation to the Championship he did still become an instant hit with his club's supporters.

    Daehli—who will get more playing time now Cardiff are in the Championship—is likely to take up some good, intelligent positions, and it could be up to Henderson to perhaps forego the natural attacking instincts in his game and track the teenager's runs.

Raheem Sterling vs. Alexander Tettey

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    There can be little doubt that Raheem Sterling is one of the most exciting teenagers on the planet right now and having opened the scoring in Liverpool's 3-0 win at Tottenham on Sunday he's now scored twice in his first three games of the season.

    One of the very few bright sparks of England's World Cup campaign, Sterling looks set to thrive at Liverpool when played in a more central role behind Daniel Sturridge and Mario Balotelli.

    You could imagine him doing the same for England behind Sturridge and Wayne Rooney—just as he did against Italy at the World Cup when Balotelli scored the winning goal—and hopefully we'll see him thrust into this position at Wembley on Wednesday.

    If he is, then Norwich City's Alexander Tettey might be asked to keep an eye on him as the Norwegians seek to limit the space in which Sterling thrives.

    Tettey will have a tough job on his hands, but he's mobile and athletic enough to at least make a good attempt at it.

Gary Cahill vs. Tarik Elyounoussi

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    England's defence didn't emerge from the World Cup with any great credit, and nor did they really deserve any, but there remains a sense that Gary Cahill will be the key man at the back for this side in the future.

    Perhaps playing alongside John Terry at Chelsea means that he's used to being led and not being the leader, but with Phil Jagielka having had a poor start to the season at Everton and the rest of the centre-back options either young or unconvincing, Cahill really needs to emerge as one of the rocks upon which his nation's future can be built.

    If he starts here then he's likely to be up against the Morocco-born forward Tarik Elyounoussi, the 26-year-old Hoffenheim player who twice captained Norway last year.

    He's scored eight international goals, most recently against the Czech Republic in Prague in March, and although he can also play out wide, he is likely to be given a start through the middle and up against Cahill as the Norwegians are without the Stuttgart forward Mohammed Abdellaoue. 

Wayne Rooney vs. Himself

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    He's worn the armband before, but this will be the first time that Wayne Rooney leads out his country as the official England captain, and it comes when he is at yet another crossroads in his career.

    A terrible start to the season for Manchester United—whom he also now captains—is sure to be playing on his mind, as will the fact that his club have just recruited one of the world's finest forwards in Radamel Falcao, perhaps even Rooney's position in the team will come under threat.

    Add to this the fact that he had a poor World Cup and wasn't exactly the overwhelming choice to replace Steven Gerrard as England captain and you have an evening which could end up troubling the forward.

    Keep calm, play well and score a couple of goals and all ill-feeling will surely wash away, but if he struggles then he'll raise yet more questions about his patchy form.

England Team vs. England Fans

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    For Rooney personally, you can also read the England team collectively.

    There will be plenty of people in the crowd at Wembley who went to the World Cup having saved money for months and years, and they were let down by the poor performances of their team in the defeats to Italy and Uruguay and the limp, lacklustre goalless draw with Costa Rica.

    England and manager Hodgson will be at pains to point out that this is a fresh start and a new beginning with a lot of new faces coming to the fore. However, if those faces don't impress the Wembley crowd then you can expect to hear some dissatisfaction.

    International friendlies aren't often the greatest matches to watch, and so the real story here could be taking place in the stands.