World Cup 2014: England Squad Full Preview and Predictions

world cup 2014 brazil

In no less than 171 days, 32 teams from around the world will compete in the home of A Seleção for the most prestigious trophy in world football, and arguably world sport. This coming instalment is set to be one of the most unpredictable tournaments of all time, with a variety of teams that look set to threaten Spain’s position in the highest echelon of champions. As of current odds, the favourites to bring home the famous Jules Rimet trophy are in fact the hosts, Brazil, closely followed by fellow South Americans Argentina who are suggested to be on par with the ever-efficient Germans. Even current World and European champions Spain take a back seat to these three nations, with bookies suggesting that their recent period of dominance will come to a grinding halt. Outside of the top four, the predicted dark horses of the competition stretch to (in order) Belgium, Columbia, Holland, Italy and France. France whose recent displays at World Cup Qualifying were frankly dismal and required a tentative play-off victory against Ukraine to sneak in.

There’s a nation missing from the above paragraph; one that has been counted out time and time again, and probably for good reason, that thus now lie as joint 10th favourites with the strikeforce-heavy Uruguay with whom they share Group D along with group favourites Italy and the unfortunate Costa Rica. In all honesty, it’s no real surprise that England have been so heavily discounted from any chance of victory in Brazil, despite finishing top of their qualifying group (which albeit was expected). The Three Lions have floundered at competitive tournaments for years despite the commendation they received worldwide, however now it seems that everybody has finally realised just how wrong they were, and that in frank terms, England are no longer a major threat. When you compare how lowly favoured England are as opposed to less-established teams such as Belgium and Columbia, this is clear to see.

England’s chances will fully depend on who is going to be chosen to represent the country in Brazil. With the team currently undergoing an awkward transition from old stars to new, it will be incredibly interesting to see the final 23 that will board the plane. Well then; why don’t we go through the potential candidates and make judgement?

GOALKEEPERS

Joe Hart, 26, Manchester City, 38 caps – Joe Hart is undoubtedly England’s Number 1, but has suffered a poor run of form for his club as of late, resulting in being dropped to the bench in favour of the Romanian Pantillimon for a sequence of games. Fortunately, Joe has regained his place for the foreseeable future, but please, no more blunders, Joe.

VERDICT: IN

Fraser Forster, 25, Glasgow Celtic, 1 cap – Having failed to make the breakthrough at Premier League club Newcastle, Forster gained his experience at loan in the lower tiers of English football before making the eventually permanent move to Scottish giants Celtic who are currently the ultimate ‘big fish in a small pond’. While having very promising performances in the Champions League against the likes of Barcelona, Forster isn’t offered the opportunity to impress as much against much smaller opposition in Scotland. Should he favour a move away to the Premier League, however, he has a tremendous and deserved opportunity to shine on a bigger stage. Regardless of a move or not, he is the best choice for a number 2, but don’t expect him to usurp Hart any time soon.

VERDICT: IN

John Ruddy, 27, Norwich City, 1 cap – Having spent 5 years at Everton, Ruddy only managed 1 first team appearance in between his 9 loan moves, 8 of which were before his 21st birthday. He finally got his big break at Norwich City and continuously impressed as they gained promotion to the Premier League, and his form didn’t stop there, earning him an England call-up and his first cap. However, he has struggled with injuries in recent times and is struggling to maintain good form. While Ruddy could certainly return to form for Norwich, expect the third goalkeeper spot to be given to ‘one for the future’.

VERDICT: OUT

Jack Butland, 20, Barnsley (on loan from Stoke), 1 cap – While he is a young prospect that would undoubtedly benefit from the experience of a World Cup, regardless of whether he plays or not, Butland has struggled to consistently impress at club level and despite his big move to Stoke was still relegated to the number 2 spot and had been farmed out on loan to bottom-of-the-table Barnsley who have conceded the 3rd highest amount in the championship so far.

VERDICT: OUT

Ben Foster, 30, West Brom, 6 caps – Having made his return to the England team earlier this year following his international retirement in 2011, Ben Foster is officially back in the England picture, but with the mixture of other options available, injury issues and West Brom’s poor form, Foster may miss out despite his extra experience over his rivals.

VERDICT: OUT

Rob Green, 33, Queens Park Rangers, 12 caps – Unfortunately infamous his error vs USA at World Cup 2010, England’s previous number 1 is highly unlikely to make an appearance even in the provisional squad. After being second-choice to Julio Cesar in QPR’s Premier League 2012/13 campaign, he has now found himself a starting berth after the club were relegated to the Championship.

VERDICT: OUT

Alex McCarthy, 24, Reading, 0 caps – A surprise call-up to the squad in England’s recent friendly against hosts-to-be Brazil, McCarthy’s stock is on the rise. Usually deputising for Adam Federici at club level, he made a couple of very impressive appearances last season in Reading’s relegation dogfight, catching the eye of England boss Hodgson. He is now first-choice at Reading and if he puts a string of impressive performances together, he could very well contest for that third goalkeeper spot.

VERDICT: IN

DEFENDERS

Ashley Cole, 33, Chelsea, 106 caps, 0 goals – Even in the latter stages of his playing career, Ashley Cole still has the pace to keep up with the best of wingers, and despite his many critics he proves this regularly for Chelsea. Undoubtedly, this will be his fourth and final World Cup campaign, and although he is a shoe-in for the squad, will he be starting come June?

VERDICT: IN

Luke Shaw, 18, Southampton, 0 caps, 0 goals – A regular fixture for Southampton in the league with some impressive performances to boot, Luke Shaw is a player that is being highly tipped as a future prospect for England. If Hodgson is willing to take a chance on any unproven talent, it should be this man. Unfortunately the other top talents contending for the left back position will most probably leave Luke Shaw clawing at the windows of the airport café come June.

VERDICT: OUT

Leighton Baines, 29, Everton, 22 caps, 1 goal – Another certainty for his spot on the plane to Brazil, the only thing for Leighton Baines to worry about is whether he will be first-choice left back this year as he faces stiff competition from veteran Ashley Cole. Baines brings defending and attacking prowess to the team along with wicked crossing and dead-ball ability. Nobody can argue with his chance creation statistics either, with 90 chances created last season; the highest in Europe by 10.

VERDICT: IN

Kieran Gibbs, 24, Arsenal, 3 caps – Kieran Gibbs is certainly a talented player, and making 22 appearances for an in-form Arsenal side this season attests to that. Despite this, there’s likely to only be room for two left backs in the squad and if that is the case then it will be Gibbs that unfortunately misses out unless either Cole or Baines are injury-stricken.

VERDICT: OUT

Kyle Walker, 23, Tottenham, 10 caps – Walker is almost the epitome of the modern-day wing back; bags of pace and the ability to take on a man and whip in a cross, yet lacking substantially in defensive qualities. On his day, Walker is able to provide a lot of energy and pester opposition full-backs persistently and thus could be an important player for England due to the impact he creates. If he considerably improves on his defensive attributes, Walker could definitely become the complete package given time, developing in a similar way to Leighton Baines. Unsure as to whether he will be first-choice right back, but should already have his seat on the plane booked.

VERDICT: IN

Martin Kelly, 23, Liverpool, 1 cap, 0 goals – It’s highly unlikely that Kelly will be given the opportunity to represent England in Brazil, and probably rightly so. Rarely getting a look-in to the Liverpool first team, and particularly unimpressive when given the chance, too. While he may be considered by some to have an outside chance, he should be nowhere near Brazil unless he’s paying for his own holidays.

VERDICT: OUT

Glen Johnson, 29, Liverpool, 49 caps, 1 goal – Despite being error-prone and labelled a liability by many of England’s critics, Johnson has consistently been selected as first-choice right back since the retirement of Gary Neville. Slowly but surely, I believe that Johnson has improved his game, especially visible in Liverpool’s brilliant run in the first half of this season. He will, however, need to put up a fight to fend Kyle Walker off for his spot in the starting-11.

VERDICT: IN

Micah Richards, 25, Manchester City, 13 caps, 1 goal – It feels as if Micah Richards has been around for absolutely ages. Thrust into the international limelight at the young age of 19, critics thought Richards to have the world at his feet. Recently he has only been on the peripheries of the Manchester City side and struggled to find a place in the starting line-up for a few seasons now. Despite this, Richards hasn’t been reported as wanting to find a way out and some regular first-team football, so one must definitely question his ambition. It’s likely that Richards is happy sitting on what is quite possibly the most expensive bench in football (Nasri alone cost City £25m), and if he ever gets cold he can simply create a blanket out of his no-doubt ridiculously huge wage packet.

VERDICT: OUT

Phil Jones, 21, Manchester United, 9 caps, 0 goals – A great talent for his age, Jones continues to impress at club level for arguably the most reputable club in English football. Despite United’s recent poor form under new management, Jone’s versatility has proven to be invaluable and his contribution to the side is second-to-none. Expect England to take him to Brazil for the fact that he can cover several positions such as centre back, right back and centre midfield. He’s shown some real competence in the art of man-marking and could be crucial in nullifying the attacking threat of Suarez when England face Brazil.

VERDICT: IN

Chris Smalling, 24, Manchester United, 9 caps, 0 goals – Despite being a potentially good player, Smalling will most likely take the role of first reserve this summer as he has less international experience than his fellow centre backs and will end up with less game time at club level leading up to it.

VERDICT: OUT

Gary Cahill, 28, Chelsea, 22 caps, 2 goals – Cahill is a defender with a wealth of Premier League experience that has merited his recent rise to the England starting 11 and he has fashioned a robust partnership with Phil Jagielka in the centre of defense. Expect this partnership to continue in Brazil.

VERDICT: IN

Phil Jagielka, 31, Everton, 24 caps, 1 goal – Everton stalwart and captain, Jagielka is probably the most naturally talented centre back that England now possess. His commanding performances have led Everton in a very strong Premier League campaign so far this season which sees them as top 4 contenders and potentially dark horses for the title, should teams around them drop points. Expect Jagielka to retain his starting position for England and line up alongside Cahill.

VERDICT: IN

John Terry, 33, Chelsea, 78 caps, 6 goals – One of England’s most controversial players in recent years, whether it be race rows or affairs with teammates’ wives, Terry’s private life has overshadowed his professional career. While he is disliked by many, you can’t deny that he has been one of the best defenders of this generation for England. There has been whispers (potentially Chinese) that Terry would be willing to come out of retirement to represent his country at one last tournament, however with no international football in 2013 and his diminishing pace, it is highly unlikely Terry will be going to Brazil.

VERDICT: OUT

MIDFIELDERS

Theo Walcott, 24, Arsenal, 36 caps, 5 goals – Despite his inconsistencies, Walcott is a versatile winger/striker that can turn a game on its head. A modern adaptation of the inside forward role, he is able to run both full backs and centre backs ragged with his blistering pace. Unfortunately for England, he recently obtained a serious injury at club level for Arsenal against rivals Tottenham and has rejected the ‘quick-fix’ option and sacrificed the chance to be fit for the World Cup for the security of his long-term career. He could be sorely missed in Brazil.

VERDICT: OUT

Andros Townsend, 22, Tottenham, 4 caps, 1 goal - After spending several years out on loan to a whole host of clubs including QPR, Birmingham and even Yeovil Town, Townsend is finally got his shot at the big time under then-Spurs boss Andre Villas Boas. Despite the change in management, due to the positive impact Townsend has made on the team it is likely that new manager Tim Sherwood will continue to allow Andros to shine on the big stage, making an England call-up at the end of the season on the cards as long as he stays in good form. However, he will face some stiff competition at both club and international level throughout the season from fellow teammate and right-winger Aaron Lennon.

VERDICT: IN

Aaron Lennon, 26, Tottenham, 21 caps, 0 goals – It feels like Aaron Lennon has been around for a longer number of years than he actually has, having broke through the Leeds and England set up at a very young age. This season, due to the revelation of Andros Townsend and the continental flair of Erik Lamela and Nacer Chadli, Lennon has found himself in a very competitive struggle for places and has only made 10 appearances this season. If he hits form and manages to get some quality game time under his belt, he may be within reach of a chance, but the reality is that he probably won’t.

VERDICT: OUT

 James Milner, 28, Manchester City, 44 caps, 1 goal – Consistent, squad player, boring. Three words that football fans of all opinions and varieties use to describe James Milner, the latter perhaps being harsh yet the most prevalent in recent times, even prompting the creation of popular Twitter parody account @BoringMilner. Despite the criticism, Milner continues to figure as a key part of both England and Manchester City’s plans and will no doubt be going to Brazil for his versatility on either wing or even in the centre of midfield.

VERDICT: IN

Jay Rodriguez, 24, Southampton, 1 cap, 0 goals – Recently introduced into the England set-up due to a good run of form with the Saints, Rodriguez couldn’t make the most of a great opportunity in his debut vs Chile, with England churning out a lethargic performance. Unless he’s given another opportunity and his form improves somewhat, Rodriguez probably won’t be going to Brazil.

VERDICT: OUT

Ashley Young, 28, Manchester United, 30 caps, 7 goals – Controversial for his common habit of diving, yet Ashley Young still remains one of England’s most dangerous threats from the wing; on his day. The only issue is consistency, but regardless, he’ll no doubt be in the squad.

VERDICT: IN

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 20, Arsenal, 13 caps, 3 goals – Tipped as the future of England and featuring heavily under Hodgson, expect Oxlade-Chamberlain to rise to prominence this summer. With the injury of Walcott, the timing couldn’t be sweeter for him.

 VERDICT: IN

Frank Lampard, 35, Chelsea, 103 caps, 29 goals – I’ve always been a great admirer of Lampard; a great work ethic combined with great natural ability to become one of the iconic all-action midfielders of our recent generation. Sadly, said generation is coming towards its end. While Frank is still a solid Premier League footballer, playing opportunities are becoming ever-slimmer at Chelsea and it’s likely that he is set to end his career either next year at Chelsea, or wind his playing days down in the MLS; a popular option at current time. While there’s no doubt in his ability, I think he’ll be one of the players from the ‘former generation‘ that must make way for the ‘new blood‘.

VERDICT: OUT

Steven Gerrard, 33, Liverpool, 108 caps, 21 goals – Another incredible player that could be seen in the same boat as Lampard, yet may just escape and be thrown a life-line before that boat sails off into the sunset. Unlike Lampard, Gerrard has seemed to grow as a player into his age, and although his hard-hitting all-action style still remains from time to time, he has played a more laid-back role for Liverpool since the introduction of attacking midfielders like Jordan Henderson and Phillipe Coutinho. As England’s captain, I suppose that it’s inevitable that he’ll lead the team to Brazil in the summer, but expect him to do so in a holding midfield role.

VERDICT: IN

Ross Barkley, 20, Everton, 3 caps, 0 goals – For the previous couple of years, Barkley has slowly been weaned into the Everton squad, and under Roberto Martinez he has become a figurehead in their impressive campaign so far. Likewise with the England team, Barkley is slowly being integrated into the side and given his impressive club form is likely to feature in the squad this summer.

VERDICT: IN

Adam Lallana, 25, Southampton, 2 caps, 0 goals – In a similar situation to his club teammate Jay Rodriguez, Lallana has a lot to prove at international level in very little time. His versatility may play in his favour as he could provide adequate cover anywhere across the midfield, thus making him one of the most efficient squad players.

VERDICT: IN

Tom Cleverley, 24, Manchester United, 13 caps, 0 goals – Cleverley didn’t raise many eyebrows until he began to impress on loan to Leicester, Watford and most notably, Wigan. Since returning to Old Trafford, he was quickly inserted into the fold and quickly established himself as a key player in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final squad of his incredible reign. Under new manager David Moyes, however, Cleverley has genuinely looked nothing more than average in a lazy, poor United midfield, including the (reported) £27,000,000 Marouane Fellaini (zeroes added for effect). I personally would not include him in the final World Cup squad unless his form drastically improves, but whether or not Hodgson will feel the same is a different matter. He has stuck by Cleverley recently, and will most probably continue to do so.

VERDICT: IN

Michael Carrick, 32, Manchester United, 31 caps, 0 goals – Unable to turn around Manchester United’s misfortunes alongside Tom Cleverley, Carrick’s form hasn’t been particularly inspiring as of late. He’ll be strongly considered and potentially picked purely for his experience, but in my opinion there are players in better form who deserve the opportunity more and have much more to prove than Carrick.

VERDICT: OUT

 Jack Wilshere, 22, Arsenal, 14 caps, 0 goals – If it weren’t for unfortunately timed injuries, Jack Wilshere could be considered as an England veteran by now with 30+ caps. Despite the low amount of international appearances, his world-class ability and hard-headed mindset stands him in good stead for international football and will no doubt be one of England’s key players this summer; providing he stays fit of course.

VERDICT: IN

ATTACKERS

Wayne Rooney, 28, Manchester United, 88 caps, 38 goals - The time has come for England’s star to finally shine on the international stage and prove himself as the leader of the front line. For a long time now he has remained England’s talisman, yet his form has been fluctuating for years; partly due to injuries. This will likely be the final World Cup where Rooney is in his prime, so it really is now or never.

VERDICT: IN

Daniel Sturridge, 24, Liverpool, 9 caps, 2 goals – Probably the most in form English player this season, Sturridge has scored bags of goals for Liverpool, forming a deadly partnership with soon-to-be opponent Luis Suarez. If Sturridge can convert this club form to the international level, expect a world-class showing for him in Brazil. Fingers crossed both he and Rooney can find the same wavelength and create an equally deadly partnership to the Liverpool one.

VERDICT: IN

Gary Hooper, 25, Norwich City, 0 caps, 0 goals - Over the past couple of years, Gary Hooper is one of the few players that has been rumoured to make the jump to international football but not given the opportunity. A lot of people, myself included, thought that as soon as he made the move to Premier League Norwich from Scottish champions Celtic, he would be given a chance with England. Unfortunately, Hooper has been pretty mediocre so far this season aside from a couple of nice finishes, and having no international experience is highly detrimental to his chances of going to Brazil.

VERDICT: OUT

Danny Welbeck, 23, Manchester United, 20 caps, 8 goals - Welbeck has always shown good natural ability, yet has often struggled on the goals side of attacking. Recently, he’s hit 6 goals in 10 games, showing huge signs of improvement and that United can depend upon him through both Rooney’s and van Persie’s injuries. He’s a viable second option to Sturridge, and can also fill in on either wing too.

VERDICT: IN

Jermain Defoe, 31, Toronto FC, 55 caps, 19 goals – England’s go-to backup striker for a number of years has struggled for first team football at Tottenham this year, and has therefore managed to manufacture a transfer away to a lesser team. But is Toronto FC too much of a drop down for Defoe? The MLS is always improving as a league, but is it of a good enough standard for Defoe to impress Hodgson on? In my opinion, unfortunately not.

VERDICT: OUT

Andy Carroll, 25, West Ham United, 9 caps, 2 goals – The story of Andy Carroll’s career so far is a strange one that I don’t really need to go into. His move to West Ham should be seen as a fresh start for him but a plague of injuries has harmed his much-needed return to form. If he was to return to form in the second half of West Ham’s season and help save them from relegation, Carroll could a dangerous, physically imposing force for England in Brazil. Form will be a big factor coming into Brazil, and the final place in the squad could be between Carroll and our final player…

Rickie Lambert, 31, Southampton, 4 caps, 2 goals – If Ricky Lambert were to make it into the England squad for Brazil 2014, it would be an incredible story. In 2009 at the age of 26, arguably the typical age of a striker in their prime, he was playing League One football for Bristol Rovers, yet now finds himself playing regular first team football for Premier League Southampton. There’s a bit of a conundrum when it comes to which strikers Hodgson takes to Brazil, and I believe that it will all depend upon form at the end of the season.

CARROLL: OUT

LAMBERT: IN

So there you have it; my full predictions for England’s World Cup 2014 squad. Leave a comment whether you agree or disagree with my reasoning, and as ever, feedback is much appreciated!

~Clint

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